The idea of a purpose-driven brand is nothing new. But over the past few years the idea of creating a culture that gives back has enjoyed a strong resurgence. And for good reason: A company’s commitment to doing well by doing good is a defining advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. Blending for-profit motives with nonprofit values is essential for:
- Employee recruitment, motivation and retention
- Supplier and investor relations
- Market differentiation
- Customer engagement and retention
Studies show 90% of U.S. shoppers would switch to a cause branded product. When it comes to contemplating where to work, 64% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments. Simply put, people want to support brands that have a purpose.
Just like having a mission and values, possessing a purpose is a vital component of any business. That’s why Prosper for Purpose was established around the idea of using our time, talents and profits to help address social issues and make a difference in the world.
Since our inception, Team Prosper has been committed to giving back to our clients and local community. In 2015, we began The Prosper Project to provide pro bono work to a cause or nonprofit each year. In 2016, we became a Certified B Corporation, joined One Percent for the Planet, and rolled out our 12 Months of Giving program as another way to provide our services to local nonprofits.
We’re proud of our commitments to being both socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. Our efforts connect and bond us to communities of like-minded people, raise awareness for worthy causes, increase team morale, and make a positive impact on people and the planet.
If giving back isn’t ingrained in your company’s DNA, don’t worry—it’s still possible to make a difference. The first step is to choose a worthy cause that supports your mission and values. Then make a long-term commitment to that cause, not just a fleeting sponsorship. Keeping your mission front and center for employees, partners and customers to see will help your efforts feel more authentic and allow you to make a significant impact.
By making your mission matter and creating a culture of purpose, you’ll be on your way to doing well by doing good.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve explained the Prosper for Purpose approach to business. I have written about the first three components of our quadruple bottom line: people, planet and prosperity. This week, I conclude our four-part blog series discussing how we #measurewhatmatters by focusing on purpose.
“Why did you start your own company?” is the question I’m most often asked. “What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?” is a close second. You would think by now I would have a simple answer to those different ways of asking the same essential question: “What was the motivation that created Prosper for Purpose?” As I approach the end of my company’s fourth year, I think I can finally answer that question. But the answer is not so simple.
I didn’t become an entrepreneur because I wanted to start a business. I became an entrepreneur because I want to make positive impact, and believed starting my own business could be my pathway.
Throughout my career, I had chosen positions in the nonprofit sector, followed by the for-profit sector and then back again. The missions and (most of the time) the cultures of the nonprofits resonated with me, while the ability to quickly put ideas into action in the corporate world also appealed to me.
And then, one day, my daughter asked, “Why don’t you start the company you want to work for?” It was the right time for that question. I was extremely unhappy in my job. For the first time in my 25-year career, I had neither a healthy culture nor the ability to put ideas into action. And I wondered, “What if I could have both?”
I spent two months planning Prosper for Purpose before it launched. I had never really been interested in becoming an entrepreneur, and I certainly didn’t know how to run a business. But I did have a purpose. I wanted to do well by doing good. And by naming my company Prosper for Purpose, I made a declaration.
I consider myself an activist at heart. I care about social justice and human rights; preserving our planet and protecting animals; securing various types of sustainability. Those concerns were top of mind when I started my company.
Siiri Morley, a founding partner of Prosperity Candle, wrote about achieving ‘social good’ impact. She said that “Business can create this type of impact, but it doesn’t do so naturally. Businesses need to be purposefully designed to consider their social and environmental impact as a key priority.” That is what I sought to do, and what I and the other members of #TeamProsper commit to continue.
In 2012, when I was planning Prosper for Purpose, there wasn’t a lot of public discussion about purpose. Now the word seems to be everywhere. And while I certainly encourage and applaud those who authentically pursue the principles of purpose, I wanted to take extra steps to differentiate my company from the others who might see purpose as nothing more than the latest trend to grab onto.
In January, Prosper became a Certified B Corporation. Last month, we joined One Percent for the Planet. We’re proud to make these commitments to be both socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. Joining these organizations not only helps validate our claims of prioritizing people, planet and prosperity, but it connects us to communities of like-minded business leaders. A community committed to using business as a force for good.
Running a business that measures impact in these ways is not easy. But it is important. And that is why we #measurewhatmatters.
So why did I start Prosper for Purpose? To build a company that could do well by doing good. Perhaps the answer is simple after all.
How we help our people, our clients and our company prosper
Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing how we #measurewhatmatters at Prosper for Purpose. I’ve referenced our quadruple bottom line as people, planet, prosperity and purpose. This week, I write about prosperity.
