The Anatomy of a Purposeful Business
By Adam Craker – Chief Executive Officer, IQbusiness
The idea of purposeful organisation is still a relatively new concept, and for many companies, still in a state of constant evolution. In essence, purposeful corporations are defined by their heightened sense of why they exist. For some, this extends further to an awakening of consciousness in terms of social and environmental awareness. In exceptional cases, this drives a desire to achieve more than the normal profit and shareholder value goals to create positive change in the world.
Though many a CEO will beg to differ, greater consciousness doesn’t have to mean sacrificing practicality and business efficiency. In fact, just the opposite is true, and our own experience at IQbusiness reinforces this. Businesses are rapidly awakening to the idea that their interests can only be effectively served through a holistic approach. Our success at IQbusiness is predicated on this – and has been recognised and validated for it.
In mid-2017, IQbusiness was a finalist in the Conscious Companies Awards, and towards the end of the year, we received B Corporation certification – making us one of only five companies in South Africa to do so, and the largest so far. The organisation now joins over 2,300 companies, from 50 countries, that are creating a new social narrative; one that is less about profit, and more about investment in social capital. Some describe it as the evolution of capitalism, balancing the needs of shareholders with those of stakeholders, and using business as a force for good.
As a services business, we live by the belief that our IQers (employees) are our most valuable (and only) asset, and when they thrive, our business can only stand to benefit. But for them to flourish, they must live in healthy communities and environments. As members of the South African business community, it is in our power – not to mention our moral duty – to have a positive impact on the communities, and society at large, in which we live and operate.
Distinct Features of a Purposeful Business
The modern world is riddled with issues, ranging from disease and poor education, to global warming, and more. Recent data by StatsSA indicates that South Africa’s poverty rate is on the rise, and according to The World Health Organisation’s most recent statistics, 5.2 million deaths registered on the African continent were the result of communicable or preventable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Government and non-profits are necessary in combating these issues, but alone, insufficient to truly overcome them. Business organisations need to get involved, yet many are hesitant to take up the challenge. What’s worse is that corruption and loose corporate morals threaten to undo the precious progress that has been made in terms of businesses committing to the greater good. If we are to improve our collective situation, we must work to grow Africa together, by embracing the following goals:
- Effective control
- Working towards a more ethical culture
- Good performance
IQbusiness is nothing without its IQers. We have found that investment in their education, their financial stability, and their wellbeing as citizens is of massive value to the organisation. This therefore ranks among our highest priorities in the conversation about how to make our business an even more prosperous and sustainable one.
The modern consumer is far more socially and environmentally aware than their old-fashioned counterparts. Now, the demand for conscious business is increasing by the day, and the sooner you get on board, the more legitimacy you will add to your organisation.
As I mentioned in a Business Report article – How the ANC’s elective conference will impact on 2018, published on 11 December 2017, it is my firm belief that South Africa’s current economic trajectory is being caused in large part by a trust deficit; only further fuelled by daily reports of corruption and poor governance from both the government and the business community at large. To put an end to our stagnant economy and rising unemployment rate, these institutions need to recommit themselves to transparency and accountability – two of the characteristics that are central to conscious businesses.
Working Towards a More Ethical Culture
Working towards the greater good and a more ethical culture is the underlying foundation of conscious business. Regardless of profit margins, such businesses know they have the means to improve society as a whole, and they are not shying away from the opportunity.
Today, unethical business practices, if exposed publicly, have the potential to ruin reputations, and an ethics-first business mentality can go a long way to avoid scandal and win the hearts and minds of potential customers. Our IQers trust IQbusiness to treat them justly, because they can see the emphasis that we place on ethics in all spheres of how we work. To attract the best, we must first be the best. Moral transparency is now one of the most important factors that potential employees and clients judge us on.
Happy IQers, investors, and customers are key to the performance of our company. Conscious businesses provide the opportunity to help where it is most needed, and by giving back to society and working to protect our environment, our organisation’s performance continues to reach new levels.
Leaders from business, government, and civil society must now, likewise, begin working towards a better future, taking responsibility for the impact they have on society and the environment. Those ignoring these problems are missing out on an opportunity to make a real difference, and are ultimately neglecting their responsibilities.
Constructive criticism is now more important than ever, as government needs the input, skills, and support of those who hold weight within their communities. Suppliers, customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment all benefit from a conscious leadership approach, and they all play a part in improving society as a whole.