Deloitte survey: Companies should be measured by their societal purpose

Marketing, Studies

At the World Economic Forum 2012, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) will share the results of a global survey exploring business leaders’ attitudes on the purpose, impact, and leadership of business on society. The survey, sponsored by DTTL and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), found that more than three quarters of the respondents (76%) believe that the value of a company should be measured by the positive contribution its core business makes to society, as well as by its profits.

Furthermore, of the leaders surveyed, 73% believe that their core business activities make a positive contribution to society.

This survey sparks an important dialogue about the role of business in building a better society (…) Within the Deloitte network, we believe there is opportunity for this ‘societal purpose’ to be integrated into a business’s core activities, decisions, and identity. It is through this embedded purpose, in turn, that businesses can inspire positive economic, environmental, and social change.

 Barry Salzberg


The study showed that while 82% of business leaders surveyed said their organization had a formal statement detailing its “societal purpose,” and 52% said that this formal statement of purpose was essential for attracting the next generation of customers and employees, only 25% thought that this purpose was well known by their customers, consumers, or clients. This suggests that businesses can do a better job of communicating the contribution and impact that their core activities have on society.

Alongside the EIU survey, DTTL examined the opinions of more than 1,000 Deloitte member firm Millennials (employees joining the organization who were born after 1981) on their views regarding the impact business has on society. More than half (52%) believe that in the future, business, more than any other area of society, will achieve the greatest impact in solving society’s biggest challenges. Furthermore, 92% of the respondents believe that the success of a business should be measured by more than just profit, suggesting that a company’s “societal purpose” is a key priority and expectation of the Millennial generation.

The findings are based on a survey of 390 executives conducted in October 2011. Respondents were distributed across Europe (33%), North America (31%), and Asia Pacific (24%), with the rest of the world—which incorporates Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa—comprising about 12%. In terms of seniority, 57% of respondents are C-level executives, board members, vice presidents, or directors, with the rest occupying senior management roles. Financial services provided the largest number of respondents (22%), followed by technology (12%), professional services (11%), healthcare and pharmaceuticals (8%), and manufacturing (5%), with additional responses from a wide range of industries. Around 74% of respondents represented corporations with annual revenues of over US$500m, including 27% with revenues over US$10bn.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Deloitte provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. With a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries, Deloitte brings world-class capabilities and deep local expertise to help clients succeed wherever they operate. Deloitte’s approximately 182 000 professionals are committed to becoming the standard of excellence.