I chose the word prosperity rather than profit, the term used by most other organizations, because profit is only one part of prosperity. At Prosper, we view the notion of prosperity as inclusive of health, happiness and economic stability—in other words, general well-being. Why? Because an economic-focused view of prosperity will inevitably compete with health and happiness.
Causal effects between economic prosperity, health and happiness have been studied and documented. One famous study that advances the holistic definition of prosperity to which we at Prosper subscribe is the Legatum Prosperity Index, an annual ranking of 142 countries, developed by the Legatum Institute. The ranking is based on a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, education, health, personal well-being, and quality of life.
Surveys have shown that increases in income do not lead to increases in happiness.
For example, moving up the corporate ladder may lead to an increase in economic prosperity, but the longer hours spent working may encroach upon time formerly devoted to exercise and family. In this way, economic prosperity is potentially achieved at the expense of health and happiness. That is not the kind of prosperity we want (does anyone?).
To ensure Prosper supports our team’s prosperity, each employee completed a personal development plan (PDP) this summer. The leadership team then reviewed the PDPs with each employee and made a commitment and a plan to move them forward.
Because we also care about the prosperity of our clients, we measure that too. From our kick-off session through planning, ideation and implementation, we tie our milestones and measurables to the overarching goals of the organization. In other words, we’re not happy unless our clients are successful. We work by choice with purpose-driven clients in both the business and nonprofit sectors. This means that when our clients do well, their communities prosper.
Finally, we care about the prosperity of our company. We do well by doing good. And the more we prosper, the more good we can do.
Want to help us #domoregood? Then tell your favorite Northeast Ohio charity about our new program, the 12 Months of Giving.
In last week’s post, we talked about a disruptive approach to business; one that embraces social and environmental factors along with economic ones.
Why do we measure these things? Because at Prosper for Purpose, we are all about impact. Impact that enables us to do well by doing good. We measure impact in four areas: people, planet, prosperity and purpose. We call it our quadruple bottom line.
This week, we look at planet.
Walk into our office and the first thing you may notice is the absence of trash containers. No wastebaskets under desks. In fact, there is only one wastebasket in the entire office and it’s at our print and coffee station. We fill and empty it only once a week. How? Well, we work towards a goal of being a paperless office. We share and store our files online. We print contracts for signatures and documents for meetings and that is, essentially, it for printing.
But that’s not all. Here are some other things we do to measure our impact on, and stewardship of, our planet.
The Prosper for Purpose Planet Strategy:
- We recycle. Our single garbage can contains two bags: one for trash and one for recycling. Nearly every Friday, both are emptied, meaning our recycle to trash ratio is roughly 1:1. We’re working to improve that ratio.
- We use a programmable thermostat.
- We work at desks and tables made from reclaimed wood.
- Each desk has a high-end LED desk lamp that uses minuscule amounts of energy.
- Our main walls are made of glass, allowing for natural light throughout the day. Not only is natural daylight a free source of lighting for the office, it has been proven to improve worker productivity and satisfaction (as well as boost sales in retail settings).
- Our flexible environment helps minimize our carbon footprint.
- We’re working with B Corporation to incorporate an environmental management system.
- We became a member of 1% for the Planet!
Because we believe that health and wellness come from the environment, that business is responsible for positive change and that we can leave this big blue planet better than we found it, we joined an organization that is based on these beliefs. As a member of 1% for the Planet, we commit even more to our mission of doing well and doing good. After recently becoming a certified B corporation, this partnership will allow us to amplify our positive environmental impact.
Stay tuned as we share more about our work with B Corporation to create an environmental management system, and our developing relationship with 1% for the Planet.
Next week, we will look at prosperity.
In a business world that measures success by profit, a disruptive approach has slowly emerged. This approach embraces social and environmental factors along with economic ones. It is called a ‘triple bottom line’ and is built on a belief that I embraced when starting Prosper for Purpose–the belief that companies can do well and do good.
The triple bottom line philosophy holds that a company should combine traditional metrics of financial success with those that measure social and environmental impact. It is sometimes referred to as the 3P approach — People, Planet and Profit.
These three metrics are measurable and transparent; indeed, when our company became a Certified B Corporation earlier this year, we shared evidence of our metrics with B Lab, the company that provides the certification.
At Prosper for Purpose, we add a fourth component – Purpose. Less transparent and measurable than people, planet and profit, purpose is, for us, the thread that holds it all together.
