Quotes by Purpose-Driven Leaders

Inspiring and thought-provoking quotes by purpose-driven leaders and experts.


1. The link between profit & purpose

“Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must businesses live just to make profits.”

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods

“Great companies aren’t great because they make lots of money. They make lots of money precisely because they’re great.”

Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board of Kiva

“Profits cannot be pursued. Profits ensue. They are the outcome.”

Raj Sisodia, author of “Conscious Capitalism” and “The Healing Organization”

“Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them. Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose — in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.”

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock

“Passion is like the electricity in the car, but purpose is the direction that the car is driving. You need the passion. You need to be passionate about purpose, otherwise, the car won’t get going. But you also need to know where you are going, and what you are trying to achieve”.

Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Professor of Management and CSR

“The future of business is not really just being able to make a living for people, and make more money, and go public, and all those kinds of things. But it’s actually the possibility to make a difference in the world.”

Eileen Fisher, Founder and CEO of Eileen Fisher

“At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right.’”

Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

“The idea that business is about maximizing profits for shareholders is outdated and doesn’t work very well, as the recent global financial crisis has taught us. The 21st Century is one of ‘Managing for Stakeholders.’”

Ed Freeman, author of “Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach”

“Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.”

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

“It’s strange that people see them [profit and purpose] as a dichotomy. It’s best if you have both. It would never be satisfying to me to build something that was successful in either of those dimensions, but not both. Profit allows you to reinvest in purpose.”

Evan Williams, Founder of Twitter, Blogger & Medium

“When we finally start focusing on stakeholder value as well as shareholder value, our companies will be more successful, our communities will be more equal, our societies will be more just and our planet will be healthier.”

Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO of Salesforce

“For those who think business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. Surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that.”

Ray Anderson, former CEO of Interface

2. Business’ social and environmental responsibilities

“Whatever be the nature of business, fundamentally it has all been started in the interest of the wellbeing of human beings. The business of human wellbeing is the only real business. All other businesses are subsidiaries of that.”

Sadhguru, Yogi and Founder of the Isha Foundation

“CEOs work to generate profits and return value to shareholders, but the best-run companies do more. They put the customer first and invest in their employees and communities. In the end, it’s the most promising way to build long-term value.”

Tricia Griffith, CEO of Progressive

“Business as usual is not good enough anymore, and we want to lead by example. The plain truth is that capitalism needs to evolve if humanity is going to survive. More than ever, business needs to step up for democracy and a civil society.”

Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia

“We have to bring this [business] world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

“It is increasingly clear that the way forward on our journey towards 2030 needs to use the power of business as leverage to grow a stable, sustainable global economy and society.”

Marga Hoeck, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift

“It’s clear that our responsibility isn’t just to our employees, our shareholders, or even to our community – it’s also to the next generation. Companies have a responsibility to improve society, and the problems Airbnb can have a role in solving are so vast that we need to operate on a longer time horizon.”

Brian Chesky, Founder and CEO of AirBnB

“Who are businesses really responsible to? Their customers? Shareholders? Employees? We would argue that it’s none of the above. Fundamentally, businesses are responsible to their resource base. Without a healthy environment there are no shareholders, no employees, no customers and no business.”

Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

“Ethical business, sustainable business is the only way to do business in the future. Ethics need to be not just on the surface but in everything you do.”

Jesper Brodin, CEO and President of Ingka Group

“If our quest for greater profits leaves our world worse off than before, all we will have taught our children is the power of greed.”

Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO of Salesforce

“I believe this is a turning point in the industry – soon companies will be judged just as much on ethical business as they will on growth and revenue.”

Barry Parkin, Global Sustainability Director at Mars

“Businesses and business leaders have to mature from personal ambitions to a vision of building a sustainable society. The purpose of every business, whether we are conscious about it or not, is to serve the world.”

Sadhguru, Yogi and Founder of the Isha Foundation

“Business leaders must finally, once and for all, let go of the outdated and erroneous notion that social factors […] are irrelevant to the economic success of our companies.”

Mark Kramer, writer at Harvard Business Review

“I want to remind many of you that you belong to 2 percent of the world population when it comes to income, education and lifestyle. Therefore, it’s your duty to put yourself in the service of the other 98 percent.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

3. The business case for purpose

“Companies (which put) …ideals of improving people’s lives at the centre of all they do outperform the market by a huge margin, and frequently create both new businesses and entire new business sectors.”

Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer at P&G

“Our business success is directly linked to enhancing the well-being of the people who make and enjoy our products and to supporting the communities where we grow our ingredients.”

Irene Rosenfeld, former CEO of Mondelez

“As brands strive for differentiation, relevance and growth, a clear purpose brought to life in compelling ways is often the difference between success and failure.”

