As far as I'm concerned, if you want to seriously engage with the idea of corporate purpose, and have an in-depth, probably uncomfortable grapple with the consequences, then I recommend you take a read of Bruce McTague's website 'Enlightened Conflict' and especially his blog post 'purpose of business is to benefit people"
He breaks the issue of brand purpose down into rational bite-sized chunks, leaving no stone unturned. More than anything he examines the underlying conflict between so much brand purpose discussion and the genuine desire for a business to put something valuable back into the world.
In the section that compares conscience with 'purpose', he says:
It has nothing to do with profits, growth or even shareholder value or gaining customers. It has to do with meaning & meaningfulness. It’s not self-serving other than it is a ‘right thing’ mental line in the sand you draw (which, yes, will have functional & physical decision repercussions).
Is this what a business has in mind when it considers what to put in the upcoming shareholder's prospectus?
Other issues he wrestles with include:
Conflating what Purpose is.
Conflating Purpose with Business Strategy
Conflating Purpose with Brand (brand value)
Conflating Purpose & motivation
Conflating Individual Purpose and Business Purpose
Conflating Purpose and Doing
Power of Purpose
It’s not profits in $’s, it’s in how the soul profited
It's worth a read if you're serious about developing a genuine purpose for your business.
He also quotes Bill Clinton who, back in 1996 said:
“At first glance, it might seem redundant to emphasize people as the central focus of economics. After all, isn’t the purpose of economics, as well as business, people? Aren’t people automatically the central focus of business and economic activities? Yes and no.
“People certainly gain and benefit, but the rub is: which people? More than a billion children, women, and men on this planet suffer from hunger. It is a travesty that this is the case, a blight upon us all as a global social group. Perhaps an even greater travesty is that it does not have to be this way; the problems of human suffering on such a massive scale are not unsolvable. If a few businesses were conducted only slightly differently, much of the misery and suffering as we now know it could be eliminated. This is where the concept of a “people-centered” economics system comes in.”
'Brand Purpose' isn't something to be taken lightly. If you're going to do it, do it properly. If not, then it's probably best not to get involved.