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4 CEOs explain how to balance purpose with sustainable growth

How can a company's purpose contribute to sustainable growth?

How can a company's purpose contribute to sustainable growth? Image: Unsplash/name_ gravity/World Economic Forum

Julia Devos
Head, New Champions Community, World Economic Forum
Srivani Kanthi Chatti
Growth Strategy & Business Development Lead, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Consumers are increasingly choosing companies with a purpose.
  • Can companies who want to create better societies and sectors also create sustainable growth?
  • Four CEOs from the World Economic Forum’s New Champions community share their approach to purpose-driven, sustainable growth.

Economic challenges are looming, and the geopolitical crisis is making it harder for companies to survive, let alone thrive. Yet, consumers are growing increasingly aware of leaders who champion purpose-driven agendas to create better industries and a better society. Can these companies build socially conscious business models for society and ensure a sustainable bottom line?

The World Economic Forum’s New Champions community is a group that nurtures purpose-driven, mid-sized companies which champion new models, lead emerging technologies and achieve sustainable growth.

Let's hear from four CEOs from the community who believe in the cause of profits with purpose:

Sam Darwish, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, IHS Holding Limited

What happens when a telecommunications infrastructure provider resolves to create infinite learning opportunities through internet connectivity? IHS Towers, one of the largest mobile communications infrastructure providers in the world by tower count, finalized a three-year partnership in 2022 with the Giga Initiative, a collaboration between UNICEF and ITU, to contribute $4.5 million and provide a contribution-in-kind to strengthen Giga’s work to map and connect all schools to the internet.

One crucial benefit of the partnership between Giga and IHS Towers is the ability to use IHS Towers’ data to map towers and identify gaps in connectivity infrastructure relative to a school’s location. This information can then be used to select the best connectivity solutions for schools so that they can be connected to the internet in a sustainable manner.

Initiatives are about intent. Where does IHS Towers get it from? In holistic terms, IHS Towers’ commitment to education is driven by its three co-founders, who credit their success to the early opportunities afforded by education and their intent to amplify learning opportunities.

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Betta Maggio, Founder, U-Earth

According to the WHO, 99% of the world's population is exposed to unsafe air. This is all the more rampant with excessive globalization and a race to modernization.

Betta Maggio pioneers U-Earth, a biotech company with an ambition to make pure air a human right. How does she do that? After 15 years of R&D and validation, Pure Air Zone was launched in 2019 to help businesses clean the air through biotechnology in the form of its proprietary, nature-based formulation, which captures and neutralizes air contaminants safely. Businesses with a Pure Air Zone in place can measure air quality in real time and advertise the results to customers and stakeholders.

Every “pure air zone” created contributes, in a measurable way via the Internet of Things and cloud data, to the decontamination of the planet.

Davos 2023 ; sustainable growth ; Data from 2019 on the Environmental Performance Index, a metric created by Yale and Columbia
Clean air data from 2019 ranking the world's cleanest places Image: Statista

Stanislas Bocquet, Founder & CEO, PALO IT

If a company commits itself to the mantra of using “tech as a force for good”, we know what’s in store. PALO IT is a global innovation company that has committed itself to expediting the transition of the business into a sustainable and regenerative model.

The OKRs are set for this business. “Our goal is to have 50% of our business from positive impact projects by 2025,” says Stanislas Bouquet, Founder & CEO.

In pursuit of this goal, it has developed a unique, data-driven sustainable platform that blends carbon accounting, financial information and SDG-related data all in one place. In a nutshell, the platform delivers data both to steer quality business investments and guide forward-thinking companies in their journey towards sustainability. This view allows investors to understand the stakes at hand and empowers teams to understand the impact of their organization.

Zhang Xiangdong, Chairman and CEO, Organic and Beyond Corporation

The agri-food system is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Production methods that provide organic food and ultimately reduce greenhouse emissions are critical.

Davos 2023; Annual greenhouse gas emissions by sector; sustainable growth
The agri-food system is a significant source of greenhouse gases Image: Our World in Data

Organic and Beyond Corporate (OABC) primarily produces and operates organic food products. Its production methods not only reduce the input of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on one hand but also lead with data to measure and mitigate emissions along the end-to-end supply chain. In September 2021, OABC achieved net-zero emissions of all OABC food.

It is one thing to produce organic food but a different thing to gain conscious customers. To address this, OABC improves awareness by not only holding roundtables and sharing thought leadership but also by sharing lifecycle carbon emission data on food packaging.

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What’s next?

Becoming a sustainable business can pay off, but is not easy. It is largely driven by the intent to grow, but it is a long journey and the path may be untrodden. However, the evidence is mounting for the best companies that the standard is within reach and can be expedited with a community of like-minded peers.

If you’d like to be a part of and learn more about this community, please check out the New Champions website here.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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