Profit for purpose: how to be on the right side of history

A few years ago, I was talking with the CEO of one of Australia’s leading financial organisations on the topics of social impact and sustainability. I shared my belief that businesses needed to start caring about more than profit if we wanted a future. With climate change and social inequalities growing, I was asking him how to move to a “triple bottom line”: People, Planet, Profit.

He laughed at me. He told me that I was not living in the reality of businesses. That in his board meetings, shareholders only cared about numbers. He was a good CEO and a nice guy. However, in this short meeting, he really broke a lot of my hopes. If Australia’s nice leaders didn’t believe People and Planet were serious topics, then how about the rest of the country?

Since then I have taken my biggest career shift to work with a true purpose and co-create my own Profit for Purpose business, youforher. It’s especially important to me as a new mum. I think of those WW2 pictures saying “Daddy, what did you do to fight the war?” In our time, our kids will be asking “Mum and dad, what did you do in the climate war?” I want my child to be proud of what I have done.

Traditionally, we had two different types of businesses: the “money-making” ones, depicted as rational, numbers-driven, and not to be overly trusted; and the charities, described as empathetic and trustworthy, but lacking efficiency and relying on donations to survive. This divisive perspective misses the fact that, in every organisation run by people, people want to do good. They want to be free to do so too. That’s how the Profit for Purpose and Social Enterprise organisations were born.

Only recently, with the climate crisis in Australia and the heartbreaking bushfires, I received a message from the same CEO saying I was right. That he felt the bushfires opened the eyes of some of Australia’s leaders to work differently, or towards a bigger cause.

A Profit for Purpose is “led by a mission to achieve social, community and environmental benefit through trading and channeling a portion of their profits towards their mission.” One of our role models is Patagonia, who abolished their CSR department to put corporate and social responsibility in every employee’s KPIs.

As a leader, with my friend and co-founder Jacqui, we wanted to walk the talk with youforher. It’s a purpose-led social enterprise, aiming to share kindness in the world by improving women’s equality and creating a more sustainable planet.

We’re still at the beginning, starting small with a nourishing product we believe so much in: argan oil. Our argan oil is ethically crafted, with love, by Moroccan all-female cooperatives. It is sustainably sourced and ensures the ongoing plantation of argan trees. We are also giving back more than half of our profits to support female education.

We’ve faced many challenges already, with many aspects of businesses wired around low-cost yet eco-damaging options. It hasn’t been easy to navigate through, but we put our purpose at the core of every decision and conversation we have.

We hope that there are many more of us out there that choose to step up and make the change to be a Profit for Purpose, because we can, collectively, make a difference for our future. As the wonderful Jacinda Ardern says, “Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution?”

Hind El Aoufi, Co-founder, youforher