Moving Beyond a Singular Pursuit of Profit

I’ve been fortunate to be in business during significant shifts in two different industries. Each time, the shift jarred the status quo.

The first was the change from fee-for-service healthcare insurance to managed care. The second was “edtech”; the evolution of online curriculum and assessments in place of printed textbooks and supplemental materials.

Today, we have a front row seat for another significant shift that’s jarring to the status quo.

The singular pursuit of profit is increasingly irrelevant, especially when it's at the expense of people and the planet. 

Viewing this disruption, some business leaders are asking with desperation, “What are we going to do?” while others more confidently and optimistically are asking, “What can we do?” People in the latter group are discovering ways to line up with the changes, and in doing so, realize market opportunities that weren’t on their horizon when it was business as usual.

What are those companies doing?

They are intentionally and strategically putting a not-just­-for profit mindset into practice. They are doing good in specific, genuine, and verifiable ways for all the people essential to the company’s success and for the benefit of our planet by:

  1. thinking of their company’s value in terms of being important or useful to others, as opposed to only a monetary quantification of the company’s worth;

  2. considering all of their stakeholders along with their financial shareholders;

  3. managing and measuring their purpose-driven, socially-conscious, and environmentally-aware business practices;

  4. being transparent about and accountable for outcomes.

When companies pay living wages, offer meaningful benefits, work with local suppliers, are active in their communities, and incorporate planet-friendly processes into their business practices, they create a path to improved ROI. Better business relationships, improved retention and operational efficiencies are but a few examples of how companies can create exceptional outcomes that would otherwise be obscured when the only goal is to increase profit, and there’s more.

Asking “What can we do?” is also the first step to embracing disruptive technologies and exploring new business models.

One example is the closed-loop (or circular) model that keeps products, components and materials at their highest utility and value instead of the linear approach rooted in “take-make-use-waste” processes that may boost revenue and profit but at the high cost of goodwill.*

This model (and others such as asset-sharing, collaborative ecosystems, usage-based pricing and others) meet present day opportunities and those of the future. They support the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all – with specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

There is a role for private business in doing the same, whether globally, nationally, or locally – a business like yours.

Ask yourself and your company’s leaders, “Now that we’re no longer restricted by a singular pursuit of profit, what can we do?”

It’s a significant first step toward achieving sustainable success and true prosperity that comes from thriving, not simply surviving, and it’s the 21st century way of doing business.

About Me, Kelly Stewart: I work with business owners and leaders to help them put a not-just-for-profit mindset into practice. Whether that's improving business relationships, becoming a more socially-conscious business or reducing the company's impact on the environment, it's about knowing where and how to expand the company's positive core while earning profitable returns. Mom to two by birth and two by marriage, I live in Bucks County, PA with my fun and wonderful husband and our four dogs of all sizes and strange habits.

*These models are proposed through Project Breakthrough, a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact, Global Compact Lead, and Volans, a transformation agency led by John Elkington (renowned sustainability expert known for coining such terms as triple bottom line and People, Planet, Profit).

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash