New research reveals that more than a quarter of managers (27%) in British companies would likely accept a salary cut to work for a company that has a clear purpose beyond profit. 

The survey, conducted by YouGov, Redwood City, Calif., and commissioned by Danone UK, London, highlights the importance of having a defined company purpose that marries commercial success with social progress. In fact, a third of the respondents (32%) would actually consider leaving their job if a greater purpose was unclear, while more than half (53%) would if their company’s values and purpose didn’t align with their own.

The findings support another report by Tomorrow’s Company, UK, and Danone UK, which explores the importance of having a purpose beyond profit in helping companies to prosper in the face of workplace challenges created by an uncertain world. The report, “The Courage of their Convictions2is built from interviews with senior leaders from some of the UK’s biggest purpose-driven brands, including Danone.

Echoing the report conclusions, the YouGov survey suggests that managers who focus on salary over purpose could be overlooking other important non-monetary factors of job satisfaction that derive from being part of a purpose-led business culture. The statistics show purpose-led company staff are more positive, more engaged and have greater career confidence.

A potential challenge for businesses however is that only 55% of the managers in the survey believed it was their role to embed a purpose beyond profit mind-set more widely across the organization.

“At Danone, we have long believed in the power of purpose to benefit both companies and employees alike,” says Liz Ellis, human resources director, Danone UK and Ireland. “For organizations, it helps build employee engagement, build reputation, resilience to market changes, and consequently, greater commercial success, while employees can enjoy greater job satisfaction and longer-term career development. In our experience, if an organization fits the personal values of an individual and gives them a sense of purpose, people will naturally contribute both within their role and to the wider business.  The ongoing job for companies like ours is two-fold—to ensure that the purpose is clear, meaningful and relevant to all, and to empower people to make a difference. 

“In this report, you will find companies, both young and old, which are adapting to society’s needs and prospering because they have a purpose beyond profit,” says Mark Goyder, founder of Tomorrow’s Company and the report’s author.

“We know that some people consider a focus on purpose beyond profit an unaffordable luxury in today’s transactional world. But, it is time to re-assess what we mean by progress and the contribution that companies make to our prosperity,” says Norman Pickavance, chief executive officer of Tomorrow’s Company. “In Tomorrow’s Company, we have started to explore these questions, and the stories told in this report are a powerful signpost of the changes we can expect and hope to see in the way business operates.”

Key assertions from the report include:

  • Purpose, values and relationships are at the heart of business success, and are critical for companies to be resilient in today’s tumultuous social and economic environment;
  • Purpose enhances an organization’s licence to operate by generating trust and enhancing brand reputation;
  • A clear purpose supports organizations’ talent, recruitment and retention programs by creating a positive people-centric company culture and longer-term learning and career development prospects for staff;
  • A purposeful approach to leadership is important for a company’s long-term economic performance, as well as for building investor confidence.

The report identifies five key stages that the organizations studied go through as they build from a strong purpose to a more agile and enduring organization. It concludes with an agenda for action for others who would like to follow in their footsteps.

“Bringing to life the purpose into your company is an ongoing process that builds and evolves over time. It requires continual commitment and nurturing. What’s important is that there is constant awareness to ensure that actions and commitments are consistent with your purpose. Trust and confidence can easily be eroded,” adds Ellis.