A new way of doing business is gaining ground among global companies who are looking for long-term viability without giving up short-term financial success.
These forward-looking corporations are breaking from Fortune 500 tradition and basing their success on the positive impact they have socially and on the environment. They are creating a new model for business based on "purpose" – on becoming a force for good in the world rather than just seeking to maximize their profits.
It may sound counterintuitive, but companies that become "purpose-driven," viewing their primary mission as no longer simply turning a profit, actually are acting in their own best interests. Companies that have embraced purposeful business are already seeing increases in productivity and profit, while also ensuring their long-term viability.
We have come to a point in history where we can no longer ignore the major social and environmental forces that are colliding:
To be successful in the long term, companies must take the actual needs of the people and the physical limits of the planet into account. When a company does this, it can have an enormously positive effect. It is not only possible to "do well by doing good." This is also the single best way to ensure that your company will still exist in another 100 years.
Unilever is a global company, operating in 190 countries around the world with 174,000 people on its payroll. Over the last four years, Unilever has begun to shift its business model. While still working to grow and become more profitable, Unilever has also made a commitment to put purpose at the very core of everything it does.
At Unilever, purpose is not relegated to a "corporate social responsibility" department that sits on the sidelines and gives money out to various charities. It's woven into the very fabric of the company, and embedded throughout its entire business cycle. Purpose is central to the way it treats its employees and central to how the company develops, manufactures, markets and distributes its products.
Purpose has become the priority. It is a unifying process that affects everything the company does.
The result? Unilver has enjoyed unprecedented growth and profitability. Its brands are more trusted now than ever. It has gone from a $40 billion business to a $50 billion business. Its stock value has more than doubled. Absenteeism is down, employee satisfaction is at an all-time high, and the company has no trouble attracting and retaining top talent. Unilever is truly "doing well by doing good".