Profit with purpose

I was very fortunate to be invited this morning to discuss how, from a business perspective, to define value and purpose in non-financial terms. How important are the UN sustainable development goals or non-financial success metrics to the entrepreneurs and start-ups jostling for space in places such as our meeting venue, Zurich’s Impact Hub? Is this an elite concern of the fortunate minority, but not of those toiling at the base of the pyramid? Will the baser human profit motive always win out, or is it simply good business to pursue profit with purpose? I would not pretend to know the answer to these questions, but I am very keen to hear views as I certainly want to believe that work is about more than acquisition of material assets or maximising shareholder value. 

A couple of years ago I had a meeting in London with a large communications company. They told me that 60% of their staff were under 30 and they needed to feel that their work had purpose, that it was contributing to something more than simple material success. I agree. Over the course of the coming period I will be working to try and define what in practical terms this means, and how we measure it. How can we encourage collaborative not just competitive behaviour? How can we reinforce the message that there is strength in sharing? What kind of legacy do we want to endow? I look forward to sharing any insights developed with my colleagues and to realising any recommendations in my own company. 

Alistair Harris, CEO, ARK


Dom Spiers