Purpose and Profit

Katy Montgomery

INSEAD’s history is rooted in using business as a force for good. Founded in 1957, after World War II, INSEAD was created with the vision that business could bring together the countries in Europe to promote peace and prosperity. The school provides a transformative experience with the belief that we can transform students, who can transform business, who can transform the world. That transformation is more important now than ever.

Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, writes a yearly letter to CEOs.  In his 2019 letter, titled “Purpose and Profit”, Fink said the following:

“Unnerved by fundamental economic changes and the failure of government to provide lasting solutions, society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues.”

Echoing Fink’s comments, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever (2008-2018) and Member of the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society Advisory Board, said during a speech at INSEAD as part of the UNDP Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Speaker Series:  “we need leadership; people who are purpose driven.”  He went on to quote a number of statistics:  90% of job creation and 60% of the world’s GDP sits with private companies.  Thus “the cost of [private companies] not acting is higher than acting.”

At INSEAD we are discussing these very issues inside and outside the classroom.  We educate future leaders to think beyond shareholder value to consider stakeholder value.  Bearing in mind the impact of business decisions on workers, suppliers, customers, community, and environment is the sure way of introducing purpose in addition to profit to the market. 

Addressing purpose can result in “leaving no one behind” as indicated by UN SDGs. A lofty goal, but INSEAD has never shied away from daunting initiatives. Likewise, our students not only embrace change, they are catalysts for transformation.

So if you are looking to make an impact in the world, a purpose-driven career in business is certainly a way of doing so. We look forward to welcoming the next generation of change makers on campus – MIM students, we can’t wait to meet you!