Large companies and brands often have a vision statement and a mission statement. A vision statement focuses on the aspirational, big picture thinking of the brand. Ultimately, it describes the direction the company is going in. It sets a goal for a future position that the company would like to reach. A mission statement focuses on the company’s purpose; it also encapsulates how and why a company is different. Often combined with vision and mission are core values. The company’s values are the pillars on which it is founded.
Small businesses also seek to establish these statements early on because defining vision, mission, and values (VMV) is recognised as key for any company to help inform the strategic planning process. VMV provides cohesiveness around who a company is and what it stands for. The best-written statements are exactly that: concise statements rather than paragraphs, which define purpose, direction, and ethics.
Not only are these points important to the customer but they concern employees too. People increasingly want to work for brands and companies whose values align with their own. Many commentators believe that the Covid-19 global pandemic and associated lockdowns precipitated what is being dubbed as the Great Resignation. As people lost jobs or worked remotely, they began to reassess what their life priorities were.
Even before the pandemic arose in 2020 though, a Gallup survey from 2018 showed that the number one factor that Millennials and Gen Z looked for in an employer was that “The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing.” The number two factor was that “The organisation’s leadership is ethical”. The third most important factor for young Millennials and Gen Z (born 1989-2001 according to Gallup) was that “The organisation is diverse and inclusive of all people”, while for older Millennials (born 1980-1988) it was that “The organisation’s leadership is open and transparent.”
All of these factors speak to the need for companies to define what exactly they stand for and how they intend to go about it. Directors typically lead on VMV, but because as a whole it is so integral to corporate culture – and how this affects public relations, how the company is perceived, and who it hires – Human Resources is usually instrumental in the process too. The HR team is closer to the ground and can assess whether the company’s vision holds up by seeking input from employees, stakeholders, and customers, particularly in small businesses that may still be defining who they are.
Once mission, vision, and company values are defined, a business strategy roadmap can be drawn up containing strategic objectives and measurable goals. Being able to show through figures that a company is actually achieving its goals is as important to demonstrating its success as publishing its annual report and declaring profits. In fact, many companies who are serious about their vision, mission, and values are now publishing Impact Reports detailing their sustainability initiatives and efforts for the greater good.
Aligning with the goals of larger initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals or the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment can help companies to define and measure their purpose. Certification such as B Corp Certification also offers a rigorous assessment which will help a business set standards and benchmarks for itself.
There are increasing pressures on CEOs and founders to understand how a strong mission statement matters to their business. It’s not a given that commitments to sustainability, diversity, and equity must be made within a statement, simply that it is recognised that these issues are what matter to a younger demographic of customers and potential employees.
A global CEO survey from IBM also shows that sustainability issues are a major priority for business leaders due to pressure from board members and investors. With that said, there has been kickback from some leaders who believe that pursuit of profit should not come second to contributing positively to society. Dame Sharon White, Chair of UK department store John Lewis & Partners has said that there needs to be a “a recognition that companies are set up to make money … Only when they have done this can those profits be invested in doing good. Making a profit is a passport to doing good.”
Below are examples of mission statements and vision statements from some leading companies including electric vehicles manufacturer, Tesla, and Patagonia, whose founder Yvon Chouinard is also the founder of non-profit, 1% for the Planet.
- Mission – To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Vision – To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
- Mission:Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
- Vision:To create a better everyday life for many people.
- Mission – We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
- Vision – To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
- Mission – Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
- Vision – A love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.
- Mission – Spread ideas.
- Vision – We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.
- Mission – To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
- Vision – To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.
Writing vision and mission statements is part of a bigger business strategy that declares company direction and whether it aims to help people and planet alongside securing profit. The company’s mission statement is often reflective of the founder’s own mission and needs to be written in a way that supports a common goal for all members of the company and its customers. An effective mission statement then influences marketing efforts and decision-making at all levels of the business.
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