Having great products and services and being a “good corporate citizen” are table stakes in a world of empowered citizens and consumers. In interviews with over 20 CMOs and CEOs, a remarkably similar pattern emerges about how marketers are connecting profit and purpose across a highly diverse set of companies. Purpose today goes well beyond corporate social responsibility. It’s similar to the evolution of digital, which has moved from a separate group into the fabric of the organization.

Purpose is not just philanthropy; it is a source of competitive advantage by helping to align and energize the organization and by attracting and empowering employees. It takes time for a big idea to make its way into business practice.

Six years ago, Harvard’s Michael Porter and FSG’s Mark Kramer made the bold statement that shared value — the idea that the purpose of a company is to achieve both shareholder profit and social purpose — would “reinvent capitalism.” They encouraged companies to go beyond CSR (corporate social responsibility) and integrate social impact into companies’ competitive strategy. And in 2011, Nathaniel Foote and Russ Eisenstat proposed a “better way to manage in the 21st century.” They found “higher-ambition” leaders achieved superior performance by doing well and doing good.

For the last six years, we have worked with a group of top marketing executives and business leaders in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area from companies large and small. Each year we assess the issues that are most top-of-mind.

From digital platforms to customer experience to crisis management, these priorities have been a bellwether for what would soon dominate boardroom discussions and headline business publications. This year the issue of profit and propose came to the fore, echoing the earlier manifestos. Read more from hbr.org…

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