Purposewashing

On the back of rising criticism of the profit-at-all-cost business model, the purpose driven business has become an increasingly popular business philosophy. For the uninitiated, the purpose driven business is

a business with an aspirational reason for being. It is a business that commits to go beyond financial gain to improve the well being of its stakeholders.

Movements like BCorps, Conscious Capitalism and Prof. Yunus’s Social Business have given us the frameworks for a new type of business that does what’s right even when it’s less profitable.

The purpose driven business started as a novel model for optimistic change makers who wanted to use business for good. However, in recent years large corporations like Roche, Unilever and SC Johnson have started taking notice.

The reason for its rise in popularity among ‘big business’ is partly due to the fact that job seekers are becoming increasingly purpose-driven as well. More and more people want to work for a company they’re proud of and believe in. This has forced corporations to consider how they are defining and embedding purpose in their organizations.

This is movement in the right direction. If we want to address our society’s most pressing challenges, the way business is done (at all levels) has to change.

However, the rising popularity of purpose should be accompanied with a bias for action over talk.

For instance, when consumers started becoming more conscious about the environment, corporations were forced to become more eco-friendly. While many corporations genuinely changed how they did business, we also saw the rise of greenwashing. Greenwashing is a term used to describe the act of making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.

The unregulated world of employer branding is bound to create opportunities for certain big businesses to ‘fake purpose’ or indulge in a bit of ‘purposewashing’.

The way to hold them accountable is to practice what got them to think about purpose in the first place. That is; job seekers being thoughtful and critical about who they worked for. Look beyond flashy career sites, grand purpose statements and slick employee value propositions to assess if potential employers are truly walking the talk.

Navin MurugaOnPurpose