When Larry Fink speaks, the business world pays attention.
It’s no wonder why.
Fink is chairman and chief executive of BlackRock – an American global investment management corporation based in New York City. With a portfolio valuing over $6 trillion, it’s the largest investment management company in the world. It’s why Fink took #28 on Forbes’ 2018 List of Powerful People.
What might surprise you is what Larry Fink speaks about, more and more: social purpose.
Letters with lasting impact
Every year since 2012, Fink has penned a letter to CEOs – leaders of the very companies in which BlackRock invests. His 2018 letter, entitled “A Sense of Purpose”, called on executives to make integrating a corporate social purpose their top business priority.
The letter made waves, with buzz in The New York Times, Bloomberg and Business Insider. It became a cultural touchpoint for keynote speakers at business and sustainability conferences.
It also generated push-back, with critics speculating a call for social good was just the latest trend in corporate thought leadership, or worse: the kryptonite to profit.
Now, after publishing his 2019 letter entitled “Purpose & Profit”, Fink is doubling down on his call for global corporate leaders to take the social purpose movement seriously.
“Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose – in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked,” it reads. “Profits are essential if a company is to effectively serve all of its stakeholders over time – not only shareholders, but also employees, customers, and communities.”
This is music to Mary Ellen Schaafsma’s ears.
Ahead of the curve
Launched in 2018, the Social Purpose Institute at United Way helps companies identify and develop their own social purpose. The institute’s experts work with business leaders to unleash their company’s potential, creating positive social change in local communities.
Mary Ellen was happy to see Fink address a common misconception in this year’s message.
“This year he’s linking purpose and profit. He’s echoing our message, that having a social purpose is the root to profitability.”
Leaders at the Social Purpose Institute say this approach is in line with overcoming short-term behaviour in favour of long-term value creation, an essential step in a purpose-driven approach.
A time to act
Mary Ellen also points out this year’s letter has a stronger sense of urgency – a compelling nudge for leaders sitting on the sidelines.
“What stood out for me was his call to CEOs to show leadership in this area,” says Mary Ellen. “It’s not just a business case for finding a social purpose; it’s a call to action.”
“If you don’t start now, you’ll fall behind,” added Mary Ellen, especially now that Fink continues to raise awareness and interest about social purpose, around the globe.
Mary Ellen says that early adopters – those who began their journey decades ago – found it took 10 or 15 years to identify and integrate their best-fit social purpose.
Luckily, the Social Purpose Institute at United Way can help you act, quickly.
Help is close to home
So what advice does she have for business leaders interested in taking the next step?
“Show your leadership and vision. Start now!”
Ready to take get started?
This article was originally published by the Social Purpose Institute and can be read in its entirety, here.