GTP20: Birmingham needs purpose


This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2020 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2020 this involves 8 free workshops taking place between 2nd March and 27th March, culminating in a full-day Growth Through People conference on 2nd April. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Prime Accountants Group, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

What is Purpose?

You have probably heard about Purpose by now. Simply put, an organisation has Purpose if it has a reason to exist beyond making money. It’s Tesla aiming to “accelerate the World’s transition to renewable energy” rather than sell cars; it’s Unilever working to “make sustainable living commonplace” rather than flog skin cream; it’s Patagonia trying to “use the resources we have to do something about the fact that all life on Earth is under threat of extinction” rather than maximise profits.

Why do I need to know about Purpose?

Purpose has been an emerging issue ever since Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” was published in 2009, but it has truly arrived at the fore: according to Forbes, in 2020 “there is a sea change underfoot where more traditional businesses are seeking out their purpose beyond making a profit”.

There is a simple reason why Purpose matters: it leads to profit. Kantar have shown “Purpose-led” brands grow twice as fast as other businesses; EY and Harvard University researchers have seen firms with Purpose outperforming others in terms of value by as much as a factor of 10. We have seen these results play out anecdotally in the businesses we work with.

Why does Purpose work?

Purpose works because it attracts the right people to an organisation - making an organisation’s values clear, and linking team efforts to a positive impact on society - guides their behaviour, and encourages them to work harder, for longer.



Guides behaviour



Three quarters of “Millennials” will turn down a job at an organisation that doesn’t reflect their values (Deloitte)

Teams in Purpose-led organisations work more effectively so that new product launches and change initiative are significantly more likely to be successful (EY)

Those working in organisations with Purpose are 30% more productive (Bain & Co)

Those working in organisations with Purpose are three times more loyal (Bain & Co)

All age groups are willing to sacrifice salary to do more meaningful work (Harvard University)




Purpose is about more than just motivating team members, however. PR firm Edelman found that the majority of customers now choose brands because of their stance on social issues (the figure was 64% in 2018). A clear Purpose is key to standing out in a crowded market-place.

What’s the catch?

Unfortunately, Purpose is about a lot more than just saying the right thing: it must be authentic. Purpose fails to motivate an organisation’s team members if it is perceived as another means of control. Purpose turns off customers if it is perceived as fake: Pepsi’s disastrous Kendall Jenner ad of 2018 is a great example of this, with Pepsi seen as exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement to try and sell fizzy drinks.

So what?

Authentic Purpose can truly set apart our local organisations and enable them to achieve greatness. As our region strives to become more productive and more attractive to graduates from our local universities, authentic Purpose can be our secret weapon.

James Bolle
Captain, PRPSFL