of nonprofits we‘ve supported with free/discounted products

In today‘s world, having a purpose beyond profit is no longer a nice-to-have for companies – it‘s table stakes. Customers, employees, and investors alike are looking to businesses to be forces for good in society. Consider these stats:

  • 94% of consumers say it‘s important that the companies they engage with have a strong purpose (2021 Porter Novelli Purpose Tracker)
  • 52% of U.S. consumers say they assume companies are trying to mislead them when a purpose-driven message seems too good to be true (Ipsos, 2022)
  • 60% of millennials say their sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose their employer (2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey)

Clearly, purpose matters to all stakeholders. But only 15% of consumers think brands are really delivering on their purpose (2022 Havas Meaningful Brands Study). So how can companies close this gap between stating a purpose and truly living it?

As the Director of Environmental, Social, and Governance at HubSpot, I‘ve seen firsthand how challenging it can be to develop and deliver on an authentic, impactful purpose. But I‘ve also seen the immense benefits – to society, to customers, to employees, and to the business – when you get it right. Here are my top three pieces of advice:

1. Embed purpose authentically into who you are

A purpose statement can‘t just be words on a page. To really take hold, it needs to be baked into the DNA of your organization. Some tips:

  • Ground it in your history and strengths. Your purpose should flow from who you already are as a company. At HubSpot, our purpose of helping millions grow better stems from our inbound philosophy and mission to help businesses grow.

  • Make it specific and actionable. A vague, lofty-sounding purpose won‘t resonate. Aim for specificity in the impact you want to have.
    Bad: "Make the world better"
    Good: "Empower 50 million people with skills to thrive in the modern economy"

  • Engage employees and stakeholders. Don‘t let a small group of executives craft your purpose in isolation. The most authentic and resonant purposes are co-created with input from employees, customers, partners, and communities.

When Patagonia updated its purpose statement from "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis" to the punchier "We‘re in business to save our home planet," it did so only after conducting listening tours with employees and partners worldwide.

2. Activate employees as your purpose ambassadors

A purpose is only as strong as the employees who live it every day. In fact, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share (Gallup). Some ways to engage yours:

  • Connect their work to the bigger picture. Continuously reinforce how each employee‘s day-to-day work ladders up to the larger purpose. Celebrate those purpose-driven wins.

  • Give them skin in the game. Offer paid time off to volunteer. Match their charitable donations. At HubSpot, we give each employee a quarterly stipend to donate to a charity of their choice.

  • Empower them to lead. Create employee resource groups (ERGs) around different aspects of your purpose, like sustainability or diversity. Let them spearhead impact initiatives with executive sponsorship.

Most importantly, make sure leaders are authentically embodying the purpose. 80% of employees say seeing their CEO live company values is what makes them trust the company (Salesforce).

3. Multiply your impact through your ecosystem

You can scale your purpose exponentially by engaging your entire ecosystem of customers, suppliers, partners, and communities. A few ideas:

  • Invite customers to participate. Find ways to involve customers in your purpose journey, whether through cause marketing campaigns, impact reporting, or co-created solutions.

  • Set expectations with suppliers. Choose suppliers that share your values. Include ESG criteria in procurement decisions. Work together on making progress.

  • Band together with industry peers. Collaborate with others in your industry to tackle systemic issues together. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, with members like Nike, Gap, and H&M, is a great example of collective action on labor and environmental challenges.

The multiplier effect is real. 90% of millennials say they would switch from one brand to another – price and quality equal – if that brand were associated with a good cause (Cone Communications).

Prove the "why" and the "how"

With all the buzz around purpose, it‘s critical to back up your words with proof. That means setting clear metrics, transparently reporting on your progress, and quantifying your impact in terms all stakeholders can appreciate.

For example, here are some of the metrics we track at HubSpot:

  • % of employees who say HubSpot is making a positive impact in the world
  • % of suppliers meeting our Supplier Code of Conduct
  • Estimated carbon emissions reduced from our sustainability initiatives

We report these in our annual Sustainability Report, holding ourselves accountable to all stakeholders.

It‘s also important to connect purpose to business outcomes. Unilever has found that its purpose-led brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of its portfolio (Harvard Business Review).

Living your purpose authentically

At the end of the day, being a purpose-driven company is hard work. It requires commitment, investment, and a willingness to make tough choices. There will be challenges and missteps along the way.

But when you get it right – when you embed authentic purpose into your culture, empower employees to lead, engage your ecosystem, and prove your impact – the benefits are immeasurable. You‘ll unleash new innovations and solutions. You‘ll build deeper trust and loyalty. You‘ll attract and retain the best talent. Most importantly, you‘ll make a real, lasting difference for the world.

That‘s a purpose worth striving for.