Afdhel Aziz is the co-founder of Conspiracy of Love, a global purpose consultancy. He works with companies like Adidas, REO, Red Bull and Microsoft, helping them understand how to do more good in the world. “We do this by helping them discover their purpose, the higher-order reason they exist, and designing purpose-driven initiatives which allow them to go into the world to do some good, either through new products, new technology, new platforms or new innovation,” he says.
Speaking with Jessica Abo, Aziz shares three principles from his upcoming book, The Principles of Purpose, which is intended to help CEOs transform their companies to be more purpose-driven.
Jessica Abo: What inspired you and Bobby Jones to write this book?
Afdhel Aziz: We wrote this book because we spotted a revolution happening in business with purpose transforming companies in the same way that digital transformed them. Purpose-driven consumers want to buy products and services from companies that do good. Purpose-driven employees want to work for those companies and purpose-driven investors want to invest in those companies. We wrote this book for the modern-day CEO who wants to transform their company into a purpose-driven one to attract the best talent, more loyal consumers and more patient investors, as well.
If a company wasn’t purpose-driven in the first place, can they transform it?
Aziz: If the company wasn’t purpose-driven in the first place, they absolutely can transform themselves. Our favorite example is Microsoft. When Satya Nadella became CEO, he led the transformation of that company into a purpose-driven one around the idea of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. That has led to a tidal wave of innovation, motivation and engagement that has made Microsoft into a trillion-dollar company, and also made it one of the best places to work on the planet. So absolutely a company can transform itself into a purpose-driven one. And that’s what we do with Conspiracy of Love.
How is purpose different from traditional corporate social responsibility?
Aziz: Back in the old days, the only place where good happened inside a company may have been the corporate social responsibility department, but then sustainability came along as companies started to reinvent themselves to hit environmental goals. You had cause marketing. All of these things are now weaving together into a bigger, thicker rope that we call purpose, where the difference is instead of companies only focused on doing no harm, they’re actively creating products and services and business models that do some good in the world, as well.
This is the revolution that we see happening in business. And that’s what we’ve covered in this book, The Principles of Purpose, where we look at some of these companies like Tesla, Patagonia, Airbnb, and Microsoft, and uncover what makes them such powerful, purpose-driven organizations.
What are three principles that executives can follow to become a purpose-driven company?
Aziz: Purpose should work inside-out. There is no point going and preaching to the world if you don’t have your own house in order, especially around issues like diversity and inclusion, gender equality, making sure your workers and your supply chain are sustainable and ethical. Purpose is about picking your swords and shields.
As a company, you’re going to be faced with a broad range of issues on the social and environmental front that you can choose to get engaged in. Some of those issues are shields, defensive issues where you need to have a good position on, but we’re really obsessed with finding the sword, the problem in the world if a company says, “We want to go and fix this problem. Will you help us?”
Purpose needs to be profitable to be scalable. This is business, not philanthropy. Only if purpose really contributes to the bottom line — whether that’s revenue, brand equity or employee engagement — and only if it really contributes in some profound and tangible way will it keep getting funded and will it keep getting scaled. Hopefully those three principles help you get an idea. There are many more in the book.