A new coalition of global leaders including the CEOs of Danone, Mahindra, Philips, L’Oreal, and other companies representing a combined annual revenue of over $100 billion and a combined global workforce of over 500,000 have endorsed a roadmap to “build the economic system better,” rather than merely “building it back.”
The goal of the roadmap is to create an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID economy that benefits society, the planet, and shareholders for generations. In an open letter, the group of 14 CEOs called on governments to accelerate such a transition by recognizing and supporting purpose-first business as an emerging fourth sector of the economy.
The signatories to the letter have also committed to advance the purpose-first economy by leveraging their procurement, innovation, research, development, and investment to accelerate the growth of this critical sector. The letter provides a practical roadmap for proactively redesigning corporate structures and government policies to develop a more supportive ecosystem for organizations that operate under a new business logic. The leaders have urged businesses and governments to join them.
“Our world was a dangerous and troubled place even before COVID-19 took hold,” said Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, who is now working on transforming the structural impediments to sustainable business. “We have the chance to rebuild a fairer, greener society. But to do so, we need courageous business leaders who are willing to act, individually and collectively. It’s why I applaud the signatories of this letter. No company alone can solve the problems we face. But together, we can begin to challenge the orthodoxies which got us here. Together we can help the world change.”
Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, said: “Today, more than ever, the world needs to reimagine a new future. A future in which people can feel safe and protected. The initiative being set in motion by Leaders on Purpose is an effort toward defining the new environment. It provides a much-needed aspirational framework that can change the language of business discourse and how we regard the future. This philosophy resonates deeply with Mahindra’s vision and has the potential to become a movement that will define the future for generations.”
The group’s diverse community includes corporate leaders from across the globe, including Ajay Banga (Mastercard), Alan Murray (Fortune Media), Anand Mahindra (Mahindra Mahindra), Dan Hendrix (Interface), Dylan Taylor (Voyager Space Holdings), Emmanuel Faber (Danone), Feike Sijbesma (DSM), Frans van Houten (Philips), Dr. James Mwangi (Equity Bank), Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal), John Denton (ICC), Mike Doyle (Omnicom-Ketchum), Roberto Marques (Natura & Co.), and Stefan De Loecker (Beiersdorf).
While governments around the world debate economic and social policies designed to jumpstart their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Build it Better” framework includes six key imperatives for public and private sector leaders to guide innovation of public policy as well as corporate and financial structures to accelerate the progress of the purpose-first economy. These imperatives include:
- Recognize the purpose-first sector.
- Carefully craft incentives and policies.
- Incentivize innovations of financial products, risk assessment, valuation models, and ratings.
- Design for a safe, educated, and healthy society.
- Leave no one behind.
- Enable a supportive ecosystem.
Feike Sijbesma, honorary chairman of DSM, said: “The private sector needs an integrated strategy and supportive ecosystem that integrates more fairness, less dependency, more climate and sustainability focus, preparedness, and agility for uncertain times. We each have to think about the world around us, our role in it, our tremendous potential, and how we can contribute to making it better together.”