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How can corporates start linking Purpose and Sustainability


An extremely insightful conversation with Sebastien Cretegny who brings to us first hand experience on linking purpose with sustainability.

  • 79% of business leaders believe that purpose is essential for success in business. Yet only 34% of leadership decisions are guided by organizational purpose.

  • A majority of the workforce comprising of Gen Z's want to find purpose in everything they do and prefer linking their values to their organizations goals. However according to McKinsey 85% of employees do not find purpose at work.

The main question we target in this video podcast is how to link the companies mission to each individuals aspirations while incorporating sustainability?


Listen to the full talk on Purpose and Sustainability at work here:



The key questions on Purpose and Sustainability in corporates


In this episode of Learn with Bessern, we cover the following questions:


  • How is sustainability related to purpose at work?

  • Is there any proof that purpose and sustainability is a competitive advantage at work?

  • Have any major companies started linking purpose and sustainability?

  • How to define sustainability?

  • What is the clear benefit for employees, customers and financials?

  • Do companies need a Chief Purpose Officer or Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) to drive change?

  • How can companies start injecting sustainability without big budgets?


About our guest Sebastien Cretegny:

Sebastien Cretegny has first hand experience in linking purpose with sustainability: He was a senior leader of the luxury industry thriving his way across the world. During this tenure he felt the urge of realigning himself with his inner values after which he moved on to become the an advocate of sustainability in corporations. He is the founder of Movo Partners in Switzerland. Today he is making sustainable luxury become a thing – Sebastien is helping organizations become purpose driven transforming cultures, mindset and product innovation through sustainability.


Partial transcription of this episode:


Ivan: I'm really happy to have you because we are going to be discussing about a topic that many companies are wondering today regarding purpose and sustainability. And, you know, I was waiting for the right person to have the knowledge and experience in order to understand what is the real value that it brings to corporations. First of all, what we know is that 85% of employees, kind of they don't feel that there is purpose at work. They are unsatisfied about where they are leading their lives. And what we know is also that the new generation that is onboarding work: the Generation Z is mainly driven by the choice of work that is outside financial. So if you ask a Gen Z, what is going to make you choose one job versus another, he will tell you: It is about the possibility to develop myself, the possibility to do something that is meaningful, the possibility to have work life balance. But if we think about our generation, it was more about financials, right? when we were choosing a job, it was because we were getting the best salary, and maybe because we had the possibility to be in a reputable company.

Today, most companies have a mission. But this mission is very often related to their business ambition, saying we want to achieve this amount of money profitability, scale and so on. But this is not really relatable to individuals, to the employees; this is not inspiring enough. What a lot of companies are trying to look for is the famous WHY, I mean, Simon Sinek has popularized this term as the understanding of the why we are doing certain things. Purpose at work has become really a priority in in corporations.

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”

by Viktor Frankl the writer of Man's Search for Meaning.


Today we have been living a tough life to adapt and be resilient. This COVID thing has impacted the life for all of us, and has given us also the opportunity to rethink about the life that we want to to lead. I'm happy to have you because you have experienced firsthand on bringing purpose through sustainability in corporates. You have been a senior leader in the luxury industry across the world. By the way, I don't know how many countries you have been in, but I'm still counting. I also had the opportunity to see live, your capacity for innovation and disruption. Our path has crossed in the in the corporate life and I have the feeling that you're not the type of person who can be framed in a in a box. I was not really astonished to see to see you become an advocate of sustainability in corporations, because I almost felt that you are like kind of a disruptor. You have found MOVO Partners back in Switzerland, and I was wondering more about the challenges to reach out people who are more driven by social status into a more purpose driven life. So today, you're making sustainable luxury become a thing and as CEO of MOVO Partners you are helping organizations become purpose driven, transforming cultures mindset, and start product innovation through sustainability. Seb, I'm curious, how do you transition from the luxury goods into a founder of a sustainability consultancy? How did you make it?


Sebastien: Alright. Well, thanks for having me. It's a real pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to you about this this amazing topic. It's also fascinating to see that many years later we meet again on this occasion when I think you know, you were mentioning that our generation was mostly driven by the job role, the position and the paycheck. But you and me I think were the best examples that it wasn't really true after all, since we have decided to take a redirection in our careers and personal and professional lives. So I guess this is also what what has happened to me at a certain point, I felt the need of realigning myself with my inner values. And this feeling of alignment kind of pushed me to look for different answers. And this is when I left my job as the vice president in a luxury swiss watchmaker here in Switzerland, and I embarked on a new journey. I've done about nine months of executive coaching to really understand what was important to me, what my values were, what sort of vision I had for my own future. And you know, when you've spent about 20 years of your life in the corporate world, it's not easy to actually point out and identify really what matters to you. This exercise was very valuable because it helped me understand that, in fact, sustainability at large, and corporate social responsibility was a very important topic to me. I've always been very close to environmental causes in my personal life and a nature lover living in Switzerland, where there is nature all around, this was always there, but I didn't really know how to make a living out of it. So when I found out with my coach that this was such an important aspect of my life. I also felt I needed to look for some education. I needed to get credibility in this field, because I was new to it. And of course, it's a very hot topic. It's very trendy. So, you know, I didn't want to suffer the impostor syndrome somewhat. I started to look for education, and this is how I ended up looking for different universities that were offering sustainability - I found it in Cambridge University - a program combining Leadership and Sustainability.

