The Power of Purpose

Corporate Purpose is like good leadership - it is hard to define but it is obvious when a company has it and lives it. Companies with a strong Corporate Purpose have a clear "raison d'ĂȘtre" and their stakeholders understand not only what the company does but also the core principles guiding its work. Purpose guides decisions. Companies with a Purpose look at the imprint they and their products leave on society as whole, including their employees and customers.

IMD's CSL Learning Platform has been researching how companies develop and communicate their corporate purpose since 2000. In 2010, we partnered with the global public relations company Burson-Marsteller on a research journey using the competency of both organizations to understand the company dynamics in this area. The IMD/Burson-Marsteller Power of Purpose study shows that Communications Directors across all sectors believe that companies that have identified and communicated their Purpose, firstly to their employees and then to wider audiences, are better placed to weather whatever storms come their way, be that leadership change or reputational challenges.


In 2012, the IMD CSL Learning Platform collaborated with Burson-Marsteller who commissioned Penn Schoen and Berland (PSB), a leading research firm, to undertake independent, in-depth, qualitative, interviews of Communication Directors from 20 of the world's leading companies. This allowed us to obtain a snapshot of opinion from some of Europe's leading communications professionals. The interviews took place between April-June 2013. The research was informed by previous studies carried out by the IMD CSL Learning Platform in 2010 and 2011, with this year's study focusing particularly on topical themes of transparency, change and crisis recovery.

The IMD CSL Learning Platform also contributed learning from some of its most recent case study research on sustainability leadership at Unilever and Nestlé, two of its corporate members. The following companies also participated in the interview research: Barclays, Bayer, Danone, Ford, GE, Heineken, Ikea, Johnson and Johnson, McDonald's, Novartis, Roche, SAP, Shell, Statoil, Telefonica, Trafigura, Unilever, Vale, Vodafone.

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Launching of the 2013 IMD/Burson-Marsteller Power of Purpose report

London, September 2013

IMD Global Center for Sustainability Leadership