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Homepage / Redefining business purpose: the Edie Conference dos and don’ts

Redefining business purpose: the Edie Conference dos and don’ts


“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb

How are companies going to operate when their resources are gone? How are leaders going to motivate employees, if they can’t relate to the business? When are companies going to realise that a system change is needed?

These questions were a few of many that crossed my mind after attending the EDIE Sustainability Leaders Forum.

It was a truly enlightening experience, where sustainability leaders, practioners and inspirers got together, shared knowledge and know-how, in an attempt to help get a grasp on how businesses can tackle the ever-looming challenge of dealing with the worlds most pressing megaforces of overpopulation, climate change, resource scarcity and food security.

But what did the top dogs in sustainability have to say on these issues?

When the audience were asked to take part in a poll to vote on the main drivers for sustainability, the top two results were:

  1. Redefining the way business looks at sustainability
  2. Collaboration

Least voted:

  1. Access to more money.

Simply put, businesses are only going to succeed through ensuring sustainability is embedded in business and correlates with the businesses purpose. But how easy is it to embed sustainability?

As an MSc student studying Corporate Sustainability, my mind boggles at the range of topics sustainability covers. Think of sustainability as a tunnel. Once you start to see the light and realise the tunnel’s coming to an end, it’s time to order more tunnel! Sustainability is always developing, growing and creating more challenges and opportunities daily. So isn’t it clear, already? Collaboration is key to ensuring future success.


Collaboration need not mean that companies will lose their competitive edge or advantage. It means co-opetition. Co-opetition is the collaboration of companies – whether they are competitors or not – working together, in the hope that they can gain some mutually beneficial results. An example of co-opetition is Amazon and Apple’s Kindle App collaboration. The two rivals paired together, in which both companies gained an advantage. Amazon got a bigger market for their Kindle product, by Apple creating an iOS compatible “Kindle App”, which allowed Apple to become a more diverse content provider (Palmquist, 2014). This demonstrated perfectly the value that can be leveraged when collaboration is done correctly. 


Lately, there has been a lot of talk about how businesses need to redefine their business purpose to be in line with modern day needs and motives. In short, purpose is key. It is a critical factor for any business to ensure that all stakeholders are on board with what the business is striving to achieve. Purpose is the heart of the business and sustainability is the body that helps maintain and drive the purpose. However, how we redefine and drive our purpose depends on the organisation and their goals. But this doesn’t mean we can’t take lessons from those that have already done it. Some compelling “top-tips” were given out by companies like O2, Innocent and L’Oreal, a taster of these being:

  • Get narrative right from day dot
    • Don’t just TELL the story, LIVE it! Get experiences from your employees – they are the reason the company ticks over!
  • Rome wasn’t built in one day
    • Embedding an idea takes time. It is essential that we allow time for people to connect, believe and trust in the purpose.
  • Engage
    • Don’t just communicate with your employees, engage them.

It is evident that in an vastly changing and growing world there are many challenges needing to be tackled – and fast! What is important is that businesses are prioritising their next steps. We should be going several miles in one direction, rather than going millimetres in multiple directions. Redefine your business purpose. Make it relevant to today’s society and make it stick!

To find out more about Edie’s Sustainable Leaders Forum, visit:

To find out more about Cranfield School of Management’s Management and Corporate Sustainability MSc, visit:


Palmquist, M (2014) “The Amazon Model: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Work with ‘Em”. Strategy and Business, Blogs. [Online] <> [Accessed 30th January 2018]

Kiera Dempsey-Brench

Written By: Cranfield University

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