So I wanted to embed sustainability into organizational change. And that's how I ended up following the post graduated at Cambridge. And from one thing to the next, you know, I ended up building a new network of individuals and companies passionate on the topic. And that's how I ended up getting missions and talking with companies that were in need of new solutions. And I sort of designed new solutions to combine the organization's industry expertise with a sustainable vision. And that's when I founded MOVO partners basically. So this is the story.


Ivan: In fact, there is a lot of psychological research that shows that the more leaders progress in a company, the less self aware they are, if you ask to a leader, what is the real situation in their organization he will have less knowledge about himself, or about others than someone who is in the front line. It is hard to understand what is what we need in order to be fulfilled in life and that money at one points doesn't correlate anymore with happiness.

The other thing is that Switzerland is a country that supports initiatives in sustainability, in fact, when you tell people who have not been living in Switzerland, about all the initiatives supported, in terms of recycling, preservation of nature, they get astonished that there is so much so much regulation because they want to preserve the nature, they want to make a country that is sustainable so that we are not ashamed to give back this country to our children. Right? The next topic that I wanted to touch Seb, Is there any proof in fact that is a story about purpose of systemic sustainability brings a competitive advantage at work?


Sebastien: That's a very good question. You and it's, it's a huge topic, obviously, it's very fast and you find many different answers. But I think what is really interesting is that when you're referring to this gap, how is this gap created and why are organizations failing at distributing or cascading the purpose through the organization so that the employees feel engaged, feel committed to a common vision? So there are many studies that we advocate about the advantage and the competitiveness of companies that have designed a clear and and fundamental purpose statement. Now. It's not enough unfortunately, you know, it's not just designing a purpose and then thinking that it will stick through your organization and it will help you guiding your decisions on a day to day basis. If you look at at famous, purpose driven organizations, such as Patagonia, for instance, because obviously it's an example that we like to do to discuss about their purpose is: to save the planet. So, obviously, one could argue that to save planet Earth is business. But definitely when you read their purpose, is the core of their business model events, the questions that you were asking before about the why this is their reason to exist. This is the reason why they are in business. And, you know, most companies fail to understand what is their reason for being in business? Are they even asking themselves if the world a better place? And when when you have this purpose that is so strongly embedded in the core of your business model. What it provides to the organization is a NorthStar. It provides guidance, it provides a sense of direction. And often these discussions are happening at the very top, you know, the board room, designs, very beautiful purpose together with a consulting firm or whatever, but they kind of fail of engaging the whole backbone of the organization. After all, any organization is the sum of the people right and that beautiful purpose sticks at the very top but is not felt in the rest of the organization. More importantly, at the mid management level, it will fail because people will not understand why the CEO and his team as designed this purpose, you know, so it has to be really something that that provides this guidance and it must be real. It can't be just a sentence somewhere you know. So, this is probably one of the most overseen gap that there is between or within an organization.


Ivan: So what you're saying in fact, that the the root cause of this gap is mainly because of the lack of a system in order to convey the message to the full organization and you were mentioning something that is quite critical: It is a fact that mid-management act like enhancers of the communication because they are the one transforming the vision into something that is more operational and that is then more relatable for individuals. How can I contribute if I am in a finance department to do that vision. Seb, do you have the feeling that at least a good proportion of companies have this purpose driven mission?


Sebastien: I don't think it's a majority today. You know, I think most corporates are still in what we can say, an approach of business as usual. Because, when when you have your business as usual, and then you start hearing about the importance of purpose or sustainability, you think like oh, okay, I need to incorporate this into the recipe of my business. But unfortunately, if you don't really take the time or the right amount of thinking behind, you know, your behavior or what you would like to change or the vision that you would like to create for your organization in the future, you will, you will miss important steps that are to establish a clear set of values that then illustrates a purpose that then makes a vision for the organization.


From Values we Create Behaviors:


After all organizations are the sum of their people. Staff are looking to be encouraged, inspired, to feel happy at work, to feel like they are contributing and working towards a purposeful goal and overall the greater good.

Companies are increasingly in their spotlight and their demand for corporate social responsibility have risen considerably in recent years. Many studies show that sustainability becomes a key concern in the minds of consumers. There is an increasing pressure from governments, regulators,, investors even for more sustainable behaviors and actions. A few ways it can contribute to the organization are as follows:

  1. Increase employee engagement

  2. Boosts employee retention

  3. Reduces absenteeism

  4. Improves performance