EY’s purpose: building a better working world
Like outdoor clothing firm Patagonia, we have a passion for purpose and a commitment to corporate responsibility
Setting a new standard for environmental corporate leadership, the billionaire founder of Patagonia last week announced he’d be handing the outdoor clothing company to a trust & non-profit, which will use future profits made beyond reinvestment in the business to help fight our climate crisis.
In an open letter, Yvon Chouinard said:
“As of now, Earth is our only shareholder. Instead of ‘going public’, you could say we’re ‘going purpose’…Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth”.
Chouinard’s embrace of stakeholder capitalism is undoubtedly bold and inspiring, the ultimate conclusion to decades of groundbreaking environmental activism — one that will definitely change where I buy my hiking togs from now on. However, a firm needn’t give itself to the third sector in order to ‘go purpose’.
Purpose at EY
Take it from me, a CTIO whose employer, EY, has almost certainly engaged her for so long because of its clear purpose-led growth. Or hear from our Emerging Tech Markets Leader, Laura Henchoz, who explained in her first blog that she came to EY after 25 years in mobile & consumer tech (a space she adored) for a number of reasons, just one being the draw of working under purpose-led leaders with a genuine drive for diversity, equity & inclusion — like yours truly.
At the time, Laura asked me for a quote on EY’s people-oriented environment to include in her blog, and I said:
“Being a purpose-led organisation committed to DEI means that EY has managed to build a very different culture from anywhere else I have worked. It is through living our values that we create such a good place to work”.
The focus of Laura’s question, and thus my answer, was obviously DEI, but that’s only a single goal under the overarching purpose at the heart of everything we do at EY: building a better working world.
Building a better working world
What exactly is purpose, though, and why does it matter? This EY article states:
“At its most basic level, purpose is an articulation of why a company does what it does, and for whom it creates value”.
In the words of one exec interviewed for the piece:
“The point of a purpose is to make it clear to everybody who is in a company or institution why they exist and what shared journey they’re on”.
‘Building a better working world’ does all of the above. It’s our very own North Star, which helps us navigate the world’s rapid changes and increasing complexities and informs our every audit, tax return, consulting opportunity, collaboration, and question.
Along with the rest of our leadership, I’m pledged to this purpose, to creating real long-term value that leads to sustainable and inclusive growth — and not just for our clients, whose greatest business challenges we work incredibly hard to solve, but also for all stakeholders, including employees, partners, and communities.
The EY passion for purpose is such that we take pleasure in helping our clients to embrace the concept in the same way we have over the years, which helps their organisations better attract and retain talent, spark innovation, navigate disruption, and, of course, turn a profit.
Control over corporate responsibility
Chouinard considered various alternatives to handing over Patagonia to the uniquely structured Holdfast Collective, one of which was taking his family’s 50-year-old company public. However, the general feeling was that this could spell a concerning change in the firm’s values. And so Patagonia is now headed in this seminal new direction, rejecting, according to the company’s Board Chair, Charles Conn:
“Milton Friedman’s influential viewpoint, asserting that the only responsibility of business is to generate profits for shareholders”.
We too have long believed that businesses have wider responsibilities to societies and the environment. This is illustrated perfectly by our EY Ripples program, which proudly aims to positively impact one billion lives by 2030 through hundreds of projects that further the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including the promotion of human rights and innovating toward a net-zero future. Learn more about corporate responsibility at EY here.