Business strategy starts with purpose

Daniel K. Cohen Stuart

Marketing Lead, BR-ND

How the SDGs are leading the way to world happiness and peace (and why caring became cool)

Ask any marketeer or branding expert worth their salt where a good business strategy starts, and they’ll say one thing: Know your purpose.

Oh, how times have changed. If you could time travel to a boardroom in the 90s to ask what their purpose is, there would be no hesitation. Make as much profit as possible and distribute it amongst shareholders. With a contemporary view of business, this might seem hollow, but it is actually a solid objective for any company looking to survive and grow. So what’s changed?

When profit was purpose

Since the time of Milton Friedman, claiming the only social responsibility of business is to make profit, our societal perspective has clearly shifted. Most people no longer believe that a company should solely act out of its own self-interest. Instead, we demand an aspiration far beyond the organizational borders. And exactly this idea of looking across borders, or not seeing them at all, provides a clue as to what’s changed in the world. Thanks to the sweeping changes of the digital age, traversing geographical boundaries suddenly became as easy as clicking a button. Anyone from anywhere can upload anything to the internet, which can then be seen by anyone anywhere as well. Wow.

Arguably, this has shifted a worldview that was more locally or regionally oriented to one that is inherently global. And with it, the scope of our lives has become much larger. We concern ourselves with things happening thousands of kilometers away, from products to ideas. Though this has always been the case, the accessibility of information through the internet has made this more widespread than ever before. Instead of being a luxury of the privileged with access to information streams, these days anyone with an internet connection has the same power. But this access has come at a price. It showed us that the world is in serious need of better, well, everything!

The age of better

Better systems, better leaders, better products, better governments, and better businesses. The list goes on and on. Luckily, challenge also creates opportunity. Since the start of the 21st century, we’ve gradually seen more businesses pick one or another issue as their purpose and being highly successful, both in terms of impact and profit. Even more so, they are some of the coolest brands in the eyes of most young people. And who holds more authority on what’s cool than young people?

Though this effort is definitely something to be applauded, it raises the question of what should be our purpose as a whole. What are we aiming for as humanity? Enter the SDGs.

Towards world peace and happiness

This ambitious agenda outlined by the UN in 2015 creates a ‘game plan’ for governments and businesses to achieve what should be our mission as the whole of humanity. If you take a look at the purpose of the UN itself, it can be summarized as aiming to achieve and maintain world peace and happiness. With the SDGs providing a concrete roadmap to achieve this, all that’s left is for businesses to start their strategy development with the question: Which route are we going to take to achieve our goal as humanity?

World peace and happiness, here we come!