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“People want to join us not because we make soap and soup. It’s because of the way we do business. At Unilever that means pursuing CEO Paul Polman’s objective of doubling the company’s size while halving its environmental impact. It’s really a big draw … Being values-led and purpose-driven”- Unilever COO Harish Manwani, October 10, 2013

Purpose, meaning, impact used to be the soft stuff. As the next generation (yes I’m talking millennials) starts to gain more traction in the workforce, what was the soft stuff is now the hard stuff. Purpose-driven business is not just a new b-school term, but a driver that every organization should be figuring out how to align with their mission and go to market approach.

Most businesses have had a history of philanthropy and charity. What’s different now is that millennials and frankly many of us letter named generations (X and Y included) want to work for organizations where we’re not just throwing money at an issue but we’re bringing our core competencies to bear and adjusting critical business operations to ensure we’re aligned with a greater purpose.

“The most interesting (and most respected) businesses and personalities are also the ones with the strongest and most authentic purposes behind them.” –Tony Tjan, HBR September, 2013

SAP for example has a vision of helping the world run better and improve people’s live. Lofty at face value but true in how we do business. SAP has partnered up with  (RED) , an organization started by Bono of U2 and Bobby Shriver, focused on helping to end of transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child by 2015. For SAP our being purpose-driven shows up not only as a capital investment, but more importantly with our talent via externships and technology to help support the big data needs that make funding the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of AIDS a complex and complicated goal. As we pass the 15th anniversary of World AIDS day and we get closer to the 2015 deadline, this partnership is not only good for the those affected by AIDs and HIV, but frankly good business by showcasing the power of what our technology and talent can do and pays off on our vision and mission.

I will leave you with this thought, what if every organization took a step to ensure that what they did was aligned with a greater purpose, while bringing their own people into that equation. Your talent would be engaged, your customers would want to do business with you, because they’re ultimately helping to support those goals as well. People, millennials and us older folk, will want to join your organization because we can feel good and take pride in the impact our work is making. So I challenge you, are you running with purpose?

Related:

The Greatest Accomplishment of our Generation?

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