The Purpose Economy


We have approximately 80,000 hours in our career. As well as having a greater say in how we control that time, increasingly we want to ensure that time is spent doing something meaningful and contributing to something greater than ourselves.

Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, defines it as ‘an economy that is driven and organised around the creation of purpose for people, not just information, goods and services.’ Notably, Hurst said that 2020 would be the tipping point – so just how much development in his idea of the purpose economy have we seen?

Last year 181 CEOs, from Apple to Walmart – members of the Business Roundtable – signed a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation”. The statement marked a move from majority profit-driven goals to those that put social responsibility to employees and communities front and centre.

CSR is one way in which the purpose economy has grown within organisations as more and more brands and businesses give some nod to Pride Month every year, make public statements on Black Lives Matter, temporarily change their logo in light of a current event or boycott advertisers who do not align with their values. Consumers value this more and more, and the cynic would suggest that this is why some organisations take these actions.

However behind the scenes of these public-facing activities, it can be argued that the purpose economy has developed less. Research by professors at Wharton and Harvard on Corporate Purpose describe it as the “aggregate sense of meaning and impact felt by employees of a corporation”. Companies with a high level of purpose outperform the market by 5-7%, grow faster and are more profitable. In the workplace, Hurst said that it was about ‘optimising the amount of meaning and fulfilment your employees and customers feel everyday’ and whilst organisations seem to have awakened to how to optimise meaning for customers, growth for employees seems to be a bit of an afterthought.

Flexibility to work from home, for example, was not commonplace for many before the pandemic. Despite an increase in workplace wellbeing measures, employers are yet to properly provide solutions to the fact that mental health was the number one cause of workplace absence last year.

At Glassmoon, our RUBY system hopes to play a part in developing the purpose economy not just within our organisation but others too. We believe the key to providing purpose is to create workplaces that are deeply human and give people agency over their wellbeing in their working lives. Only then will an organisation be able to truly lead in the purpose economy, and Glassmoon strives to be pioneers in doing so and sharing how.

Next week we’re releasing the final part of our trilogy where we’ll be discussing the knowledge economy and how organisations can use knowledge, research, and science to develop and improve their workplaces.