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By Kwasi Mitchell, Chief Purpose Officer, Deloitte
As a chemist by training, I often apply my scientific background to complex problem-solving—most recently as Deloitte’s new Chief Purpose Officer.
By definition, chemistry is the branch of science that investigates ways in which substances intentionally interact, combine, and change together to form new substances. Similarly, companies can embed purpose into their organizations and engage with their people and stakeholders to interact, combine, and change together, generating new solutions and scaling impact at large.
This need for business and society to intentionally interact and change together is paramount. The role of business in society is undoubtedly shifting, and companies are facing unprecedented market forces they cannot ignore in the wake of the pandemic.
As conversations around racial equity, workforce dynamics, sustainability, and more are brought to the forefront, an organization’s purpose imperative has never been more critical to help ensure that the long-term prosperity and resilience of our economy, society, and business community are working together toward a more inclusive future.
This reality may require companies to define their purpose and ensure their activities and processes are consistent with their stated positions and values; otherwise, companies risk getting left behind. To address the world’s most complex societal issues and remain agile to shifting trends and needs, it’s essential for purpose-driven organizations to proclaim their core values and demonstrate them daily—not only to cultivate a purposeful culture, but also to authentically lead with purpose from the inside out.
We see ample evidence in the market that when purpose is integrated with core business operations, it generates significant value for the business, clients, and stakeholders. We know from our experiences working with clients that while each party brings different core competencies to the table, the chemistry we create together has the potential to affect tangible growth—both in business and in social impact.
Truly, purpose is more than a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives; it is directly tied to economic performance, competitive advantage, and long-term value creation.
Here are three ways your organization can lean into your own purpose journey as you seek to generate meaningful impact within and outside of your business:
1) Empower your people through inclusive work.
Employees are thirsty to work with purpose-led organizations where they can do work that reflects their passions and personal values. According to a recent Porter Novelli study, 78% of respondents indicated that they would prefer to work for a purpose-driven company. Empowering your people to align their passions and their work with your organization’s mission and goals is essential to your purpose journey. Part of my role at Deloitte is to help ensure that our 110,000 diverse professionals know that their opinions, voices, and development matter, and that they are invited to contribute to the larger chemistry of our purpose-driven organization, no matter the output. Indeed, prosperity that’s inclusive is prosperity that has a future.
2) Dig deep with your clients, customers, and partners to amplify impact.
Companies that infuse purpose into their core business operations not only generate significant value for their business and their stakeholders; they also can more effectively come alongside clients and partners in their own purpose journeys. When a differentiated social value proposition stems from the clear alignment of a company’s business strategy with its ability to create meaningful impact, it becomes the primary driver of impact, not just a sidebar CSR activity. This approach can lead to more effective solutions and social innovation. We’ve come together with clients to establish a Health Equity Institute; we’re expanding our responsible and equitable business practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and we continue our work with alliances to connect lower-income communities with job opportunities.
3) Differentiate impact in your community to scale change.
Society is calling on organizations to help advance solutions to pressing challenges such as racial equity, social justice, income inequality, and climate change. It’s critical for your organization to look at your own practices; focus on the ones that are core to your organizational competencies; and commit to taking focused, bold actions toward them. Think of your company’s purpose as the unique differentiated role you can serve in society connected to long-term value, including the differentiated needs you address for all your stakeholders—shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and the environment—and the consistency with which that purpose delivers on these needs through management systems, processes, and behaviors.
Deloitte’s Purpose Office is strategically centered on such key commitments, including DEI, climate change and sustainability, and education and workforce. We’ve intensified our efforts around causes such as establishing our Black Action Council; releasing our first DEI Transparency Report; joining as a founding member of OneTen, a coalition to create family-sustaining careers for 1 million Black Americans within 10 years, by 2030; and collaborating with the Wharton School to advance inclusive leadership.
I’m a long-standing principal of an organization that’s been around for 175 years, so purpose is not new to either me or Deloitte. What we’ve always known to be true about purpose is that it’s not a single program or poster; it’s how we intentionally position ourselves—individually and collectively—for the greater good. If we steward our strengths and apply our resources in ways that drive more innovative, profitable, and equitable solutions forward, I believe we will create the true chemistry of change.
Explore Deloitte’s DEI Transparency Report to see how we’re moving forward together.
Kwasi Mitchell is Chief Purpose Officer at Deloitte, where he drives strategy for the company’s commitments to areas including diversity, equity, and inclusion; sustainability and climate change; and education and workforce development. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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