How purpose fuels profit fuels purpose

By Robert Jones

Wolff Olins is in many ways a child of the 1960s. Among other things, that means we think our work should have a positive social impact as well as a commercial one.

Indeed, we think that it’s through providing a social impact (getting good things to more people) that you best achieve a commercial impact (revenue and growth). This is in contrast to the prevailing view that a positive social impact usually comes at the cost of a negative impact on profits.

Over the years, we’ve achieved this kind of thing with commercial clients like GE and Tata DOCOMO, and with social enterprises like (RED). More and more, we believe commercial enterprises should have a social purpose. And that, conversely, social enterprise should generate profits.

But how exactly does that dynamic work?

We’re collaborating with the Young Foundation to try to map this out. In advance of a conclusion, here’s my first go. Improvements to the model welcome.

Robert Jones is visiting professor at University of East Anglia and Head of New Thinking at Wolff Olins.


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