(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2019 The setting sun is reflected in the office buildings of the City of London on May 21, 2019. - Britain will slide into a year-long recession should it leave the European Union without a deal with Brussels, the government's official forecaster said on July 18, 2019. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
City leaders pointed the way nearly a decade ago © AFP

You report (“Big companies urged to declare ‘social purpose’ as focus on shareholders wanes”, August 23) an initiative to require company directors to sign off on a purpose statement and the material factors to delivering on it. Hot on the heels of the US Business Roundtable’s commitment to purpose, it offers one way for boards to make clear their commitment and what it entails.

After the financial crisis, on September 29 2010, you published an interesting letter, headlined “Financial leaders pledge excellence and integrity”, in which a distinguished collection of City leaders stated that “without the development and inculcation of a more enlightened culture, regulatory . . . actions alone will not suffice”. Experience since then has only confirmed the truth of this, even if it has been more honoured in the breach.

If, as many of us deeply hope, more business leaders are now serious about becoming purpose-led it demands a focus on culture and behaviour — a commitment to becoming healthy social organisations where people are valued and respected, as employees, customers and communities.

Business and society both win when people at work see themselves as valued members of a winning team on a worthwhile mission to better their fellow citizens and themselves. Focusing on statements and reporting alone risks diverting attention from the fundamental mindset change needed to achieve this, which as the US business leaders remarkably state, is all about enabling people “to live a life of dignity and meaning”.

In business as in life, unless there grows a desire and motivation for change to go beyond obligation and compliance towards striving to be the best we can be it cannot ultimately work.

Charles Wookey
Chief Executive,
A Blueprint for a Better Business,
London EC1, UK

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