Ken Henry: Business must have a purpose beyond just profit via AFR

23 Mar 2018
A recent article in The Australian Financial Review, by Jacob Greber, touches on why businesses need to build an agenda that will not only make money, but also make a positive contribution to society.

Chairman of National Australia Bank (NAB) Ken Henry, says businesses must "demonstrate that our social purpose drives the way we operate".

"Business leaders need to take up the job of breaking down the public's negative perception of corporate Australia as a cold profit maximisation machine, and elevate its role as a driver of incomes, jobs and wellbeing," he said.

"If we in business are going to be taken seriously in these debates, we will have to demonstrate that we are engaging not out of self-interest, but because we share a mission to improve the wellbeing of the Australian people."

Dr Henry has a long public service career behind him, including as Treasury secretary and an advocate for environmental protection.

The answer, he says, is to get "really serious about the social purpose of business".

Dr Henry said NAB had spent time reflecting on and defining its social purpose, finding that its bankers are motivated by helping others, bold enough to take calculated risks for their futures, families and communities.

"We know that today many people outside of the bank will be sceptical of NAB's purpose, and we understand why that might be. But we didn't write it for publication. We wrote it for ourselves.

"Different businesses will articulate their social purpose in different ways. But there should be a common thread. I would hope that all of us in business would be motivated by a purpose that contributes to improving the wellbeing of our community," he added.

Komosion offers services and workshops to help organisations uncover their purpose beyond profit.