Over the next four weeks, I will share how we approach our quadruple bottom line. This week, we look at People.
In addition to being the first component of our quadruple bottom line, People is Prosper’s very first value (you can see all our values here) because, as we say, if you’re not working with the right people, nothing else matters. This value is the lense through which we consider the clients and partners we work with and, perhaps most importantly, the people we invite to join #TeamProsper.
The first half of our mission statement is devoted to our team, “To grow a company dedicated to the development of our people.”
We look to hire incredibly talented people who also happen to be passionate about making a difference and believe that work is a great place to start. It’s that shared philosophy that inspires us to transcend traditional approaches, blending innovation into best practices and throwing in a generous dash of audacity.
This is our culture. Here are just a few of the programs it inspires:
The Prosper for Purpose Work/Life Integration Strategy:
- Our employees can work away from the office when they need to. This ‘need’ may arise from caring for children, travel, or needing a quiet space in which to write, plan or think.
- Team members stay home when they’re ill because sick time is given as needed. Those paid days off do not count against PTO.
- Speaking of PTO, ours starts at three weeks. We also throw in 10 holidays. All of this time out of office is paid for our full-timers.
Training and Personal Development: As a commitment to our value of lifelong learning, we provide ongoing training opportunities to all members of #TeamProsper. From association memberships to access to webinars and conferences, we are committed to the personal and professional growth of our team members.
Future Prosperity: We help employees save for their future through our Future Prosperity retirement program.
Parental Leave: A company that is truly committed to its employees must demonstrate commitment to their families. That is why we added a parental leave policy to our employee handbook earlier this year.
Purpose in Action: Prosper is committed to supporting activities that serve and enhance the communities in which we live and work. Therefore, employees are encouraged to become involved with local community service efforts. Each full-time employee is entitled to three days (24 hours) paid time off per year to volunteer their time to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Each part-time employee is entitled to 1 ½ days (12 hours) paid time off per year to volunteer.
In these ways and many others, Prosper fosters change that cultivates wellness and abundance through relationships rooted in shared vision.
I sought to create the company I wanted to work for. The result of that effort is the team of people I am grateful to work with.
In our next post we continue to #measurewhatmatters with Planet.
Think you might like to work at Prosper for Purpose? Go here for more information.
You’ve probably seen Prosper for Purpose hinting at a big announcement these past few weeks, and we’re so excited to finally share it with you. We are incredibly proud to announce that Prosper for Purpose is a Certified B Corporation. The ‘B’ stands for benefit.
There are more than 1,400 Certified B Corporations in nearly 50 countries but only nine in Ohio. Prosper for Purpose is honored to be among those nine B Corps, and we’re incredibly proud to announce that we are the first marketing and communications agency to receive certification in Northern Ohio, and the very first certified nonprofit consulting and fundraising agency in the state.
So, what is a B Corporation, and what does this mean for Prosper? B Corporations are part of a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Certified B Corps meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Think of B Corp certification as a Fair Trade certification–like LEED or USDA Organic–that’s not just for a building or product but for the business as a whole.
By receiving B Corporation certification, we join a movement of like-minded organizations who strive to not only be the best in the world but also to be the best for the world. Through this certification, we have the opportunity to set benchmarks as a business for good, and to learn how we can build and improve upon those measurements for the future.
B Corporation certification was a natural fit for Prosper. We’ve always believed that businesses should do well and do good, and that in a business world that follows a ‘zero sum game’ philosophy, we can all win through collaboration, creativity and purpose. Since our founding three years ago, we’ve made a conscientious effort to support this belief, from choosing to work with mission-driven organizations, offering pro bono services through our Prosper Project, giving back to our Cleveland community through volunteerism and regulating our office’s consumption of energy and other resources. Becoming a B Corp further demonstrates our commitment to these values.
Any organization can apply to be a B Corporation. B Lab, the company behind B Corps, has a rigorous certification process, where they survey and closely examine a company’s social and environmental impact on all its stakeholders, including its employees, vendors, community, consumers and the environment. Organizations must receive at least 80 out of a possible 200 points to receive certification, and they must be recertified every two years.
Some states have passed legislation that legally requires B Corps to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers and environment as well as shareholder value. While Ohio has yet to pass such legislation, B Corp certification still allows Prosper to introduce conversations in our community about the importance of being cognizant about our social and environmental impact.
If we haven’t mentioned it yet, Prosper for Purpose is so proud to be a part of this inspiring movement. We look forward to sharing this journey with you and to continue our mission of communicating for a better world.