“I have a strong opinion that the sooner we can have people addressing social issues through financially profitable businesses, the better. Unfortunately, we live in a world with increasing costs of addressing social issues and if we need to continue relying on donor dollars to address them, it’s going to take us longer to achieve the results we’re after.”
This is a quote from a conversation with my friend and a member of my local entrepreneurial community Omar de Silva, the Co-Founder and CEO of The Plato Project. Omar, like many of us, seeks more than the accumulation of wealth from his life. As a board advisor for The Snowdome Foundation, he has spent the past five years donating his professional expertise to helping the non-profit find better treatments and ultimately a cure for blood cancers. His successes with Snowdome include contributing to the efforts that won the charity a Telstra Business Award in 2016, a victory that proved to him that money doesn’t need to be involved in professional and personal accomplishment.
Despite Omar’s achievements, however, his feelings about the non-profit industry remain sceptical of its sustainability as a business model. Like me, he’d rather see a direct connection between profit and purpose.
“If we can make money, attract the very best talent, generate jobs and address social issues, this is the best outcome.” – Omar de Silva
Purpose: The Next Great Disruptor
Firstly, a quick note. At Vollie, we don’t use the term “disruption” much, as it is often misappropriated as another word for “innovation”. The Vollie platform itself is not a disruptor, rather, we exist to enhance the non-profit industry by unlocking a previously underutilised resource: skilled remote volunteers.
That being said, I’m doubling down when I say that purpose is the next great disruptor. Like digital before it, for-profit organisations who embrace purpose and incorporate it into their commercial strategies are going to increase customer engagement and loyalty, increase staff loyalty amongst Millennials and GenXers, and create a point of differentiation that can increase a company’s competitive advantage and strengthen its’ brand equity. Beyond digital, purpose-driven companies are going to make the world a better place through the commercial pursuit of social and environmental change.
For those of you who treat this idea with a dose of healthy scepticism, I ask you to look at the case study of Patagonia, Inc. Since 2011, Patagonia has been asking its customers to “reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace” by increasing the longevity of their products and creating second-hand marketplaces for their clothes in order to curb the shocking impact that obsolescence has on our environment in the form of landfills and litter. This initiative has manifested itself in a variety of ways, including a recently notable decision to donate 100% of its Black Friday sales to charity, a move that simultaneously boosted US$10 million into the non-profit sector while raising a middle finger to the blatant consumerism that defines the day.
While Patagonia does not outperform giants like Nike and V.F. Corporation (The North Face, Timberland) in terms of sales or growth, they are punching above their weight as a mid-tier outdoor apparel company by continuing to grow faster than competitors like Columbia and Kathmandu in spite of the fact that they give 1% of their profits (or 10% of sales in bad years) to charities (HBR, 2014) (Kathmandu, 2016). With a focus on sourcing ethically produced products (which are also more expensive) and ensuring the entire value chain is treated in a more sustainable fashion than “lower costs, higher margins” (I’m looking at you, Kathmandu), Patagonia aren’t going to become the market leader in outdoor apparel any time soon, but their ability to create loyal relationships with their customers and staff through their pursuit of purpose gives them a great source of long-term stability.
Looking into other industries, owners of Apple iPhones, in particular, will longingly lament the days of old when a software update didn’t come with the risk of your phone no longer working. The rapid obsolescence of the tech industry may be creating some of the most valuable companies in the world, but the threat of a manufacturer who can deliver a user experience that is on par with the iOS or Android system while simultaneously increasing the longevity of a smart phone’s lifespan is real. The simultaneous emergence of such a brand and the disruption of Apple, Google, and Android is something to keep an eye on, and something that I wonder if Steve Jobs had considered during his tenure at Apple.
Vollie Purpose: A Purpose-Beyond-Profit Service for Businesses
We’re only a few months into being a live business, but we’re already seeing such a positive impact from our B2C business model that we’re now expanding our offering to allow for businesses to work with Vollie and turn their existing Corporate Social Responsibility programs into a commercially aligned purpose-beyond-profit strategy.
Vollie Purpose can help your business make a greater impact on communities, the environment, and societies around the world through our strategic and analytical approach. Specifically, our purpose-beyond-profit plans can help your business:
- Sponsor up to three non-profits’ memberships to Vollie, giving them access to thousands of dollars in skilled volunteer value every year;
- Connect with non-profit partners for the purpose of engaging your staff in tailored volunteering opportunities that are flexible to their time and relevant to their specific skills;
- Monitor and analyse your company’s CSR efforts right down to the dollar value generated in volunteer value (this is done on an individual, departmental, and organisational level);
- Uncover the purpose-driven factors that influence your customers’ purchasing behaviour and brand loyalty for the purpose of increasing customer loyalty, referral, and lifetime value;
- Uncover the purpose-driven factors that influence your staff loyalty and job satisfaction rates for the purpose of increasing staff happiness and retention;
- Track and measure the impact on brand equity (awareness and strength) that your purpose-beyond-profit plan is having.
If you are interested in exploring a Vollie Purpose solution for your business or brand, please contact me personally at [email protected] to schedule a presentation.
Vollie is a for-profit impact enterprise that specialises in empowering individuals for the purpose of making a positive impact.