What If The Purpose Of Business Was To Transform The World?

By David Hassell

What motivates you to do your job? Money, prestige, excitement? Or are you driven by something greater than yourself, perhaps (dare I say it) a desire to transform the world?

We’re out to better the world ourselves, starting with building a tool to help managers support their employees and for employees to voice their unique perspectives and get feedback in return. Individuals and organizations thereby symbiotically reach their highest potential.

When people love what they do and feel rewarded for it, that positivity trickles down to their families and communities. I have seen this happen firsthand with my dedicated team, who are focused on improving lives inside and outside of the professional sphere.

A bit of history

15Five was inspired by an idea developed by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who wanted to stay in the loop with his company while he was adventuring away from the office for weeks or months at a time. Chouinard asked all of his employees to spend 15 minutes each week writing about what was most important in their world, their successes and challenges. That took him about 5 minutes to read, an idea that we have automated into a simple and elegant software tool.

Chouinard also inspired us in other ways. Every year we donate 1% of our product sales to an environmental charity via the 1% for the Planet Foundation (also founded by Chouinard), a growing global movement of more than 1,000 companies that donate a portion of their sales to a network of more than 3,000 approved environmental organizations worldwide.

Everyone gets a say

In March our company started a poll, asking every employee to consider and choose the non-profit that they felt most strongly about.  Giving every employee a voice is important for them to feel valued and for leadership to be aware of any issues or challenges in the company. This practice even applies to decisions like which charitable contribution to make.

Last year, we contributed to charity:water, whose mission is to bring safe clean drinking water to everyone on the planet. Our team has grown in 2014 and I wanted to give every person an opportunity to share their thoughts on who we should contribute to this year. Our Customer Success Manager suggested the Coral Reef Alliance because she felt moved by their cause of supporting biodiversity for healthy oceans.

A healthy debate ensued, where people argued vehemently for the different causes that they supported. I intervened and set up a vote for all of the nominated charities. I asked people to share why it was important for them and posted those responses along with the poll choices.

Empowering transformation

Many team members have had the opportunity to travel to parts of the world where warm oceans teem with wildlife. They felt strongly about preserving the beautiful underwater habitats that they had enjoyed firsthand. Ultimately our decision hinged on the kinship we felt between Coral Reef Alliance and the meaning behind 15Five.

When we don’t know that a problem exists, we cannot take action to solve it. Education increases awareness and is a powerful agent of change. Coral Reef Alliance gears many of their efforts towards communicating awareness about the plight of this fragile and threatened ecosystem to schools, businesses, and governments. People can then take action to preserve a part of this planet that once destroyed, can never be replaced.

The other aspect of CRA’s efforts is to empower local leaders to make a change. They developed enforcement and patrolling protocols for protected areas, recruit and train volunteers, and circulate literature to tourists on safe diving practices.

As a company, we value communication and inspired leadership, and as citizens of the planet we are honored to contribute to an organization that uses those tools to be effective catalysts for positive change.

Share the wealth

The ability to donate 1% of revenue is directly impacted by how we performed as a company. I am proud that this year’s donation dwarfed what we gave in 2013, a direct result of the efforts of each employee. Each one of us had the privilege to cast a vote that represented our portion of the collective effort.

When leaders support everyone in their greatness both inside of work and in the pursuit of personal passions, there can be a paradigm shift in corporate culture. Businesses need to focus not just on shareholders and employees but also on vendors and the community at large. What if the purpose of business was to improve and better all that we come into contact with, all that we impact? This is not in opposition to revenue and profit goals, it promotes and sustains them.

We are citizens of this planet and use its resource to run our business. We make a positive contribution to customers, employees, investors and communities, but the greatest stakeholder is the planet itself.

Photo Credit: Félix M

How does your organization make this world a better place? Share your story in the comments below.


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