Embedding Purpose: lessons from business

Embedding Purpose: lessons from business, outlines actions that are helping Business in the Community’s (BITC) member companies in their purpose journeys.

Embedding Purpose: lessons from business, outlines actions that are helping Business in the Community’s (BITC) member companies in their purpose journeys. This report contains inspiration and practical lessons to help you, wherever your organisation is on its purpose journey. It discusses how to embed purpose across the areas of people, culture, and structure. The report has been produced by McKinsey in collaboration with BITC.

What is purpose?

BITC defines business purpose as “articulating why the business exists, beyond making a financial return, and how that benefits wider society.” A purpose-led business is one which states the positive difference it aims to make in the world. It also ensures this is embedded in the organisation’s strategy and planning.

Today, it is no longer satisfactory to simply state your company’s purpose. Public trust that business will deliver on their social and environmental ambitions is low. Against the backdrop of so-called ‘greenwashing’ and ‘purpose washing’, it is ever more important that your purpose is truly embedded into your core business decisions and actions. In this report we explore how this can be achieved through your people, culture, and structure.

About Embedding Purpose: lessons from business

In 2021, BITC published our Developing and Embedding Your Purpose toolkit (available to BITC members only). The toolkit sets out a seven-step framework for creating a purpose-driven organisation. Since then, members have called for more insight on how to embed purpose in a way that is authentic, long-lasting, and sustainable. To explore this, we carried out research with BITC members. We found embedding purpose to the point it is intrinsic in business operations is an ongoing journey of continual improvement and learning, even for the leading companies.

Embedding Purpose: lessons from business delivers a valuable repository of case studies and replicable actions. It discusses how to embed purpose across the areas of people, culture, and structure. Our 10 key findings are not intended as a step-by-step how-to guide. Instead they demonstrate actions that are making a difference for our member companies, wherever they are in their purpose journeys.

  1. Setting and driving bold ambition on purpose starts with authentic support from the Chief Executive Officer.
  2. The responsibility for delivering purpose themes should be allocated across the executive team, including commercial and functional roles.
  3. The roles, reporting lines, and remit of purpose and ESG (environmental, social and governance) teams are changing, creating pressure to adapt.
  4. Cross-functional teams are increasingly coming together to deliver ESG initiatives.
  5. Innovative models and approaches are needed to engage stakeholders and hold Executive Teams to account.
  6. Setting measurable ESG targets alongside traditional financial goals helps to integrate purpose in business activities.
  7. ‘Purpose champions’ help embed purpose-driven decision-making and action at every level of the organisation.
  8. A combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches is most powerful for defining and driving company purpose.
  9. Learning and development needs to evolve constantly to meet rising stakeholder expectations and regulatory demands.
  10. Embedding purpose-related performance into employee evaluations and compensation schemes drives individual action and accountability.

Download Embedding Purpose: lessons from business to learn more.

Business in the Community and the Global Goals

BITC is working with business to accelerate the pace and scale of action to deliver against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals.

We inspire, engage and challenge businesses to be purpose-driven, taking practical action and mobilising their collective strength to deliver against the Global Goals. Rather than philanthropy, we are focused on how companies can bring about structural and lasting social, environmental and economic changes through running their businesses responsibly, for example through responsible investments.

Find out more about BITC’s work on the Global Goals.

we can take you further on your responsible business journey