The Increasing Value of a Company's Mission

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Having received inquiries about our slightly negavtive view on the structure of B Corps as investments, which I wrote in a recent blog, I wanted to share some thoughts.

I was in Toronto recently at the same time as Alan Murray of Fortune and in his conversations with Canadian business leaders, he wrote this:

“How to meld profit with purpose. The Council was hosted at a learning center run by two extraordinary young Canadians, Craig and Marc Kielburger, who created a group of organizations — WE Day, WE Charity, ME to WE — designed to help young people who want to become social entrepreneurs. In their book WEconomy, written with Richard Branson’s daughter Holly, the three say that in today’s economy: if brands can’t finish the sentence: I am making the world better because ______, they can’t and won’t compete. In a matter of decades, companies that disregard the health of the people and the planet will be obsolete. Let’s hope they are right; but in any event, it is encouraging to see their elders paying such close attention.”

This addressed my position on why we view B Corp as unnecessary for companies in mind-training. They are already mission based. If they deviate from the mission, they’re putting all stakeholders of their company at risk.

Last week, someone asked me how Bridge Builders Collaborative tracks the social impact of our companies. First, we have a social screen for investments and look for scientific validity of their concepts. If we get that right, then tracking distribution and sales informs us of their impact. If the companies have engaging and growing platforms, they’re having an impact. Also, many of our companies are researching the engagement and actual impact of their products with science. So in one sense, sales are our social tracking mechanism.

All of this reinforces my thinking that companies are going to have strong missions and live by core values in order to succeed in business. Maybe this is just wishful thinking. Are we entering a new level of business consciousness, or is technology just creating transparency? I’m not sure. As a leader, I’ve never been able to function successfully when I’m not supporting a vision that strongly resonates.

Our friend Bill George recently wrote this piece on leading in crisis, comparing Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson’s response to the eviction of African American men in Philadelphia to Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the Cambridge Analytica problem. One lived in honesty and integrity and to core values, the other did not. In today’s world, transparency is increasing and young people are reacting quickly through social media. When a company does not live ethically or to its core values, the world knows and uses social media to swiftly punish unacceptable behavior, often impacting the company’s market valuation or sales.

I believe it is possible that boards will begin to consider the conscious leadership skills of the women and men they interview for CEO positions, because not only are they responsbile for creating and living the mission, but also the company’s brand depends on them to do so. Reactivity doesn’t work in today’s marketplace. Accountability does. Living to values does.

If you lead a company, define your mission; make sure your team knows exactly what it is; tell it to anyone who will listen; and, be damn sure you live by it. It’s no longer a fluffy thing — it’s crucial to the success of businesses in the modern world. Faking this through advertising no longer works.