Profits on Purpose: How To Make Money and a Difference
By Morgan MacLeod
January 12, 2021 | 4 minutes, 13 seconds
Business of Law Firm and Practice Strategy and Planning Profitability and Pricing Financial Management and Measurement Process Improvement Content Type Blog Post Article Additional Options Content Level: Essential Firm Size: Small Firm Size: Medium Firm Size: Large
Plain and simple, purpose drives brand. It is the backbone of how businesses are formed, helps to explain the benefits people receive from our services, and focuses our business and marketing efforts for growth and competitive advantage. In essence, it is a firm's "why" at the highest level.
For law firms, purpose "” and by extension, a firm's purpose-driven brand "” can often be found in the reason why founding partners set out to create their firm. What injustices were they attempting to right? Who did they set out to help and why were they driven to this cause in the first place?
For some, like social justice or environmental law firms, identifying the "why" is a simple exercise. For others, like business law firms, it may not be as easy or as clear. Many professionals have forgotten why they chose to practice together or what drove them to law in the first place. However, identifying and amplifying the "why" can help a firm hone their brand's purpose.
Firms should interlink their goals for profit with an investment in social responsibility and understand that, as law firms, they have a role in improving society, community and the environment.
Consumers are looking for businesses that behave better and are good corporate citizens. According to Accenture, "Customers aren't just making decisions based on the stalwarts of product, selection or price. They're now assessing what a brand says. What it does. What it stands for." In Accenture's most recent survey, the study discovered that 62% of consumers "œwant companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices."
The idea of purpose branding should not be viewed as entirely altruistic but, instead, as the interplay of capitalism and activism, where purpose is a means for generating profit while, at the same time, maintaining a balance of goodwill toward the community and the environment. Profit, when viewed in this light, becomes part of the reason "why." We need to view our firms through a more holistic vantage point, one that sees financial success and corporate social responsibility as diametrically aligned.
According to Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, a global investment management company, "Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them. Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose "” in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked."
Forward-thinking firms should interlink their goals for profit with an investment in social responsibility and understand that, as law firms, they have a role in improving society, community and the environment through the work that is done.
While these ideals might seem politically aligned, it is important to note that the world's top purpose-based brands are from all parts of the political spectrum and include well-known companies such as Unilever, Toms, USAA, Chick-fil-a, Tesla, Patagonia and many more. Even professional service firms like IBM, Deloitte and several insurance firms made the Purpose Power Index's list of top 100 purpose brands in 2019.
"In 2018, our 28 Sustainable Living Brands "“ those taking action to support positive change for people and the planet "“ grew 69% faster than the rest of our business. That's up from 46% in 2017. They also delivered 75% of our overall growth." ~ Unilever
Purpose branding is everywhere, and companies around the globe that adhere to these tenets have become some of the most successful profit generators of all time. These companies differentiate through clear, meaningful and motivational brands that are authentic and backed by strong corporate social responsibility strategies and actions.
In the legal profession, we are uniquely positioned not only through our access to knowledge but also our ability to shape laws, change behaviors, connect individuals, and mobilize corporations and people behind a mission that can have a very powerful impact on society.
Those leading the challenge include the Equal Justice Initiative, which is "committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States," and was recently featured in the motion picture "Just Mercy," as well as countless other litigation, employment and environmental firms around the globe. Even business firms that take their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives beyond words on a website and into their communities and courts are making money with a mission.
Beyond civic duty, purpose branding aligns businesses and people around a common direction, helps to attract the best talent and results in greater profit. Through steadfast and sustainable actions, it can increase your firm's goodwill, positively impact your bottom line, forge new partnerships and gain presence in the marketplace.
While not all firms will be able to fully embrace purpose branding in its entirety, surely all of us can consider whether we can make small differences in the world to make it better. We should measure ourselves not only by our profits but by how much we enrich the lives of our people, our clients and our communities. With a little vision, we can all be bold enough to rise to the challenge.
 "To Affinity and Beyond: From me to we, the rise of the purpose-led brand," accenture strategy.
 "Purpose Series: A Purpose-Driven Brand Is A Successful Brand," by Jeff From, Forbes, January 16, 2019