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How Your Company’s Social Purpose Can Also Drive Profit

How Your Company’s Social Purpose Can Also Drive Profit

The case for adopting an advocacy-based business model.

October 27, 2023

Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images


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  • Is it possible to implement corporate purpose in such a way that it achieves multi-stakeholder impact and high financial growth? To answer this question, the authors studied 12 companies that were employing various industry-specific strategies and found that those that successfully achieved the dual goals of purpose and profit did so by adopting what they call an “advocacy-based business model.” That model, they write, is underpinned by four key elements, and in this article they discuss those elements in turn, in each case providing real-world company examples that illustrate how an advocacy-based business model can support both purpose and profits.

    Purpose-driven strategies focus on relationships with multiple stakeholders and seek to solve higher-order problems for society. To be successful, these strategies also have to achieve top- and bottom-line growth. The question is: How can companies achieve both of these goals?

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    • TM


      Thomas W. Malnight is an emeritus professor of strategy and general management at IMD, in Lausanne, Switzerland.


    • IB


      Ivy Buche is an associate director of the Business Transformation Initiative at IMD, in Lausanne, Switzerland.


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  • New!

    HBR Learning

    Sharpening Your Business Acumen Course

    Accelerate your career with Harvard ManageMentor®. HBR Learning’s online leadership training helps you hone your skills with courses like Sharpening Your Business Acumen. Earn badges to share on LinkedIn and your resume. Access more than 40 courses trusted by Fortune 500 companies.

    Take your career to the next level by learning business and finance basics, and developing an enterprise mindset.

    Read More