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Does your business look beyond profit to embrace a more socially conscious agenda?

The Fitness Sector Social Good Report, published in 2014, explores the idea that a business with a purpose beyond maximising its own self-interests can ensure long-term relevance with its stakeholders, thereby creating a more valued and sustainable organisation.

The report is structured around eight themes: purposeful, responsible, authentic, generous, compassionate, connected, collaborative and influential. In this article, I briefly discuss four themes and what they mean for your business.

Purposeful

When I discover a new and interesting new business, there are normally two things I immediately want to understand. First, what the business makes. Then I want to know the founder’s story: why did they start the business and what’s the big idea that’s fuelling it? Understanding its purpose – the shared understanding of the reason why the business exists – is the filter I use to help me decide if I’m going to care about this business.

Remember, if I care, then I will share with my network. I believe clarity of purpose matters because it unites people and drives actions. As Nikos Mourkogiannis, global expert in strategic leadership, says: “Purpose is a reason for doing something that appeals to a person’s sense of what is right and what is worthwhile. So it creates a sense of obligation. Business purpose is the most powerful, but least leveraged, weapon in leadership.”

There are four distinct types of business purpose. The first is Heroism: driving the standards for the world to follow (Facebook, Zipcar). The second is Excellence: providing the best possible product or service, with an insatiable pursuit of ever-higher standards (Apple, Lego). Then there’s Discovery: a love of the new and innovative, where the founders are often intellectually curious and have a desire to re-invent industries (Twitter, Samsung). Finally there’s Altruism: serving the needs of others (Disney, Kickstarter).

The fitness sector is driven by an altruistic purpose. However, some external industry observers see a contradiction. During an interview with Giles Gibbons, CEO of Good Business, he commented: “What’s interesting about the fitness industry is that it has an incredibly strong social purpose: to help others. [It’s a purpose] that’s well understood by the general public. It’s a fantastic place to start and actually quite rare. I think the challenge for the fitness industry is that it seems to forget about this and sees people as numbers, thinking of it as a cost-driven business. As a result, I don’t think it’s achieving the aspiration, the loyalty and the warmth it should from such an important societal function.”

So consider this… What does your organisation fundamentally stand for? Are you creating a legacy that will be long remembered?

Responsible

In 1970, Milton Friedman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, wrote a famous essay in the New York Times Magazine titled ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’.

More than 44 years have since passed and the world of business is now very different, with the responsibilities of business arguably far more complex to define.

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