Dave Rees, Chief Sales Officer at SThree, discusses why companies need to become more purpose-driven in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Businesses across the world have traditionally made profit their single most important priority.

But as customer and employee demands continue to evolve in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, companies are having to re-think that approach.

Many customers now only buy from companies they know to be ethical or who they share values with. And many of the most talented people in the market want to work for purpose-led employers who value things like mental wellbeing, sustainability and equality.

Companies are also facing pressure by high-profile and well-funded initiatives like Climate Action 100+, whose aim is to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take action on climate change.

To remain relevant, many companies are having to establish a clear purpose that clearly articulates why they exist and which in turn provides direction for the business as a whole and a connection with their customers.

But becoming an organisation that’s not just driven by profit, but by the greater good, is a difficult change to make. And balancing the profit expectations of shareholders with the need to take action on big issues like climate change, gender inequality and improving work-life balance is still very new to many businesses.

So, how have businesses responded?

Chief Executives at 181 of the world’s most powerful companies, including Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Ernst Young and Deloitte, signed a statement last year saying they are to become more purposeful in the way they do business. They vowed to put customers, employees, suppliers, communities and the environment on an even-footing with shareholders.

And just last week, energy giant BP announced that its purpose is now about ‘reimagining energy for people and our planet’ and that it is aiming to be a ‘net zero company’ by 2050 by cutting 415 million tonnes of emissions from its operations and upstream oil and gas production.

Closer to home, at SThree, we exist to ‘bring skilled people together to build the future’ and that purpose is central to everything we do. Our purpose and work are aimed at changing people’s lives for the better and we are doing so by building communities of talent, while future-proofing people’s careers and providing our customers with their most valuable asset - their people.

I recently spoke at a conference about the case for purpose-driven organisations and it was clear that many businesses are not only showing intent, but they’re taking action.

But does it make business-sense to put purpose in line with profits?

From a talent acquisition and retention perspective, studies have shown that people who work for purpose-led companies are happier and more engaged than their non-purpose-led counterparts.

A YouGov survey for Danone showed that employees at non-purpose-led companies were more likely to feel that stress caused by managerial pressure on short term results negatively affected employee engagement. The same survey found that those at non-purpose-led companies were more likely to feel that stress caused by poor work-life balance negatively affected employee engagement.

Meanwhile, Unilever, whose brands include Dove and Ben & Jerry’s, announced last year that its purpose-led ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and are delivering 75% of the company’s growth.

So, there’s evidence to show that being purpose-led can work well, if done the right way.

It can also act as a real selling point to customers and investors while helping to attract and retain the best talent on the market.

Companies who grasp this and act upon it will lead the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

You can find out more about how SThree is bringing skilled people together to build the future here.