Embedding purpose is tough
Organisations need an overhaul of all their existing processes and the backing of the board if they are to truly embed purpose across all operations
The Crown Estate is a unique commercial organisation. It is responsible for managing Regent Street, St James’s in London, retail parks around the country, farmland, Windsor Great Park and the seabeds around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The underlying assets are owned by the monarch, but all the profits are returned to the Treasury.With a heritage dating back to 1066 but governed by a 1961 Act of Parliament, it has always had a strong sense of purpose, because there is a very clear reason for its being, but in recent years, the Crown Estate has worked with its leaders, key stakeholders and its people to better articulate its purpose today as part of a new transformational business strategy.
Having settled on To create lasting and shared prosperity for the nation, where prosperity encapsulates monetary, environmental and social value, the Crown Estate has unpicked its operations to ensure that it is embedded throughout.
As executive director of purpose, sustainability and stakeholders, Judith Everett explains in the latest Conscious Communicator podcast it was important for the Crown Estate to look at its purpose, to look at the values underpinning, the strategy that the business is working towards and then to consider how investment decisions are taken to ensure that everything is aligned.
She adds: ‘This is not an overnight fix. You need to unpick pretty much all your corporate levers and make sure this is hardwired into the way you do business. We are undoing all the corporate infrastructure and putting it back together in a way that aligns with our purpose and drives all the activity towards delivering against that.’
Each team is involved in ‘deep dives’ so that every colleague can unpick the purpose, understand what it means and their role in delivering that. ‘It’s important that this is something that everybody can touch and feel, and that it’s relevant to what we are doing in our day-to-day activities,’ says Everett. ‘I love it when people share examples of what they’ve been doing, how they really connect with the purpose and also the values.’
She adds: ‘The need to have [a purpose] that has longevity and feels really genuine for the business is so important, but equally important is the fact that it’s actually hardwired into your strategy. It’s not a marketing initiative. It’s not a purpose initiative. It’s something that actually permeates throughout what we do. You know that if you’re coming to the value creation committee with a financial proposal, you’re going to need to make sure you’re also demonstrating what the environmental aspects are as well as the social impact.’
But while it is easy to measure both the financial and environmental impact, with organisations being held to account to deliver on the latter, the metrics ‘aren’t as mature’ for social. However, Everett believes there are many ways organisations can demonstrate they are ‘seeking to make a social impact’, from paying the minimum way, ensuring their supply chains are in synch to paying on time and fairly for work.
‘I’m excited because I think there’s a lot we can do in social impact, but I agree it is the most embryonic of the three areas, although you could argue one of the most important to get right because society is so polarised,’ Everett adds.
Listen to the latest Conscious Communicator podcast