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Doing Well By Doing Good: The Business Case for Purpose

By Josephine Victoria Yam

In these increasingly volatile times, I found it quite exhilarating to attend the recent Companies & Causes Canada Conference in Toronto. The super-successful “On Purpose” conference showcased how so many Canadian corporations are steadfastly doing well by doing good. Folks from both the corporate and nonprofit sectors gathered together to explore how purposeful business-nonprofit collaboration can be leveraged to build a better world.

One of my favourite presentations was delivered by Brett Chang of Uber. And not only because I am a relentless user of the Uber app wherever and whenever I travel. In his very millennial-cool, Silicon Valley style of storytelling, Brett shared that Uber is driven by its passion for cities: “Everything we do is to make the city a better place.” He shared an inspiring example of how Uber is creating employment opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing Canadians. To this end, Uber has partnered with the Canadian Hearing Society to address the problem of the high unemployment among these Canadians. By modifying the app to be more intuitive for them, more than a hundred deaf driver-partners now drive for Uber in Canada. Talk about creating genuine social impact. Here’s a classic case of a company being authentically on purpose to create a better world.

Purpose is no longer just a buzzword generously scattered all over annual corporate social responsibility reports. As a recent PWC report highlighted in its interviews with 275 global CEOs, purpose is “a shared aspiration for our world that justifies why your organisation exists.” A company succeeds in achieving its purpose when it is tightly interwoven into the DNA of its corporate strategy.

Indeed, a strong business case can be made for purpose. Purpose increases a company’s revenues, animates its community relationships and enhances its corporate reputation. Purpose also has the power to meaningfully engage a company’s employees.

This was the powerful message that Bea Boccalandro shared in her “Supercharging Employee Engagement through Job Purposing” presentation. When employees have jobs that support employee volunteering, they are happier and more productive. Through a highly-engaging group exercise, Bea shared the lessons from Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s Eco Advocates partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). HP discover that employees who got the greatest boost in employee engagement were those who developed their professional skills through purposeful skills-based volunteering.

This brings us to a very important point on purpose and employee engagement. Employee engagement is crucial to translating purpose into concrete action. When employees connect to a company’s purpose into their daily work, that purpose gets embedded into the company’s organizational culture. By living the company’s purpose and values, engaged employees become highly productive and motivated agents in catapulting the company to achieve a clear competitive advantage.

As PWC report keenly observed:
“Organisations that have successfully implemented their purpose do not have a purpose; they are their purpose.”

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  • Alberta's Promise operates within the Government of Alberta’s Department of Human Services. With over 1,800 business, nonprofit and community partners, they help businesses connect with non-profits across Alberta to make meaningful contributions that benefit children and youth ages 0 to 24.

  • CanadaHelps is a nonprofit serving Canadian charities and donors. They increase charitable giving across Canada by making it easier to donate and fundraise online. Because CanadHelps is a charity, their fees are a fraction of for-profit alternatives, making donation dollars go further.

  • The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is a member-based nonprofit organization founded in 2002 in Edmonton, AB. They serve the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Alberta Capital Region.

  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is the provincial network for the approximately 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario. As a 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders, ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and business to create and influence systemic change.

  • For over 62 years, Propellus has been supporting volunteers and volunteerism within the communities of Calgary. It strongly believes that volunteering is essential to creating and sustaining healthy, supportive and connected communities.

  • The Sustainability Network is a national organization that works with environmental nonprofits to make them more effective and efficient. Their mission is to enrich environmental leaders and nonprofit organizations so that they can help us all achieve sustainability.

  • Founded in 1943, Vantage Point delivers learning opportunities focused on governance, leadership, planning and people engagement for new and seasoned sector leaders, board directors and managers, aimed at advancing not-for-profit leadership.

  • Women Get On Board is a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. They do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.


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