Reflections on Corporate Purpose and Values

We came away from the Page Future Leaders Experience session at the College of Charleston last week with renewed appreciation for the importance of corporate purpose and values. Over three days, the FLE participants and a number of leaders from Page delved into the issues.

Our key takeaways:

    • Corporate purpose has never been more important. Page Chair Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text100, noted that the “Larry letter” has pushed it up a notch in terms of public focus, but these realities already existed:
      • A growing sense that business can step in and create value for society in a way that governments cannot.
      • Rising stakeholder expectations of business.
    • The chief communication officer’s (CCO’s) role as an integrator across the C-Suite has never been in greater demand. This was a key finding of Page’s New CCO report, and many of the cases described by visiting Page members and FLE participants showed that it’s playing out as ever more important. Enterprises are grappling with increasing stakeholder demands and public pressure through social media, which puts the CCO at the center of the corporate conversation.

  • Ethics provides a decision-making framework that helps the CCO and the rest of the C-Suite make decisions that align with company values. This was the core point made by Michael Meath, visiting professor at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, who advised participants facing a sudden crisis to “hit the pause button” long enough to work through that ethical decision-making framework.

The question is not social value OR profits, but how to create social value that creates profit.

  • Notwithstanding the growing corporate commitment to creating social value, there still are too many bad actors willing to exploit others for personal gain.

Tom reminded us that headline-making corporate scandals make the public suspicious of all business. Ketchum Chairman Rob Flaherty described in vivid detail a century of government regulation and corporate reform spurred by activists and investigative journalism and reminded us that we need to “mind the gap” between our words and our actions and behaviors as organizations.

• The future is in good hands. This FLE class of senior communication executives is poised to take our profession to the next level. Ten of the current participants served as panelists in the Charleston meeting, and to date, 24 graduates of the FLE program have been elevated to Page-level positions and another 22 have joined Page Up. Look for this class to follow quickly in their footsteps.