Purpose Conference: what the f**k is purpose-driven business?

Purpose Conference: what the f**k is purpose-driven business?

Purpose is the conference that propels purpose-driven businesses to the front of the pack, exploring the next wave of corporate culture by hearing of the successes, failures and strategies from local and international companies driven by values.

Karina was honoured to speak on behalf of Seljak Brand on the New Kids On The Block panel. We were stoked to be included in the conversation of purpose-driven business and social enterprise.

This year featured an exciting array of topics exploring future drivers and enablers for the success of purpose-driven firms:


The New Kids On The Block panel featured businesses that are under two years old and already 'killing it' (their words not ours!) and we were in the excellent company of The Valley Centre, The Last Straw, The Good Beer Co and Vävven - a range of social enterprises involved in everything from selling sex toys or great beer to empowering communities for the future or reducing the use of single-use plastic straws.

New Kids On The Block panel

Needless to say we were *inspired*... here are Karina’s impressions from the day:

Purpose opened this year with the question, are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? At any one moment both of these actions look the same, but their motivators and outcomes are vastly different. Gothic Cathedrals took hundreds of years to build in Europe, and were the collective efforts of artists and masons and many others who didn't see their efforts come to fruition. Although used for oppressive purposes a lot of the time, these cathedrals continue to be a place of contemplation and community today. This question was asked of the Paddington town hall where 400 of us gathered to ask “what's up and what's next in the world of purposeful business?”.

Through talks from Intrepid Travel, Kalinya Communications and Deloitte's Center for The Edge, we explored Indigenous leadership and time, legacy building and finding alternative measures of success.


Co-Founder of Intrepid Travel, Geoff Manchester spoke about profits increasing directly from their donating to Nepal after the earthquake.

Then we zoomed in, sharing stories of success and failure though the day-to-day of making it all work, from nailing pricing models to finding good staff, and so on. Some of our favourite takeaways:

What the f**k is the meaning of 'purpose'?

Maybe purpose is the new vision and mission statement, and that's it. Maybe it will come to mean nothing, like the words 'ethical' and 'sustainable', arguably teetering on the edge, which alienate the mainstream and irritate and fatigue the savvy. Maybe it's a different colour of greenwash of which we need to be aware!

This is about accountability, and proving you're working to create change (or whatever that thing is that defines what you're doing as beyond business - start by articulating this!) as well as profit.

What does the impact report look like? Who are you empowering and how? How many, or how much of what and where?

Know what you're working to achieve and keep track of it. 

Collaborate with competitors

Two companies have brilliant examples of collaborating to create stronger communities and bigger impact.

Young Henrys Brewery, based on Newtown in Sydney, said to “share everything”; share knowledge and equipment to local newbies, even if they become your competitors, your market strengthens.

LUSH, primarily the maker of glittery bath bombs among other things, said to keep your inventions open source. They actually invented a plastic-free glitter to reduce their contribution to micro-plastics and left it without patent.

Let's just ramp up the positive effects our businesses are having by sharing the wins, is what that said to us. 

Send in the Millennials

The exact opposite of this mantra was also touted by some of the young ones, on marketing activities.

Throw 'reach', 'followers' and growth metrics out the window and count high fives you get on the ground, at festivals, stores or wherever your business is customer facing.

Millennials respond best to honesty, transparency and imperfection, and that goes for your customers and staff.

This is a backlash sentiment to big data, where numbers are God.

Businesses are listening to the young, one business, Powershop, spoke of sending a talented sales junior to expand their business to Queensland. Huge respect of their accepting ambiguity of an unprecedented move, and even more so, trust in their people.

Think long time

For us, the lingering question comes back to longer term goals. It helps to keep thinking big if we ask 'what will Seljak Brand be doing in 1000 years (yep, that’s three zeros)?', or in seven generations, which is how the Maori assess a good plan. Can we work ourselves out of a job? That is, can Seljak Brand turn ALL waste into the beautiful, useful objects we need to live? Mind blown, but pretty excited.

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