The pandemic has changed the business landscape. Every CEO is now dealing with pressures and challenges they could not have predicted and have never faced before. 

As a result, we are seeing some CEOs focus on profit as a means to survive. While others are reflecting on their purpose and the contribution their business makes to society, finding ways to make a difference as part of the solution.

In normal trading conditions there is a strong link between purpose and the success and confidence of CEOs and their ability to drive growth in their businesses. 

We are now witnessing those same purposeful CEOs acting more decisively and with more authority in a time of global crisis. Those CEOs with a genuine sense of purpose driving their business are reimagining the contribution they can make. In some cases they are thinking beyond their own business and adapting the role it can play to help people and communities through this period of crisis. 

Conversely, we are also witnessing radical and necessary cost cutting and job shedding as some businesses focus on profit as a means to survive. Time will tell whether these businesses retain their main focus on profit over the long term, or reconsider their role once they have re-established a normal operating pattern. 

What we are witnessing is the true value of purpose being played out before our eyes, in real-time, and the emergence of a more purposeful business world.

The pandemic has changed the business landscape. Every CEO is now dealing with pressures and challenges they could not have predicted and have never faced before. 

As a result, we are seeing some CEOs focus on profit as a means to survive. While others are reflecting on their purpose and the contribution their business makes to society, finding ways to make a difference as part of the solution.

In normal trading conditions there is a strong link between purpose and the success and confidence of CEOs and their ability to drive growth in their businesses. 

We are now witnessing those same purposeful CEOs acting more decisively and with more authority in a time of global crisis. Those CEOs with a genuine sense of purpose driving their business are reimagining the contribution they can make. In some cases they are thinking beyond their own business and adapting the role it can play to help people and communities through this period of crisis. 

Conversely, we are also witnessing radical and necessary cost cutting and job shedding as some businesses focus on profit as a means to survive. Time will tell whether these businesses retain their main focus on profit over the long term, or reconsider their role once they have re-established a normal operating pattern. 

What we are witnessing is the true value of purpose being played out before our eyes, in real-time, and the emergence of a more purposeful business world.

In this report – the second Brandpie survey on the relationship between CEOs and purpose – we wanted to answer two specific questions:
 
Q. Why do CEOs focus on short-term profit?
Q. Can purpose help CEOs shift to a focus on long-term performance?

 
Response after response painted the same picture: a CEO that places purpose at the heart of how they lead really does make a difference to their business’s long-term performance, in many different ways.
 
Every CEO knows that long-term thinking drives success. Every CEO wants to raise their head from the day-to-day and take the longer view. But most are hemmed in by quarterly returns, crisis management, the short-term view of those around them—particularly shareholders.
 
But there are a few – bolder – CEOs who are taking a different path. Using purpose as their main tool to help them navigate the unpredictable world we find ourselves in, so that they don’t lose sight of the long term.

Using purpose to create value. Using purpose to attract the right talent, to drive growth. Using purpose to change the mindset of their board and shareholders, shifting the agenda to a sustainable one for their businesses. Using purpose to emerge successfully through the other side of existential risk and change. 

In those businesses where purpose is used, it can play one of a number of different roles. So it is unsurprising that a majority of CEOs are unclear about where purpose can be used to add most value.

In this report we have identified five different ways that CEOs are using purpose as a tool; we’ve characterized these as purpose-types on the Brandpie Purpose Spectrum. Each purpose-type has a different impact on a business.

What's most important is that CEOs use purpose at all. Because those that do use purpose are more effective, more successful and more confident in their ability to guide their organizations through increasingly complex change.

We’ll show how purpose helps CEOs when it comes to creating profit and driving long-term value creation. We’ll show how purpose helps CEOs attract the right talent. And we’ll show how purpose helps CEOs drive progress through technology and expansion.

For the few CEOs who have truly adopted purpose so far, purpose is proving to be their most powerful tool in helping to make a meaningful difference and navigate their way through difficult times.

It makes them bolder. Which makes them more likely to lead and drive performance. In the short term, through a crisis – and in the long term, too.

