Profit and Purpose in Lockstep

The crowd at last Thursday’s excellent Canadian Business Leadership Forum in Toronto was an interestesting generational mix. Roughly half of the large ballroom’s tables were populated by grey-haired captains of industry and the other half by fresh-faced university students showing off their only suit.

Both groups were there to hear amazing presentations by ex-RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and D-Wave president Vern Brownell about breakthroughs in quantum computing, by leaders from Ford, BMO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund about important trends, and by MDC Partners’ iconoclastic chairman Miles Nadal about himself. But it was perhaps the presentation by Phillip Haid of little-known Public Inc. that garnered the most curious mix of “aha’s” and “duh’s” from the crowd.

Haid’s company champions the idea that profit and purpose can co-exist. More than that, companies that embrace this ethos at their core – Patagonia, Unilever, TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, and more – can thrive. The question Haid asked the audience was “Why Shouldn’t Business Profit By Doing Good?” Here is his deck…

This philosophy matches closely with ours here at RallyEngine. The technology behind RallyEngine was initially developed as a pro-bono project for the Missing Children Society of Canada. CodeSearch, as the program is branded, enlists via mobile the large dispersed workforces of corporate, union, and association partners to assist immediately in the precious early stages of a child disappearance or abduction. It’s technology built for an important purpose.

Thing is that as CodeSearch gained traction, some of its corporate partners also expressed interest in the system for their own uses – internal/crisis communications, business continuity, and quiet-channel executive alerts. And so RallyEngine was spun off and refined for these slightly different scenarios. We charge for RallyEngine and those revenues in turn help fund the continued support and development of CodeSearch. The growth of CodeSearch builds both a stronger network of helpers for MCSC and it further exposes of our technology to for-profit clients seeking a better way to harness mobile to keep in touch with everyone in a crunch. It’s a virtuous cycle.

So it was fascinating to overhear some of the side-conversations immediately following Haid’s presentation at CBLF. On the one hand, the students seemed to shrug off the talk as unremarkable – why would you not do good and make money – and on the other, some of the vets commented on how remarkable this different approach (different from the traditional charity carve-out model) actually is – indeed that profit and purpose can work well in lockstep.

If your organization would like to take part in CodeSearch – simply by installing an app on employees’ smartphones – here is their contact info.

Canadian Business has a great article, “How to Save the World (and Get Rich Trying)”, profiling Unilever CEO Paul Polman and this movement in its November 25th issue (not yet online).

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