The Purpose-Driven Corporation

I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating a CEO roundtable each of the last four years at the CEO of the year gala sponsored by Chief Executive Group. The 2021 winner was Merck’s Ken Frazier. This year, the roundtable explored the growing shift towards purpose. Specifically, the roundtable Topic was: “Purpose-driven: Implications for Strategy and Cross-Industry Collaboration”.

Given that purpose is a popular word these days, we wanted to explore the topic through the lens of the CEO. Organizations are increasingly focused on societal themes like sustainability, wellness, and mobility. This growing shift to what some call “stakeholder capitalism” is driven by several factors. First, it exploits our advances in science and technology to improve the human condition; advances that increasingly require cross-industry ecosystems to deliver value in the context of human need. Second, activist investors are pushing Boards towards purpose-led themes, and financial institutions are shifting dollars to support these themes. Next, younger generations look for brands that are aligned to their values, and social causes like inequality and racism have gained considerable attention. With this as a backdrop, we discussed the following:

  1. Past transformative periods and human development
  2. The catalysts of change – past and present
  3. The pandemic’s influence
  4. Purpose
  5. The ecosystems that form to drive human development
  6. The impact of purpose on strategy and M&A

A next step each year post roundtable is to capture the discussion in an article. This year, we had the pleasure of interviewing Merck’s Chief Strategy Officer Mike Klobuchar. His thoughts on the topic are captured in the article.

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