But our challenges don’t end there. Rising social activism, rapid globalisation and digitalisation have given customers and shareholders unprecedented access to information about almost every aspect of businesses. Brands are being held to account for their contribution to society and impact on the environment – as much as their contribution to their bottom line.
Purely profit-orientated businesses are increasingly at risk of being exposed for their role, or lack thereof, in contributing to the greater good. But businesses can reduce this risk and still satisfy shareholders by having a clear purpose. This starts with evaluating their current purpose beyond the performance objective. Being a purpose-driven company is as much about protecting your bottom line as it is about growing it. Recent studies show that employees in purpose-driven businesses find greater meaning in their work, are more engaged, and are five times more likely to stay in their current job. From a consumer perspective, businesses with purpose are perceived to be more authentic and caring. As a result, consumers are more loyal to them. This holds particular relevance for South Africans.
As Business Unity South Africa president Sipho Pityana identified at the Investment for Inclusion Forum, growth on its own is not enough to reduce inequalities, and business needs to play its part in driving inclusion.
Certainly, business must not lose track of the profit motive; indeed profit with purpose can be more profitable. But it’s possible for business and wider society to grow, together.