Beyond CSR: Purpose is as important as profit in the business model of the future


Companies must adopt a positive purpose to thrive in the modern business landscape, writes Gi Fernando, founder of Freeformers, a digital transformation company which trains young person for free for every business person trained.

In the 21st Century, companies of all shapes and sizes can and should have a social impact. As we move into a digital future, where interconnectivity brings people closer than ever before, social purpose will be of increasing importance.

The business landscape is growing ever more competitive and to get ahead, companies can no longer survive with superficial initiatives – instead, social purpose must be writ large in the company itself. Employees want to know that they’re working towards a socially responsible goal, and consumers want to know that their money, at least in part, is going to a good cause.


The cheque-book charity days which previously defined corporate social responsibility are disappearing; it is now increasingly important for companies to have a compelling social purpose which goes beyond CSR if they are to succeed. Interlinking profit and purpose is the business model of the future – and there is no reason why companies can’t give back to society and make a profit at the same time. In an age of start-ups and social enterprises the message is clear: profit and purpose must go hand in hand.

As Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, which spends around £45 million annually supporting the UN Global Goals for sustainable development, states,

“the philosophy has changed from ‘we’ve done well, we should do some good’ that characterised business of a decade ago to ‘how to do good as part of doing well in business’”.

Embracing a social purpose as part of your business strategy has the added bonus of increasing productivity and staff retention. Today’s millennials are not fooled with the box-ticking culture of CSR, they need to be given real purpose in their jobs. According to the Deloitte 2015 Millennial Study 90 per cent of millennials want to use their skills for good and more than 50 per cent say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values.

The Values Revolution research carried out by Global Tolerance showed that 53 per cent would work harder if their organisation was making a difference. As these studies highlight, generation Y have different priorities; they are not driven by money and instead want to see their employer marry profit with genuine purpose. Ultimately, the value produced by the company is what will drive profit, motivate staff and ensure that top talent is retained.


We founded Freeformers on such an ideal, by using the commercial aspect of our business to give young people access to free skills training and give them the ability to develop an interest into a skill that has value. The profitable side of the business teaches in-demand, high-impact tech courses to global corporations to help them fulfil the people part of their digital strategies. Through this, we are then able to deliver the purposeful strand of our business, the one_for1 initiative. For every person a corporate pays us to train, we deliver the training to a young disadvantaged person who otherwise may not have been given the opportunity.


It is a great example of how a social enterprise can succeed in the world of technology. We wanted to create a situation where everyone, regardless of their background, can turn their ideas into reality, go on to launch new careers or start-ups and ultimately give back to the next generation. There is a commercial aspect to Freeformers which is just as important; without it we couldn’t fulfil our one_for1 initiative. It’s a win-win situation.

It is vital that UK businesses look to balance the social and profitable objectives of their company to succeed. Measuring social impact is as important as measuring profit and failing to do so could see you lose out. By 2025, millennials will account for 75 per cent of the workforce and to stay competitive and achieve impact as a business, you will need to appeal to the purpose-driven job market. Let other people benefit from your success – you won’t regret it.