How CSR is helping companies achieve profitability with positive purpose

January 01, 1970 by Mark Dunn

Maurice Ostro, OBE KFO, is Vice-Chair of YPO and Founder of Entrepreneurial Giving and an entrepreneur and former government advisor. Ahead of the launch of the Global Leadership Survey results, he explained its significance and other trends he has noticed at this year’s World Economic Forum summit.

What do the poll results show?

“In the new year, we polled 27,000 members in 130 countries, and we had thousands of responses, and two very interesting facts came back. Firstly, today there’s been such a shift in the mindset of CEOs and the next generation. 93 percent of respondents say that they don’t believe that business is just about making more money and being a more successful company in terms of profitability, but rather the impact that that company has on society.”

"What’s even more phenomenal is that 74 percent of them in the last five years have changed their minds. If we’d have done precisely the same poll five years ago, we’d have had significantly different results and that’s very encouraging.”

“We now need to tap into that wellspring of supportive feelings for making business a force for good and let’s make a real difference on the ground by changing these feelings into tangible outcomes to help people around the world.”

What trends have you noticed in Davos this week?

“Here in Davos 2019, we have had multiple reports that make it very clear that the purpose agenda is important, that business needs to be a force for good. Our challenge is: How do we do that in a collaborative manner so that governments, NGOs and corporates work together to be an effective force for good?”

What do you think is driving this shift in attitude from business leaders?

“I don’t believe there’s any single answer, I think there are multiple things happening at the same time.”

“A primary driver is the demographic of the millennial generation. They are less likely to have the same levels of financial security and wellbeing that their parents have and that’s a very interesting change. That dynamic makes them think, ’Well, it can’t just be about making money and then maybe later on we’ll give it away and build hospitals’, so they’re thinking: ‘What can we do because we don’t want to feel that we’re just there working for ourselves trying to make money and knowing that we’ll never be as successful as our parents? That doesn’t give us a good feeling or sense of self-worth.’”

”Many Millennials are thinking: ’We want to make a difference now. We don’t want to wait for some future event that might never happen. We want that in our work life we can embed a sense of purpose ‘. That is a shift that drives things on multiple levels—it means for businesses that you need to be thinking about that if you want to recruit the very best caliber of individual in your team.”

“And furthermore, if a business wants to resonate with the consumers who are having these same feelings, you need to be thinking about your purpose, your environmental impact, your supply chain.”

“Who wants to have things that they are buying made be slaves or kids? That doesn’t make anybody feel good and most of the things that people purchase are not a necessity and certainly not only from one particular supplier. If you are giving them a choice saying my product is [ethically] better, you will have a more successful business and a more engaged staff. That will help society, and everyone gains.”


What is your message to who are CEOs considering prioritising purpose and ethics in their business strategy?

“For the 74 percent of CEOs who have changed their mind about purpose in business, our challenge is do something about it. It’s nice to have the feeling, but you have to act on it. You don’t have to act alone. Work with others and you’ll be even more impactful by leveraging your combined resources.”

And what has your focus been on at this year’s WEF?

“Here, I have been talking with a number of friends from YPO and major organisations— corporates, governments and NGOs—and we’re talking about how we can collaborate to be an effective force for good from the business side.”

“This is not about philanthropy. This is about being effective business leaders. There are multiple ways we can do this and that is precisely why here—amongst the larger corporates in the world—we’re focusing on the start-up businesses, the little guys.”

“You might think: ‘What a funny place to do it,’ but it’s business leaders, corporates and governments that need to come together to make this happen. It cannot be done by one organization. It needs to be done as a collaborative effort. I hope this Davos will be the beginning of many good initiatives.”

Keep exploring:

1. Read more about the Global Leadership Survey results released during the 2019 World Economic Forum.

2. Explore how LexisNexis Entity Insight helps companies take a proactive approach to risk management.