More than a mission statement: How the 5Ps embed purpose to deliver value

We’ve all seen it: companies that have the “it” factor, an enthusiasm and passion that lights up employees, delights customers, and shines for investors. It’s not just the company’s warmer fleece, or a more delicious ice cream, or even a breakthrough technology. And it’s so much more than just a mission statement. It’s purpose. Purpose answers the question, “What would the world lose if your company disappeared?” It defines a company’s core reason for being and its resulting positive impact on the world. Winning companies are driven by purpose, reach higher for it, and achieve more because of it. Competitors wonder where they can get some of that magic and how they might sprinkle it on.

If that’s your expectation—that purpose can be added easily to your mix—get ready to be disappointed. A superficial approach to purpose doesn’t work. In fact, it can do considerable harm, opening up your company to accusations of inauthenticity or “purpose-washing,” turning off customers or driving them away completely, and disaffecting employees up and down your organization. Poor outcomes follow when purpose is a patch job.

Yet the positive corollary also holds: companies with a genuine, lived purpose radiate authenticity and do well by doing good. Customers, suppliers, partners, and investors recognize the value proposition. Senior leaders allocate capital and resources with purpose in mind. And employees think about purpose all the way, making it a part of their decision making as a matter of course. Building those dynamics doesn’t come easily. It requires leaders to embed purpose throughout the organization. As we’ve described before, purpose must connect with your company’s “superpower”—its unique ability to create value. Purpose is not the same as ESG (see sidebar, “Purpose, ESG, and the 5Ps”). Purpose is your company’s raison d’être.

In this article, we describe a framework that organizations can use to make purpose real, steer clear of potential vulnerabilities or blowback, and help unlock meaningful value. We call this framework the 5Ps.

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