In this report – the second Brandpie survey on the relationship between CEOs and purpose – we wanted to answer two specific questions:
 
Q. Why do CEOs focus on short-term profit?
Q. Can purpose help CEOs shift to a focus on long-term performance?

 
Response after response painted the same picture: a CEO that places purpose at the heart of how they lead really does make a difference to their business’s long-term performance, in many different ways.
 
Every CEO knows that long-term thinking drives success. Every CEO wants to raise their head from the day-to-day and take the longer view. But most are hemmed in by quarterly returns, crisis management, the short-term view of those around them—particularly shareholders.
 
But there are a few – bolder – CEOs who are taking a different path. Using purpose as their main tool to help them navigate the unpredictable world we find ourselves in, so that they don’t lose sight of the long term.

Using purpose to create value. Using purpose to attract the right talent, to drive growth. Using purpose to change the mindset of their board and shareholders, shifting the agenda to a sustainable one for their businesses. Using purpose to emerge successfully through the other side of existential risk and change. 

In those businesses where purpose is used, it can play one of a number of different roles. So it is unsurprising that a majority of CEOs are unclear about where purpose can be used to add most value.

In this report we have identified five different ways that CEOs are using purpose as a tool; we’ve characterized these as purpose-types on the Brandpie Purpose Spectrum. Each purpose-type has a different impact on a business.

What's most important is that CEOs use purpose at all. Because those that do use purpose are more effective, more successful and more confident in their ability to guide their organizations through increasingly complex change.

We’ll show how purpose helps CEOs when it comes to creating profit and driving long-term value creation. We’ll show how purpose helps CEOs attract the right talent. And we’ll show how purpose helps CEOs drive progress through technology and expansion.

For the few CEOs who have truly adopted purpose so far, purpose is proving to be their most powerful tool in helping to make a meaningful difference and navigate their way through difficult times.

It makes them bolder. Which makes them more likely to lead and drive performance. In the short term, through a crisis – and in the long term, too.

Much of the current confusion around purpose stems from how it is defined: from a simple idea of social responsibility through to cause-led activism and environmental sustainability. While each expression has its merits (and some overlap) there are distinct differences between them.

Over the last 10 years we have worked with businesses across all sectors to help them find and define their purpose, then transform their business around it. In that time we found that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to defining and using purpose. 

We have identified five
purpose-types on the Brandpie Purpose Spectrum, based on both our experience and our research over the last two years with almost 1,400 CEOs. 

While there is no right or wrong position, the more the focus shifts towards the right, the more central purpose becomes as an organizing idea for the business. Which in turn means the impact it has on leadership decision making, sustainable business practices and long-term value creation increases. 

Much of the current confusion around purpose stems from how it is defined: from a simple idea of social responsibility through to cause-led activism and environmental sustainability. While each expression has its merits (and some overlap) there are distinct differences between them.

Over the last 10 years we have worked with businesses across all sectors to help them find and define their purpose, then transform their business around it. In that time we found that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to defining and using purpose. 

We have identified five
purpose-types on the Brandpie Purpose Spectrum, based on both our experience and our research over the last two years with almost 1,400 CEOs. 

While there is no right or wrong position, the more the focus shifts towards the right, the more central purpose becomes as an organizing idea for the business. Which in turn means the impact it has on leadership decision making, sustainable business practices and long-term value creation increases. 

We set out to understand whether purpose can play a role in helping CEOs navigate four challenges.

1.
Long-term value – can purpose help CEOs shift the agenda at board level, towards long-term value creation?

2.
Talent – can purpose help CEOs attract and retain the best talent?

3.
Technology – can purpose help CEOs navigate the challenges of technology disruption and adoption?

4.
Growth - can purpose help CEOs navigate expansion and growth?

CEOs who use purpose as a tool believe they are much more successful and confident in their ability to solve the challenges of long-term value, talent, technology and growth, and to guide their organizations through increasingly complex change. Purpose is a tool that makes them bolder leaders over the long term.

We set out to understand whether purpose can play a role in helping CEOs navigate four challenges.

