17 July 2020

The power of giving back

On purpose: part 1

The Covid crisis has put health, wellbeing and work at the top of everyone’s agenda, and prompted a lot of debate about the role of the workplace in the future. Much of this has focused on what employers can do to keep their people safe and well, and what we miss when we work from the home: the sense of camaraderie, the casual communication, the resilience that comes with being part of a team.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed much in this context is ‘purpose’ – but if we take a step back, it’s easy to see how these themes are interlinked.

Take the last few months. A rare silver lining of this crisis has been the sense of community that’s developed as people chip in and do their bit, whether that’s through shopping for neighbours or supporting local businesses. This sense of giving back doesn’t just do good – it makes us feel good, too.

So how does that relate to the world of work? A recent publication from Birkbeck University’s Organisational Psychology department – Managing your Wellbeing at Work – highlights ‘giving back’ as an important factor in wellbeing. Employees want to know they’re having a positive impact on their colleagues, their communities, and the world. Which is where purpose comes in.  

It’s all part of an emerging conversation about a shift in the nature of capitalism: from striving to be the best in the world, to striving to do the best for the world. And while there’s certainly a degree of ‘purpose-washing’ going on, with some firms seeking to appear more ‘purpose-driven’ than they really are, there’s also increasing evidence that being genuinely purpose-led is good for business.

Take Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company which says it’s “in business to save our planet”. It actually increased sales when it ran a campaign called ‘Don’t Buy’ that encouraged customers to think again about the craziness of Black Friday.

Then there’s the rise of the B Corps movement, which includes companies like Innocent and The Body Shop. These businesses are committed to meeting “the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, to balance profit and purpose”. And they’re winning applause, and custom, for doing so.

A growing number of consumers are also choosing to support social enterprises – organisations that reinvest or donate their profits to create positive change. As part of Compass Group, Eurest is proud to count over 20 such organisations among our suppliers.

Which brings us back to the workplace. As the desire to look beyond profit and personal gain grows (60% of Generation Z claim they want to ‘change the world’) so will the significance of purpose. Not only in appealing to customers, but in attracting and retaining talent, who want to feel good by giving something back.

In my next article I’ll explore what that means when it comes to food, and the growing importance of sustainability, in the kitchen and beyond.