While the new year is traditionally a time we look inwards, it’s also a great time to look outwards, and think about the impact we can have in the world through our work.
The idea of balancing purpose with profit, I think, is only going to continue to gain traction, as more and more of us begin to realise that business, of any shape, size or inclination, can be used as a force for good.
And while the pandemic has taught us how fragile our lives and businesses are, I also think it’s taught us the importance of using our resources to support our communities.
Of course, here at Bank Australia, we’ve been trying to use our business for good for the best part of a decade. Our B Corp certification just last year is a testament to that, but it also gives us a really robust framework for how we can move forward, continue improving, and continue moving the needle in areas that matter most to our customers, like climate action.
But you don’t need to be a B Corp to start having an impact. Here are a few ways I think any business can work with a little more purpose day-to-day.
1. Think about what matters to you
Just because your business does one thing, doesn’t mean it can’t have an impact in an entirely different area. We’re a bank, yes, but we’re committed to trying to use our resources and influence to affect change in the areas that matter to us and, crucially, our customers.
And you don’t need to be a bank to do this kind of work. Take HoMie or Outland Denim, for example. Both of these organisations sell clothes that people want to wear, and both of them use their profits and business models to help solve different issues (HoMie, youth homelessness; Outland Denim, modern slavery).
2. Talk to your customers
As well as what you personally care about, another good way to hone a purpose is to get a sense for what your customers care about. What issues are on their radar? In what way could you harness their business to help create a world they want to be a part of? At Bank Australia, our decision making always comes back to our purpose and our customers.
3. Commit to simple
Building a purpose-driven business isn’t something you just do one day and forget about. It’s something that will keep evolving, growing and changing over years, even decades. So make sure you go into it with your eyes open and at your own pace.
You might start by focusing on your staff wellbeing: making sure they all feel supported and valued at work. Or you might look at your supply chains, and make sure that you’re only engaging with local businesses where possible, and ones whose ethics you agree with.
It could even just be switching your service providers – electricity, banks, superannuation – to more renewable or ethical alternatives. Keep it simple, make a plan, and just work through it at a pace that makes sense for you.
4. Embrace change
A big part of this area of business is simply accepting whatever came before, or how we used to work and live, and facing up to it. Some of the biggest positive changes in purpose-driven businesses have happened when the business has simply faced up to something they didn’t quite get right, then endeavoured to fix it.
5. Expand your network
There’s no shortage of inspiring people and organisations out there using business as a force for good, and the vast majority of them are happy to give advice to anyone who’s looking to follow a similar path. Don’t be afraid to send emails, connect with people through LinkedIn and attend events – you’ll be surprised by how many people out there just want to help other business owners and businesses on their journey. Check the B Corp directory for some inspiration to get you started.