1.
Long-term value – can purpose help CEOs shift the agenda at board level, towards long-term value creation?

2.
Talent – can purpose help CEOs attract and retain the best talent?

3.
Technology – can purpose help CEOs navigate the challenges of technology disruption and adoption?

4.
Growth - can purpose help CEOs navigate expansion and growth?

CEOs who use purpose as a tool believe they are much more successful and confident in their ability to solve the challenges of long-term value, talent, technology and growth, and to guide their organizations through increasingly complex change. Purpose is a tool that makes them bolder leaders over the long term.

In 2019, we discovered that CEOs believe strongly in taking a long-term view, but that this is often compromised by short-term forces – particularly the need to quickly prove themselves in the role, and deliver immediate profits to shareholders.

CEOs surveyed believed that these pressures prevented them from sticking to a long-term view, despite understanding the benefits of doing so.

Our 2020 research reinforced this, with leaders today continuing to say they want to prioritize long-term value creation over short-term profit delivery.

However, a 2019 report by McKinsey* suggests that this ideal is all too often not met. Instead, CEOs prioritize the short term in response to shareholder pressure and the desire for immediate profit creation, over value and progress over the long term.

When asked what was holding them back from focusing on the long term, the most commonly cited reason was uncertainty about the immediate future.

This lack of confidence comes from CEOs facing increasing pressure from many directions, including Board members and shareholders, who act as barriers to the adoption of long-term value creation.

Instead, CEOs are now being asked to balance immediate profits alongside the priorities of other stakeholders. This signals a dramatic shift from 2019, where CEOs of large businesses said that their priority was “to deliver to shareholders above all else.”

The business landscape is seeing an increase in the importance and voice of stakeholders other than shareholders. The most prominent example of this was the recent letter issued by the American Business Roundtable, stressing the importance of environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) concerns to business.

Our research shows there is a strong correlation between purpose-led CEOs and a focus on the long term rather than short-term profits. It’s also likely that these CEOs will feel more confident in their ability to navigate the shifting business landscape.

Not only are purpose-led CEOs more likely to focus on long-term value creation but, importantly, they are (more successful at creating value through cost reductions and improved operational efficiencies whether purpose is fully integrated into decision making at leadership level or not). They are also more confident in their ability to continue to do this over the long term.

Purpose Champions felt better equipped to gain support from their board and shareholders. Similarly, these CEOs felt noticeably more confident and successful in navigating internal and external pressures.

Given all the evidence that supports the role of purpose in long-term value creation, it is surprising that there is still a disconnect between what most CEOs believe and how they lead. There are only a few bold CEOs, that recognize the benefits that purpose can bring, and integrate it fully into their strategy and decision making, to create value.

In 2019, we discovered that CEOs believe strongly in taking a long-term view, but that this is often compromised by short-term forces – particularly the need to quickly prove themselves in the role, and deliver immediate profits to shareholders.

CEOs surveyed believed that these pressures prevented them from sticking to a long-term view, despite understanding the benefits of doing so.

Our 2020 research reinforced this, with leaders today continuing to say they want to prioritize long-term value creation over short-term profit delivery.

However, a 2019 report by McKinsey* suggests that this ideal is all too often not met. Instead, CEOs prioritize the short term in response to shareholder pressure and the desire for immediate profit creation, over value and progress over the long term.

When asked what was holding them back from focusing on the long term, the most commonly cited reason was uncertainty about the immediate future.

This lack of confidence comes from CEOs facing increasing pressure from many directions, including Board members and shareholders, who act as barriers to the adoption of long-term value creation.

Instead, CEOs are now being asked to balance immediate profits alongside the priorities of other stakeholders. This signals a dramatic shift from 2019, where CEOs of large businesses said that their priority was “to deliver to shareholders above all else.”

The business landscape is seeing an increase in the importance and voice of stakeholders other than shareholders. The most prominent example of this was the recent letter issued by the American Business Roundtable, stressing the importance of environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) concerns to business.

