Generating Positive Return with Purpose

After attending The World Economic Forum’s Summer Gathering in Dalian, China, The DO School Founder Florian Hoffmann returned with an urgency to explore the unanswered questions relating to purpose.

In recent years, the ability to define an organization’s purpose has gained tremendous attention in the world of business.

I am just returning from the The World Economic Forum’s Summer Gathering in Dalian, China, where this exact topic took center stage. Currently, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and his investor letters are the most prominent testimony to this development. Fink argues that “without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.” Much work has been done on arguing for the impact of purpose on productivity, especially when it comes to looking at employees. Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson makes an eloquent case for the role of purpose in improving productivity in her recent talk on the Economics of Purpose.

The DO School works with leading organizations across the globe to clarify their purpose and, most importantly, act upon it, create alignment amongst employees, and establish the skills and mindset changes needed to fulfill it. And yet, having worked on the topic for several years, it is still hard to define what a Purposeful Organization actually looks like. 

A Purposeful Organization is one that is more than capable of dealing with change. One that has aligned its purpose throughout the organization and connects the “why” of the organization to the “how” and the “what”. One that follows its overall purpose whilst being able to constantly adapt business models and its organizational set-up. It is authentic and therefore capable of attracting talent, engaging employees and creating products and services that are relevant. It is not only measured by its profits but also by its positive environmental and societal impact. 

But can we be more specific? Can we measure how purposeful a business is and the extent to which purpose can increase returns for a business? In what way are Veja and Patagonia more purposeful than Adidas and Nike and why?

The need to show that purpose can generate positive return is becoming more and more apparent. While many CEOs engage in the conversation around their purpose, they have a hard time reporting on it to their shareholders. And with more and more progressive shareholders wanting their money to be invested in business with a positive societal impact they too wonder how to measure their investments in terms of purpose.

Finding answers to these questions is vital if we want purpose to become mainstream and returns to be measured not only in short-term profits. 

Over the next three months, The DO School will engage its community of leading businesses, experts and innovators to explore this issue; we will create open discussions around the topic and challenge our own hypothesis of what the key building blocks of a Purposeful Organization are. 

Be a part of the community and join us on the Purposeful Organization journey!



Florian Hoffmann is the founder and CEO of Berlin’s DO School, a renowned development ground for purposeful doers from around the world, working in partnership with major institutions and corporations, including IKEA, H&M, the Deutsche Bahn, Covestro, Unilever, Axel Springer, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the United Nations’ Environmental Program and others. Florian is a serial social entrepreneur and international speaker. He has received numerous awards for his work and was named one of 100 distinguished Young Global Leaders under 40 by the World Economic Forum in 2017.

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