Pivot to Purpose: A Better Path for Business

Founders, executive leaders, marketers, communicators and strategists are uniquely positioned to help create better businesses and a better world. Pivot to Purpose, an event co-hosted by Minnesota PRSA and Beehive Strategic Communication, brought together a community of people energized about advancing business solutions to address social and economic issues.

Lisa Hannum, Beehive CEO and event host, opened with a request of the audience, “Can we all agree to think about what’s at stake and the possibilities of pivoting to purpose?” Businesses are being called to solve urgent challenges. Consumers, employees and stakeholder expectations are rising. Businesses must act with purpose, live their values, and put people and planet first if they want to survive — and thrive — in the new decade and beyond.

Shifting to a purpose-driven model if your business is not currently operating this way is indeed a pivot. Even businesses founded on and grounded in purpose, like panelists HiBAR and Forest Stewardship Council, continue to evolve, innovate and improve.

“It’s not too late to align any business with purpose,” Lisa said. “This event will allow you to hear ideas directly from purpose-driven leaders, help you tap into the collective power of energy in the room and seek connections that can be inspiring.”

Keynote presenter Maryanne O’Brien, founder of Conscious Company, explained the environmental, economic and societal macrotrends and movements that are impacting better business across the globe. She shared inspirational examples of businesses that are operating with a high sense of purpose like Patagonia, Salesforce and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Some of Maryanne’s key insights included:

  • The global movement to self-actualization and purpose might seem like it’s coming on strong in 2020, while in reality the world of business has been evolving toward purpose for decades.
  • Climate change poses the biggest risk to the global economy.
  • Brands with a high sense of purpose experienced two times higher brand valuation than brands with low sense of purpose over the past 12 years.

Next, Lisa introduced panelists Dion Hughes, HiBAR; Becca Hoeft, Sunrise Banks; and Corey Brinkema, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – US. The panelists, representing product, service and convener business models, spoke about their businesses’ purposes, values, actions and results.

Dion talked about overcoming assumptions (women value their hair too much to try anything drastically different than our modern day shampoo experience) and taking care in every aspect of HiBAR’s product from manufacturing to delivery to eliminating plastic. He and his business partners walked away from upfront profits because the opportunity didn’t align with their values. After diligent research into options, consumers can buy HiBAR on Amazon with zero-plastic packaging.

Becca touched on the concept of financial empowerment as Sunrise Banks’ purpose. She told the audience that building a brand and values from the inside out is critical to authenticity and impact. The company believes it’s simple: believe in the power of business as a force for good and your impact will be multiplied.

Corey said FSC stands up for forests and serves to bring people together for complex debate that leads to collaborative solutions. The organization was shaped by civilians joining forces after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio failed to produce an agreement to stop deforestation. Today, FSC’s global system covers more than 500 million acres of forests and more than 40,000 companies committed to responsible sourcing.

Inspired by these purpose-driven leaders and their stories, Lisa shared her thoughts around how businesses can pivot to purpose. “It’s about progress over perfection,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll stall. You might not have support for leaders or boards. But keep moving. Take small, consistent steps and erasing the idea that it’s not enough. Every step counts.”

What have the panelists all learned on their purpose journeys and how do they measure success? HiBAR learned that women care about what their hair looks like, but they also care about the environment. In fact, 98% of their buyers are young women. Sunrise Banks measures success using the formula of “mission times margin.” Data confirms that mission growth yields margin growth, and margin growth fuels mission growth.

Inspired with ideas for integrating purpose, the panelists left the audience with advice, including continuing to believe in your idea (Dion), building the brand from the inside out (Becca), be a change agent (Corey), and look for creative ways to solve problems and discover unexpected solutions (Maryanne).

The evening wrapped up with gratitude for the panelists, audience and Rally Registry, the event charity. Lisa encouraged attendees to think about how to bring purpose, ideas and connections to their families, communities and businesses. She also extended an invitation to declare your pivots to purpose and to start taking action today.

It’s Up to Us

Organizations today are facing a radical and unprecedented pace of change. Purpose provides direction and clarity amidst change and uncertainty, ensuring businesses stay on track, deliver stakeholder expectations and make an impact beyond profit. Organizations that are intentional about living purpose and values have a competitive advantage. They’re better equipped to serve their stakeholders and contribute to solving some of the world’s most complex challenges.

The most important thing is to start to make the pivot. Businesses that do so will create better businesses, better results and a better world.