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What’s the purpose of purpose?

26 April 2018

Stephen Killeen

Attendees have been provoked professionally, personally and intellectually as they considered their purpose at the latest in Cardiff Business School’s Breakfast Briefing Series.

Led by Stephen Killeen, Global Goals and Sectors Director at Business in the Community, the briefing was part of a series of nationwide events in celebration of Responsible Business Week.

Starting the presentation with a show reel of motivational quotations from philosophers, authors, preachers and leaders, Mr Killeen outlined the virtues of living a purpose-driven life before asking attendees to outline their purpose.

“Trust has fallen off a cliff edge”

Moving away from personal conceptions of purpose, Mr Killeen moved his discussion onto trust in business, the media and government.

He said: “For a variety of reasons, trust has fallen off a cliff edge evidenced, in particular, by the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. Both for government, and politicians generally, and the media.

“And, the reality is that business by and large scores a bit higher than most in a league table of not great performance.”

Mr Killeen outlined how the consumer nowadays demands and expects more from business including responsibility, fairness, and equality, an overarching and far-reaching code of ethics are all wrapped up in trust...”

“Chief Executives know that the most existential threat to their business is trust. Whether from their employees, their customers or their supply chain. It’s hard earned and easily lost.”

Stephen Killeen Global Goals and Sectors Director at Business in the Community
Breakfast briefing attendees

A force for good

“But, of course, business can be a force for good, and some of the trade-offs aren’t as difficult to achieve as you might imagine.” Mr Killeen said.

He outlined how a business’ purpose statement can play a fundamental part in this mission providing it:

  • is relevant to your core business
  • seeks positive results for the wider world
  • transcends functional Marketing or HR objectives
  • drives business model and commercial strategy evolution
Stephen Killeen presenting on purpose

Alongside these principles, Mr Killeen introduced nine hallmarks of a purpose-driven brand: authentic leadership, rewarding right behaviours, innovation, authentic brand promise, detail, deeper customer relationships, material impact, collaboration for scale and leaders at all levels.

The culmination of Mr Killeen’s presentation brought the ideas of trust and business together alongside purpose as an opportunity to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mr Killeen said: “SDGs are the largest ever call for collective action focused on ending extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030 and absolutely an opportunity for purpose-driven businesses to make a difference.”

A safe place

The briefing closed with a short presentation from Fiona Hawthorn Corporate and Community Fundraiser at Llamau UK, who followed Mr Killeen by talking about the way in which charity partnerships can help business identify, articulate and enact their purpose.

Fiona Hawthorn addressing audience

Llamau’s mission is to eradicate homelessness for young people and vulnerable women in Wales. Founded over 30 years ago to provide homeless teenagers in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff with a safe place to stay, it is Llamau’s belief that no young person or vulnerable woman should ever have to experience homelessness.

Responsible Business Week is an annual awareness campaign which celebrates the brighter side of business by sharing great responsible business success stories.

The Executive Education Breakfast Briefing series is a network that enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

If you were unable to attend, catch up on our live stream of the event.

And register now for our next briefing on 24 May 2018 where Dr Rebecca Scott will be asking ‘Why do professionals pay for pain?’

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