The Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC Barcelona) and DPMC Foundation recently organised the 9th UIC Barcelona Chair for Management by Missions and Corporate Purpose Symposium under the title Human Flourishing Through Purpose. The aim of the event, held at the Botín
Foundation, was to create a space for joint reflection on an issue that has been under debate for quite some time: purpose. 

“Institutions and companies are going to increasingly greater lengths to connect their corporate purpose with the social development and personal purpose of their teams,” explained the organisers, who, during the event, opened the floor up to a series of speakers who shared their reflections on what aligning people’s individual purposes with the corporate purpose means and involves.

In this regard, Jorge Barranco, vice-president of Iberia Aliaxis, believes that “taking purpose into consideration is slowly translating into increasingly better business results.” However, in his opinion, in Spain, the necessary cooperation between universities and companies still has a plenty of room for improvement.

According to Barranco, universities must become more willing to support the market in finding more sustainable solutions. Yet, to do so, “universities must challenge the status quo of companies, and vice versa,” he stressed.

For his part, Lasse Wrennmark, a founding partner at Companions for Leadership, believes that, following the period of hyperglobalisation that has just concluded, we are moving towards a new system; one in which wisdom and purpose will enable us to find solutions that will help to drive us forward.

According to Wrennmark, in the context of “permacrisis” in which are immersed, many companies talk about taking care of their workers.

However, these are just empty words, as this is something which is yet to occur in organisations. “People hear it, but they don’t internalise it,” he explained. 

Afterwards, Carlos Rey, founder of DPMC and co-director of the chair at UIC Barcelona, discussed the definition of a sustainable purpose. “A sustainable purpose is one that connects mind, heart and hand,” he explained, before going on to highlight that, “when faced with distinct rationales, a sustainable purpose helps us to balance and assimilate, to harmonise these rationales, thereby reconciling reality, empathy and vision.”

Human progress: Illusion or opportunity

Based on the question of whether human progress is an illusion or opportunity, the symposium featured a round table discussion that included Pedro Javier Armentia, president of Creas; Andrea Sánchez Elía, corporate director of Sustainability at Grupo IF; Elvira Arango, corporate director of Leadership and Culture at MAPFRE; Marta Lozano, Global Marketing director at Castrol; and Miquel Bastons, co-director of the chair at UIC Barcelona, who moderated the debate.

During the round table, the participants discussed the objective of business. “Is it just to make money?” they asked. “That is the popular opinion,” explained Bastons, “wherefore, to many, the idea of a shared purpose is an illusion,” he pointed out, laying on the table his view that this is a question that should be answered by businesspeople, not academics.

In this regard, all participants agreed that companies should have an active interest and role in human flourishing, not just SCR or the SDGs. And that this goal of helping their teams to flourish should not be viewed as “simply another obligation”, but as an opportunity. 

“Helping people to flourish is closely related to caring for them,” stressed Elvira Arango, who believes that the first challenge of any leader is knowing how to take care of their teams. Along these lines, Marta Lozano admitted to being in favour “of just that, of helping people to grow by, in my case, building on digital technology and sustainability.” For his part, Pedro Javier Armentia explained his commitment to reconciling the vision of two apparently contradictory worlds: investments and solutions to the problems of society. “An investment can have an impact in building a better world,” he emphasised. In Armentia’s eyes, a company can earn money through actions that have a social purpose, an aspect which may also give them a competitive edge.

After the pause for lunch, Pablo Cardona, dean of the Faculty of Business and Communication at the UNIR, provided an overview of the concept of human flourishing throughout history, since its first mention several centuries ago, to the project Harvard launched on this concept in 2017. Also, through a practical example, those present had the opportunity to see, in a tangible manner, how analysis and actions can help people to flourish within the framework of a company.

After Cardona’s speech, the attendees were treated to a workshop-experience on the idea of love in the business world, delivered by Mayte Márquez, director of the DPMC consulting firm.

And finally, Pablo Parra, managing director at Vemare, urged those present “to spread this sentiment, to cast aside excess baggage and let things flourish.” According to Parra, “to love, you first have to get to know people, something which requires deep conversations.”

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