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Purpose of the Corporation

Brian Gallant
Brian Gallant | Senior Advisor

CEO, Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation

August 25, 2020

THE COVID-19 CRISIS has revealed a great deal about the character of humanity. It has demonstrated the extent to which people can come together, and it has laid bare the systemic inequalities within our current economic structure and social fabric. As the world looks to governments to lead through a pandemic, corporations are also being asked to assist in tackling the inequalities that have bubbled up to the surface, in order to create a ‘new’ normal.

The public looking to corporations to support societal reform should come as no surprise. There have been discussions happening for quite some time on how to modernize capitalism by changing the purpose of the corporation. A movement is afoot that views the role of business as something different from previous generations – instead of simply focusing on profits or value for shareholders, corporations are increasingly expected to contribute positively to all stakeholders.

For a corporation’s purpose to truly broaden in this way, it must support efforts to address the challenges faced by its stakeholders and the communities in which it operates. Indeed, the drive to rethink the purpose of the corporation is fuelled by the public’s desire to have business assist in overcoming global challenges such as climate change, wealth inequality, systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a whole new level of responsibility thrust upon business. The days in which a corporation could simply focus on financial metrics, such as margins, productivity or profits, are over. A business now needs to evaluate – and correct when needed – its impact across a whole suite of social concerns, such as the environment, racism, poverty, gender equality, and more.

With these enhanced responsibilities comes an expectation of concrete and authentic action to tackle such important matters within the organization itself. In addition to monitoring and improving a corporation’s impact internally and externally, business leaders are now being compelled to speak out on these matters publicly. The assumption is that when an individual, organization, or government falls short of the public’s expectations regarding a certain social question, business will ‘call out’ or cut ties with the party, or exert some other type of pressure to influence and encourage ‘better’ behaviour and outcomes.

These three layers of the enhanced responsibility business faces are interlinked. A business must use the levers of its impact on communities, the globe, and society; its internal practices which can hinder or advance important and needed social reforms; and its capacity to influence others; all at the same time. As recent weeks have demonstrated, it is a grave public relations mistake for a corporation to speak out in support of an important social cause if it has not yet taken internal action to advance the objectives of that same cause.

 

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Business leaders will undoubtedly need support in meeting their new responsibilities and in ensuring their organizations are purpose-driven and focused on contributing positively to all their stakeholders. The newly created Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation will offer support to Canadian businesses and organizations as they work to redefine, strengthen, and advance the scope of their purpose and values through their operations, their impact on all their stakeholders, and their ability to influence others to do the same.

It will not be easy for business to meet the evolving expectations placed on them by the public and civil society. Nevertheless, the movement afoot makes it clear that change is on the horizon for capitalism one way or the other. With change comes uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that the purpose of the corporation is more important than ever. Let’s hope that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will provide inspiration for business leaders to embrace a new approach to corporate leadership which would be a big first step towards modernizing capitalism and helping humanity overcome the challenges facing this generation.

Now that’s a purpose worth fighting for.

About the author:

Brian Gallant
Brian Gallant | Senior Advisor

CEO, Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation

Brian Gallant is a highly respected and dynamic Canadian leader who served as the 33rd Premier of New Brunswick from 2014 to 2018.  At the age of 32, Brian became the youngest First Minister to be elected in Canada in a century.

As a Senior Advisor at Navigator, Brian understands the challenges that organizations are facing in this age of innovation and disruption. Brian helps leaders navigate complex issues at the intersection of government, politics, business, law, social justice, media, and sustainability.

Brian is also the CEO of the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation, a ground-breaking initiative to help Canadian businesses and organizations as they work to redefine and strengthen both the scope of their purpose and the contributions they make more broadly to society.

Brian is also a Special Advisor on Innovation, Cybersecurity, and Law to the President of Ryerson University and an Entrepreneur in Residence for the DMZ incubator.

In addition to his time as Premier, Brian has served New Brunswick as the Attorney General, the Minister responsible for Innovation, and the Minister responsible for Women’s Equality. He has also served as the Chair of the Council of the Federation.

Prior to entering politics, Brian worked as a corporate commercial lawyer. He has university degrees in business and law as well as a Master of Laws from McGill University.

In 2015, Brian was the only Canadian named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Brian previously served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst in Brampton, the Board of Directors of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in Vancouver, the Board of Governors of the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary, and the Board of Directors of the Beausejour Family Crisis Resource Centre in Shediac.

Brian speaks fluently in French and English.