The world will get better through one action and encounter at a time

In recent years, a company’s brand purpose, which defines its purpose of existence, has started to become a topic in Finland too.

Teksti Katja Keitaanniemi, CEO, OP Corporate Bank plc @KKeitaanniemi
Julkaistu 7.6.2022

At the end of May, I returned from the Harvard Business School where I was the only Finnish executive as a student with 164 other international business executives. A conclusion came out from many in-depth discussions: if that group could decide, the world would seem quite different. Leadership plays a major role, and a better tomorrow now provokes discussion among executives everywhere.
 
In the future, the mere earnings will not be enough, but businesses are expected to demonstrate wider responsibility. Corporate activism addressing social problems was also more highlighted in OP’s most recent survey of large corporations than ever before: more than one third out of four respondents felt that solving burning social problems is also the duty of their companies. 
 
In the future, success will increasingly be based on the culture and values of a company. In recent years, a company’s brand purpose, which defines its purpose of existence, has started to become a topic in Finland too.

Success requires that the company find a motive that is wider and deeper than its basic targets for its business. Furthermore, more and more employees want their company’s values to be in line with their personal values.  
 
Shared values both engage employees and improve business profitability. According to a study conducted by Gallup in 2021, an up to 10 per cent improvement in the connection experienced by employees with the company’s brand purpose decreased employee turnover by eight per cent and increased company profitability by over four per cent.

The brand purpose and corporate culture cannot be only on the HR’s and brand’s agenda, but each and every executive should recognise their responsibility in these choices relevant to success.   
 
As executives, we always ultimately have to weigh up our choices through our own values. In business turbulence, the compass may swing easily, but especially then it is important not to change as an individual. When we base our choices on our values, we seldom have to regret them afterwards.

Harward colleague Vic Angogo had arranged a Lei necklace for everyone who graduated from his Living Group.

I am grateful for the learnings at Harvard but above all for all contacts established during my studies. Despite the exceptional world situation, it was comforting to note that the same themes provoke discussion among executives – culture, values and a better tomorrow. The world will get better through one action and encounter at a time.

This article was originally published in Kauppalehti on June 6, 2022.

The writer is OP Corporate Bank’s CEO and a Harvard alumni