It may seem contradictory, but more and more, companies are evolving their traditional business models and focusing less on profit and more on being purpose-driven. It’s not something that’s exclusive to non-profits. Organizations large and small are authentically leading with purpose and changing the nature of the business landscape. As a result, many are seeing higher market share gains, and higher workforce and customer satisfaction.

In this episode of the PRovoke Media Podcast, Megan Miller is joined by James Wright, Global CEO of Red Havas, and Anne Tyrer, Vice President of U.K. Corporate Affairs and Communications at American Express, to talk about the evolution of purpose and how companies are turning their pledges into progress.

Last April public relations agency Red Havas published a white paper titled “From Pledges to Progress: Proving Brand Purpose in 2021,” which details why companies must prove to their stakeholders that they prioritize employees’ health and wellbeing, and are intentionally creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. Wright said that even before the civic unrest that became heightened in 2020 and pandemic-fueled uncertainty that took over people’s minds at the same time, research indicated that consumers preferred to buy from companies making a positive impact on the world.

“A lot of organizations that would stand on the sideline in the past and say that they supported a lot of these initiatives are now being active allies and injecting themselves, actually having an opinion and doing something about it with programs and initiatives that have an outcome,” Wright said.

American Express is one of the companies that has been on the forefront of this work for some time now. For example, the company has been celebrating Small Business Saturday, partnering with small business customers to support "shopping small" in local communities around the country, and now around the world, for nearly 15 years.

Tyrer said purpose is at the heart of everything American Express does. Supporting the communities where employees live and work is the center of the company’s values. For example, the company announced a $1 Billion DE&I Action Plan in October 2020, which outlined its initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for its colleagues, customers and communities. Through mid-2021, the company had spent more than $450 million toward this target, which primarily includes spending with diverse suppliers, grants, and assistance for Black and minority-owned businesses, investments in pay equity and philanthropic contributions.

Tyrer said American Express has built its purpose philosophy around three pillars – diversity, equity and inclusion, climate solutions, financial confidence—but the work is ever-changing.

“You have to keep listening,” Tyrer said. “This is going to evolve. It is not going to be a static thing. The conversation will change and move forward.”

Topics include
0:00 Introductions
1:38 The 3 Ps of Purpose
5:30 Beyond Checking the Box
6:38 Make Purpose the Heart of Business
9:59 The Importance of Wellbeing
13:30 What is Authentic to Your Values?
15:36 Have Purpose Guidelines, Not Limits
17:23 Measuring Your Purpose Progress
20:32 Purpose is Not Static
23:55 Being a Leader Isn’t Easy
38:15 Benchmark Where You Are, And Move Forward