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5 Reasons You Should Add Purpose To Your Plan

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Social entrepreneurship is growing so fast that from where I sit it appears to be about to overwhelm its traditional borders to redefine the whole of entrepreneurship.

It has always been true that great entrepreneurs are more interested in change than money, but much of the energy has been on technological change that would impact primarily the affluent, making happy people just a bit more blissful.

Increasingly, entrepreneurship is about seeing the opportunities in helping to make the lives of the desperately poor more enjoyable by providing access to electricity, credit, insurance, clean water and a host of consumer goods that we all take for granted. More and more, I see people from across the political spectrum accept that humans have a deep responsibility to heal and restore the environment and are using business as a vehicle for that change.

Here are five reasons that you may wish to add purpose to your business plan, whether you are a startup or you are one of the largest companies on the planet.

  1. Your customers want to share your purpose.  Every measure of customer preference I’ve reviewed in the past several years points in the same direction; customers will generally choose the purpose-driven product over the brand without the cause. For global brands, this association can be created by reallocating marketing dollars to include support for a social cause and inviting your customers to participate. For startups, you can knit the cause into the fabric of your business and allow it to influence every decision you make.
  2. Your employees want to share your purpose.  The data on employees is becoming even clearer than for customers. We see now that the vast majority of people would take a lower salary to work in a company with a greater sense of purpose. People want their work to mean something. Once you have put food on the table and met your other basic obligations, people start thinking about why they work; their time is worth more than what you pay. Things like values and legacy become more important than just another dollar.
  3. You really can change the world—for good.  For the cynical, it is important to point out that corporate efforts to change the world actually work. In fact, as businesses grow in revenue and employees their impact on the world naturally scales with it. If that impact is negative, every dollar of revenue generated is a measure of that adverse impact. On the other hand, if your supply chain is reducing carbon emissions and improving the lives of employees at every step, that same revenue can become a measure of the good you are doing.
  4. The world needs the help.  Whether you are interested in solving problems on a global scale or a local one, whether you are interested in helping people or the planet, there are problems and projects just waiting for you to tackle them. There are about one billion people on the planet living on less than about a dollar per day, most of whom don’t eat three solid meals per day and aren’t sure how they will feed their children tomorrow and many lack convenient access to clean water. Separately, we are living in the greatest mass extinction of species on the planet since an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs.
  5. Our collective efforts will work.  Those like me who have some gray hair are likely to operate with the sense that most social problems simply overwhelm the available resources and that these problems will therefore persist perpetually. Things have changed. The size of the global economy has put solutions to problems within reach. Until 2014, humans had eradicated just one communicable disease—small pox. In 2015 mankind could mark the final cases of polio and the guinea worm. Between our financial and technological resources, intractable problems have rather suddenly become solvable on a time scale that is relevant to us personally and individually. The UN has set the goal to eradicate extreme poverty within 15 years.

If you haven’t already added some purpose to your plan, give it some thought. We now see that humankind’s impact on the planet is such that we can choose the sort of world we want to live in, one with abundance and a healthy environment for all or a world marred by scarcity and filth. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about all of this is that you can get paid for being part of the solution.

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