Afdhel Aziz, author of “Good Is The New Cool”

“Purpose is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen for this industry in my 35 years of marketing. Done properly, done responsibly, it will help us restore trust in our industry, unlock greater creativity in our work, and grow the brands we love.”

Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever

If you aren’t fully embracing the Purpose Economy by now and transforming your entire organization, you are going to join the likes of Blockbuster, RadioShack, Sears, Kodak, and Tower Records.

Aaron Hurst, author of “The Purpose Economy”

“I need to recognize where consumers want us in ten years…I believe businesses that are only targeting profits will die.”

Alex Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard

“The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest market opportunities. And that’s a huge thing. Solve hunger, literacy and energy problems, get the gratitude of the world and become a billionaire in the process.”

Peter Diamandis, Founder of X-Prize Foundation

“The time will come when there will be a threshold question that consumers will ask which is ‘can I trust this brand?’, and if the answer is ‘no’ they won’t buy anything. It will become a binary question.”

Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers

“The companies that are emerging as leaders in the new economy are truly redesigning every aspect of their business around purpose.”

Aaron Hurst, author of “The Purpose Economy”

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda is actually one of the best and most attractive business plans around.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

4. People seek meaningful, engaging work

For millennials, the idea of going to work with the singular goal of maximising profits and shareholder value is pointless and abhorrent.

Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board of Kiva

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”

“[People] don’t want to go end their lives and look back at what they’ve done and say, ‘Well, I built market share of Dove 4.5% […].’ No, they want to say I helped so many millions of women get self-esteem, I helped so many people improve their nutritional situations, and by doing so, I’ve actually strengthened the institution I represent’. And that is really purpose in action.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

“People want to do well and do good. They want to understand how they’re making a difference in the world. Things change all the time, but your organization’s purpose transcends any individual product or service.”

Mark Weinberger, former CEO of Ernst & Young

“If you are in a position to influence hiring, talent management, or employee experience — the purpose movement cannot be ignored.”

Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn

“Many in the so-called Why Generation are ambitious and entrepreneurial. They are bright and creative. They are kind and generous. They are our future. So shouldn’t we do everything possible to help them find their way in the marketplace of ideas and worthy work?”

Rodger Dean Duncan, leadership expert & contributor at Forbes

“Just to share with you, we have hundreds of thousands of applications annually despite employing ‘only’ 12,000 people. After #OptOutside we saw a 100% increase in applications for jobs in Q4 and our retention is double our retail competitors.”

Jerry Stritzke, former CEO of REI

“We’ve got 2,000,000 people applying to us, the engagement scores have gone up. So, people are sending a message that they want to make a difference.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

5. Purposeful work increases workforce productivity & well-being

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”

Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks

“Put­ting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy.”

Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of Tesla & SpaceX

“The sense of being part of something greater than yourself can lead to high levels of engagement, high levels of creativity, and the willingness to partner across functional and product boundaries within a company, which are hugely powerful.”

Rebecca Henderson, University Professor at Harvard Business School

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.”

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”

“Today’s younger workers can be more than employees; they can be tremendous allies in the pursuit of heightened organizational performance. But this will only happen if they want to go where the company is headed.”

Mark Perna, author of “Answering Why”

Don’t start a business, start a crusade. Businesses fail. Businesses die. Businesses fade into oblivion. Revolutions never die. So start a revolution, not a business.

James Watt, Founder and CEO of Brewdog

“I think if the people who work for a business are proud of the business they work for, they’ll work that much harder, and therefore, I think turning your business into a real force for good is good business sense as well.”

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”

6. The future is at stake, if business doesn’t change

“We are the first generation of leaders that can’t say we didn’t know – we are also the last generation that is able to make a change.”

Douglas Lamont, CEO of Innocent Drinks

“The blind pursuit of profit at all costs is untenable. It is essential that we make money the right way. After all, if communities suffer as a result of a company’s actions, those returns are not sustainable.”

Indra K. Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo

“There is no business strategy in runaway climate change, growing inequality, and extreme poverty.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

“What is the business case for an economic system that says it is cheaper to destroy the earth than to take care of it? How did such a fantasy system that defies common sense even come to be? How did we—all of us—get swept up in its siren’s song.”

Ray Anderson, former CEO of Interface

“I really wanted us to face up to the fact that we’re destroying the planet. It could very well end up uninhabitable in 80 years, at least for humankind and wild animals. That’s why we recently changed the company’s mission statement to ‘We’re in business to save our home planet.’”

Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

“I put forward my ideas of stakeholders to save capitalism — not destroy it. But if we don’t act now, I don’t think that capitalism will be around in the next 50 years.”

Marty Lipton, Founder of Wachtel, Lipton (early critic of Milton Friedman)


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Original list found on Business of Purpose

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