Could you balance Purpose and Profit as a CEO?

balance profit and purpose

A while ago I wrote: “Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..” to address a commonly held (and understandable!) view that companies are only lead and managed around driving profits, often by working their people hard with limited concern for People, Planet or even Purpose, or as I call that, the “new triple bottom line“.

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

This came up in conversation with someone again this week, and it has me thinking that perhaps when I write or talk about this I focus too much on the Purpose, People and Planet side of the above model, not enough on the Profit that sits on the other side and is so necessary to spin the “righteous flywheel” and so allow social and societal impact to be scaled.

I did spend the first two decades of my career very much focussed on growth, profits, shareholder return etc, gradually integrating more and more concern and focus on People and Planet and then recognising that they go together in balance. So, a learning from that recent conversation is to be more balanced in how I talk about leaders can integrate this all together, achieving Profit while staying true to Purpose that serves People and Planet.

So, almost with perfect timing, the FT released a terrific scenario game this week!

The FT has been a leading voice for some time on the idea that we need to look beyond how we currently think about capitalism as all about shareholder return, inspiring me to write around this topic, such as here.

This week they came out with a terrific and simple scenario planning game where one has to choose where to allocate scarce resources around the four areas of:

  • Meeting Growth Targets
  • Environmental responsibility
  • Social responsibility
  • Long-term development

The challenge, with these scarce resources, is to make choices that satisfy both shareholders (shorter-term growth and longer-term strategy), and stakeholders (including staff, often left out of this category) and broader society (People and Planet).

Take a few minutes to get an experience of what it feels like to lead a business with limited resources and the trade-offs. If you don’t make a profit and generate cash you will ultimately go out of business (so can’t have any social impact), but if you allocate too much to the pursuit of profit you will have a negative impact on stakeholders and that will, in our modern digital world, have real impacts both on people and planet and on reputation and so sustainability of the business.

Oh, and once you’ve tried the game, I’d love to talk to you, so please do click the link below and book a thirty-minute call to talk through what you learned and other thoughts you may have.

Let’s talk

Book your 30-minute meeting here.

Also published on Medium.