Our research shows there is a strong correlation between purpose-led CEOs and a focus on the long term rather than short-term profits. It’s also likely that these CEOs will feel more confident in their ability to navigate the shifting business landscape.

Not only are purpose-led CEOs more likely to focus on long-term value creation but, importantly, they are (more successful at creating value through cost reductions and improved operational efficiencies whether purpose is fully integrated into decision making at leadership level or not). They are also more confident in their ability to continue to do this over the long term.

Purpose Champions felt better equipped to gain support from their board and shareholders. Similarly, these CEOs felt noticeably more confident and successful in navigating internal and external pressures.

Given all the evidence that supports the role of purpose in long-term value creation, it is surprising that there is still a disconnect between what most CEOs believe and how they lead. There are only a few bold CEOs, that recognize the benefits that purpose can bring, and integrate it fully into their strategy and decision making, to create value.

As the relationship between society and business changes, with a greater focus on corporate ethics, environmental responsibility and consumer centricity, we are also witnessing a dramatic shift in employee expectations.

The majority of our CEOs agree that it is becoming more difficult to attract and retain talent due to the very different expectations of this new generation.

While CEOs appear to recognize the importance of both the practical and emotional needs of their employees, they are typically prioritizing the practical. But as a survey by Glassdoor reveals, for millennials, it is emotional factors, such as alignment and understanding of a company's culture and values that are more important than benefits like flexible working, training and access to technology.

And it is these emotional needs – that the new generation of talent value most – that CEOs find most challenging to deliver.

Bold CEOs, those that use purpose to shape their culture and business strategies, are the ones that have been most successful and most confident in engaging and driving impact and value through their people.

It is particularly bold CEOs who put purpose at the heart of their business that are better equipped to meet the needs of the next generation of talent, when compared to those that use purpose in other ways.

As the relationship between society and business changes, with a greater focus on corporate ethics, environmental responsibility and consumer centricity, we are also witnessing a dramatic shift in employee expectations.

The majority of our CEOs agree that it is becoming more difficult to attract and retain talent due to the very different expectations of this new generation.

While CEOs appear to recognize the importance of both the practical and emotional needs of their employees, they are typically prioritizing the practical. But as a survey by Glassdoor reveals, for millennials, it is emotional factors, such as alignment and understanding of a company's culture and values that are more important than benefits like flexible working, training and access to technology.

And it is these emotional needs – that the new generation of talent value most – that CEOs find most challenging to deliver.

Bold CEOs, those that use purpose to shape their culture and business strategies, are the ones that have been most successful and most confident in engaging and driving impact and value through their people.

It is particularly bold CEOs who put purpose at the heart of their business that are better equipped to meet the needs of the next generation of talent, when compared to those that use purpose in other ways.

Given that we are in the midst of the profound change that is Industry 4.0, reshaping how every business operates and creates value, it is unsurprising that CEOs feel technology is what has created the most value in the previous five years and will continue to add value in the next five years.

While CEOs today are less worried by disruption from new entrants and start-ups, they are concerned about getting the right tools into the business to keep up with advances in technology. This is compounded by an equal concern, that of finding and attracting the right people to use those tools so that they can keep up.

It is the bold CEOs, using purpose as a central organizing thought to guide decision making, who believe they are getting more value from technology. Particularly when it comes to improving products and services or driving efficiency.

Given that we are in the midst of the profound change that is Industry 4.0, reshaping how every business operates and creates value, it is unsurprising that CEOs feel technology is what has created the most value in the previous five years and will continue to add value in the next five years. 

While CEOs today are less worried by disruption from new entrants and start-ups, they are concerned about getting the right tools into the business to keep up with advances in technology. This is compounded by an equal concern, that of finding and attracting the right people to use those tools so that they can keep up.

It is the bold CEOs, using purpose as a central organizing thought to guide decision making, who believe they are getting more value from technology. Particularly when it comes to improving products and services or driving efficiency.

When asked to compare where CEOs created value in the previous five years and where they’d like to focus in the future, the answer with the largest percentage increase was: expansion across markets and geographies.

Again, far more of our CEOs with purpose believe they have been more successful at market expansion, introducing new services and growing through acquisition.

