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People, planet, profit: a quick look at mission-led business

I write for many mission-led or ‘purpose first’ businesses. But what does that actually mean?

It means I support businesses and social enterprises making a positive, powerful commitment to their social and environmental impact. They tend to be for-profit, but I help non-profits and social enterprises too.

What makes purpose-led businesses different?

“The ethos of mission-led business is to contribute positively to society through their operations, goods and services,” explains the UK’s 2016 Mission-led Business Review.

“Rather than acting ‘for and to’, mission-led businesses aim to work ‘with and alongside’, leading to positive outcomes for society or the environment.”

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Patagonia: Its mission is to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”


  • Whole Foods: Created ‘Community Giving Days’, donating 5% of daily sales to local non-profits (I do the same in my business).


  • IDEO: Launched, offering up its design talent to in-need communities.

For more, check out the GameChangers 500 list (GC500) profiling the world’s top purpose-led businesses.

What does a mission-led brand look like?

The mission-led model is fluid and flexible. There are no rigid rules, and companies can freely explore and interpret what purpose-first means to them.

That being said, the best ‘force for good’ companies tend to be:

  • Purpose-led: they focus on positively impacting people and the plant.


  • Clean and green: with eco-friendly offices, responsible design and production, sustainable practice and products, and a commitment to environmental causes.


  • Diverse and inclusive: they hire people who embody their ethos and represent their community. They also empower their people to work autonomously, provide inspiring and flexible workspaces, and offer fair and generous benefits.


  • Big on impact: their products and services can be scaled to support other communities, and have a wider impact. Always innovating, they seek new ways to make a difference.


Why join the game changers?

Nowadays, people prefer purpose over product. In fact, 64% of consumers say they stick with a company because they believe in what it stands for, because of shared values.

“Many people now believe all businesses should embrace the mission-led principles of commitment to social and environmental responsibility and ideally should implement changes to reflect those principles across their activities,” says the UK’s 2016 Mission-led Business Review.

So, start there. Define a higher purpose and stitch it into your mission. Put aside efforts to interact with your audience, and instead build an authentic connection. Don’t try to be all things to all people: narrow your niche, work to serve society, and put people above profit.

Because if you do that – and do it well – you’ll profit far beyond the balance sheet.




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