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The Power of Purpose: Building a Better World Through Business

Oct 6, 2023

One of the most profound pieces of advice I inherited from my grandmother is "Don't waste your time." I often heard these words while immersed in my Nintendo or lost in the pages of comic books. At first, I didn't fully grasp the gravity of this advice, but it became etched in my mind to the point where time evolved into one of my most cherished values. It makes sense, doesn't it? We can't turn back the clock on time that has already passed, and we can't purchase more time for the future. The only thing we can control is how we invest our time in the present.

Time at Work

As adults, we spend roughly 20% to 25% of our lives working on average. When you subtract the time allocated for sleep, which we have limited control over, that percentage can soar to nearly 50%. Consequently, it became clear to me that I needed to be intentional about how and where I invested my time at work. My initial focus was on personal growth and development, which is natural when you're early in your career and have the opportunity to be part of exceptional teams, achieve significant milestones, and acquire invaluable knowledge. However, it dawned on me that there was a larger dimension to this endeavor. In addition to nurturing my inner growth, I wanted my work to have an external impact — I wanted it to make the world a better place.

The Endgame of a Company

I began asking myself "What is the reason for a given company to exist?". Is it solely for generating revenue, ensuring profitability, and satisfying shareholders? Or does it serve a higher purpose, with revenue, profit, and happy shareholders being means to achieve a more significant goal? This inquiry became a determining factor in choosing where to invest my time.

Thinking in this direction, many people tend to associate making a difference in the world with non-profits, financial struggles, and ultimate altruism. In reality, aligning an organization's goals with meaningful societal problems is increasingly incentivized in various ways.

B Corp

B Lab, a global non-profit network, initiated a movement to transform the global economy in a manner that benefits not only shareholders but also all people, communities, and the planet. By establishing their own business standards, B Lab ensures that companies prioritize the needs of workers, suppliers, customers, and the environment, in addition to shareholders. To date, over 6500 companies have chosen to certify as B Corps, obligating them to adhere to these standards, thereby significantly impacting the performance and behavior of these companies.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations outlined 17 goals called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), providing a blueprint for achieving peace and prosperity for both people and the planet, now and in the future. Initially designed for countries, these goals have also been adopted by companies as a framework for defining and articulating their purpose. By associating their mission with one or more of these goals, organizations can ground themselves in globally recognized priorities.

Consumer Behavior and Expectations

Awareness of critical issues, such as waste, pollution, climate change, poverty, and illness, has surged in recent decades. Consequently, consumers are gradually adjusting their behavior and expectations regarding the products and services they use. Consider the consumer electronics industry, which has long thrived on planned obsolescence. Companies like Fairphone and Framework have emerged, aiming to reduce waste and empower consumers with the right to repair, upgrade, and customize their devices without discarding them. Patagonia, a company committed to putting the planet first, challenges fast fashion by encouraging customers to buy only what they truly need. These initiatives are gaining momentum and will be further boosted by government regulations aimed at reducing waste and pollution.

Running on Purpose

Starting a company is undoubtedly a formidable undertaking, both physically and mentally. We've already emphasized the importance of passion and purpose in entrepreneurship. One way to persevere is to anchor your startup's mission to a meaningful goal with a compelling reason to exist. If your sole objective is to generate revenue, there are countless paths to do that, with numerous options to pivot around obstacles. However, when you're focused on solving a specific problem, you're all in, knowing that you're working on something greater than yourself. The anticipated impact of your success becomes your inner wellspring of determination to navigate the path you've chosen.

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill

The good news is, you don't have to choose between pursuing a purpose and achieving financial success. There are ample opportunities to pursue endeavors that satisfy both needs. The onus is on us to identify the problems that resonate with us and devise solutions that can also be viable businesses. When shaping our next business idea, we have the choice to mold it in a way that addresses meaningful problems and defines a mission that propels us out of bed each morning.

If you've already identified the problem that drives you, the next best step is to hop on Icanpreneur and begin modeling your true passion into a business with real-world viability.