But expansion is something CEOs recognize their businesses can’t achieve in isolation – especially as their focus on creating future value shifts to building stronger eco-systems and alliances.

Again, it is CEOs with purpose who are more confident in their ability to attract the like-minded partners required to successfully expand into new markets, and to develop new products and services. This would suggest that having a purpose that aligns with the views of alliance partners can support CEOs in creating an ecosystem that enables them to deliver on their growth ambitions.

When asked to compare where CEOs created value in the previous five years and where they’d like to focus in the future, the answer with the largest percentage increase was: expansion across markets and geographies.

Again, far more of our CEOs with purpose believe they have been more successful at market expansion, introducing new services and growing through acquisition.

But expansion is something CEOs recognize their businesses can’t achieve in isolation – especially as their focus on creating future value shifts to building stronger eco-systems and alliances.

Again, it is CEOs with purpose who are more confident in their ability to attract the like-minded partners required to successfully expand into new markets, and to develop new products and services. This would suggest that having a purpose that aligns with the views of alliance partners can support CEOs in creating an ecosystem that enables them to deliver on their growth ambitions.

684 CEOs polled across Germany, France, the UK and the USA, with the following market breakdown:
 
218 - USA
119 - France
190 -  Germany
157 - UK
 
Respondents were invited to participate in the survey via email. Research was conducted via online survey between December 10, 2019 - January 9, 2020.

All respondents completed a double opt in process (opt in plus validation), as well as a profiling questionnaire when joining the online access panel.

Data was monitored to remove any “career respondents.” We also included geo-IP checks to ensure the country was verified. The research was conducted by Savanta, who are full members and abide by Market Research Society rules, which are based on the ESOMAR principles.

Brandpie is an independent strategic brand consultancy established in 2008, working internationally with organizations large and small, from Fortune 1000 to start-ups.

Our purpose is to help the businesses of the future shape the way we work, live and contribute. We do this by defining compelling ideas that transform businesses, cultures and brands, in the process aligning leadership teams, building strong cultures and delivering effective campaigns to unlock growth.

Brandpie was listed by the Financial Times as a Leading Management Consultancy in brand consulting and awarded The Drum's b2b agency of the year in the USA in 2019.

Ed Smallman | Business Development Director
ed.smallman@brandpie.com
+44 78 8875 4106

MaryLee Sachs | US CEO
marylee.sachs@brandpie.com
+1 917 478 8744

© Brandpie 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Brandpie Limited, 10 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2SL, UK. Registered in England No. 6614246. Neither this publication nor any part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Brandpie Limited.

684 CEOs polled across Germany, France, the UK and the USA, with the following market breakdown:
 
218 - USA
119 - France
190 -  Germany
157 - UK
 
Respondents were invited to participate in the survey via email. Research was conducted via online survey between December 10, 2019 - January 9, 2020.

All respondents completed a double opt in process (opt in plus validation), as well as a profiling questionnaire when joining the online access panel.

Data was monitored to remove any “career respondents.” We also included geo-IP checks to ensure the country was verified. The research was conducted by Savanta, who are full members and abide by Market Research Society rules, which are based on the ESOMAR principles.

Brandpie is an independent strategic brand consultancy established in 2008, working internationally with organizations large and small, from Fortune 1000 to start-ups.

Our purpose is to help the businesses of the future shape the way we work, live and contribute. We do this by defining compelling ideas that transform businesses, cultures and brands, in the process aligning leadership teams, building strong cultures and delivering effective campaigns to unlock growth.

Brandpie was listed by the Financial Times as a Leading Management Consultancy in brand consulting and awarded The Drum's b2b agency of the year in the USA in 2019.

Ed Smallman | Business Development Director
ed.smallman@brandpie.com
+44 78 8875 4106

MaryLee Sachs | US CEO marylee.sachs@brandpie.com
+1 917 478 8744

© Brandpie 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Brandpie Limited, 10 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2SL, UK. Registered in England No. 6614246. Neither this publication nor any part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Brandpie Limited.