Businesses need a purpose to stay relevant

New partnerships are part of the solution. World Vision and Grundfos have joined forces to bring water to rural Zambia.
New partnerships are part of the solution. World Vision and Grundfos have joined forces to bring water to rural Zambia.

Doing well as a business usually means creating results which are visible on the bottom line. Doing good in the world often takes a willingness to spend money on a cause, which does not necessarily return your investment. Or, this is how it used to be. Today, I see no built-in contradiction between doing well and doing good as a business. Rather contrary, I believe that companies must have a purpose transcending making a profit to stay in business.

There are plenty of areas of opportunity, where there is an undeniable need for finding and employing solutions to the greater good of people. I’m specifically thinking about making water and sanitation available to those who need and lack it. According to the UN, 663 million people are without access to water, and 2.4 billion lack sanitation. Businesses who can help solve these urgent matters are doing good.

Making sure that water is available to all takes strikingly improved infrastructure. Actually, 1.6 billion people live in areas, where water resources are available, but the infrastructure is not sufficient to make it accessible. Improving infrastructure takes investments, and with investments, it would be possible to build business around it. And do well. We have already seen proven business cases when it comes to renewable energy and for instance wind energy. We need to translate that into water. Businesses who can do that will do well.

Another reason why I believe that it makes sense from a business perspective to do good is that there is an upcoming movement in the world, where people and societies are demanding that companies must have a vision of doing good to be interesting to do business with. An example of this can be found in one of the world’s largest investment firms, BlackRock, is targeting investments in projects with a true social impact. A trend which I expect will continue and will benefit the world and businesses with a purpose.

Why is this important? Because, I believe, that it is near impossible to solve some of the urgent challenges the world is facing without efforts from societies and businesses alike. We need sound and sustainable business models, and we need to build proven business cases around solving e.g. the water challenges, to gain a momentum where problems are not fixed and left to arise again, but fixed, maintained and gone for good.

If we in the business world can play a part in making something like this come true, we can create results on both the financial and social bottom lines. And this, I believe, will be absolutely necessary for businesses to master, if they are to stay relevant in the future.

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