As someone who works with brands and social entrepreneurs, with nonprofit leaders and governments, I’ve come to realize that to solve some of our biggest societal problems, we need to focus on lasting change. Investments in poverty alleviation, or climate change, or health improvements or gender equity don’t always consider how systems will operate once those investments dry up. Short term-ism is a detriment to all of our work in development. Yet many investments in community development or infrastructure are capped at five to ten years. What we need instead is long term-ism. We need entities that are prepared to invest for the duration, and build out systems that benefit not only the communities in need, but themselves. The need for this dual benefit cannot be ignored.
See, for decades, companies were seen as conglomerates simply out to make money and provide products for consumption. While some of those aims have not changed, the role of business leaders within companies is evolving, and an interest in improving our planet is shifting the mission of many companies. This is particularly true as more leaders learn how to guide their teams with empathy.
How has this evolution taken shape, and what does it mean for the future of global companies? How can companies build on this progress and make significant change in the world, while still being profitable and successful? How has the definition of success changed for companies? How have they imbedded the humanistic view that comes with seeing how the rest of the world lives?
These are some of the questions I attempt to answer in my new book, Purposeful Profits: Inside Successful Businesses Making a Positive Global Impact.
Purposeful Profits was born from several necessities. First, I had to develop a more positive relationship with publishing (exactly two weeks before the release of my first book, ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact, I learned that my publisher, who I had been working with for more than a year, had shuts its doors with no notice, leaving me and many other authors on our own with no clue how to launch a book.) Second I felt compelled to share the stories of some of the incredible people and companies I have encountered over the years, and what's more, help propel the notion that companies can both make money, and do a lot of good for our planet. Both are important. Both are necessary. And both are possible.
Purposeful Profits provides first-hand accounts from those working inside successful companies, large and small, local and global, as to how this evolution has taken shape, what it means for the future of business profitability, and why being a business that is purpose-driven is as important as any other measure of success. Some of the inspiring leaders I profile include Shannon Keith, Founder of Sudara, a company dedicated to improving the lives of women in India. Shannon’s story is about a life-altering trip that helped define her personal and professional mission. You’ll meet Shayne Tyler, a steadfast advocate for fair labor practices in the United Kingdom, who effectively transformed the issue from being ignored, to being prioritized by some of the biggest companies in the world. Erin O’Hara with Numi Tea shares the powerful emotions that come from being amongst the tea growers, and recognizing the critical role they play in the final product. I tell the story of Pierrette Djemain, a business owner and mentor to many women in Benin, transforming the moringa supply chain in the West African country. Marcy Twete shares her journey from small town girl to big city change maker, and how she re-shaped corporate priorities towards social impact and environmental responsibility. You will read about the history of Milton Hershey, and how The Hershey Company rests its laurels on the values of philanthropy and social equity, told through the lens of Tawiah Agyarko-Kwarteng, who ensures a strong and viable relationship between Hershey and cocoa communities in Ghana. Tawiah’s history helps us see the difference between giving back for its own sake, versus acting upon a mission to change the world. Finally, you will meet Arthur Karuletwa, who as a former child refugee was thrust into the social and political complexities of the Rwandan genocide, grew up to reinvigorate the Rwandan economy through the coffee trade, and bring new life and hope to his people.
I am grateful to share these, and other stories, to showcase how decision making with empathy and purpose can transform a corporation from one solely seeking to make money, into one that is successful both for its profits, but also for its impact.
Read more about Purposeful Profits and order the book at PurposefulProfits.com
Joanne Sonenshine is Founder of Connective Impact, and Author of PurposefulProfits: Inside Successful Businesses Making a Positive Global Impact, and ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact.