Penny Pennington


November 15, 2022


Our world is changing faster than ever before. An unprecedented pandemic, global economic challenges, rising environmental pressures, the fervent call for social justice, digital acceleration – each of these factors has us all rethinking the ways in which we live, work, and interact with one another. In these challenging times, we are also witnessing a shift in the world of business. The expectations of businesses and their role in society are evolving – from focusing solely on the bottom line to having a positive impact on society.

This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will host its Corporate Citizenship Conference: Business Solves, where leaders from across the private and public sector will talk about this new imperative for stakeholder capitalism – combining innovation and purpose to create value for all stakeholders and embrace a wider responsibility to positively serve society.

Purpose is the key component here. Purpose goes beyond creating a profitable business. It’s your aspiration, your differentiator – it defines the impact a company has on society and what would be lost if the organization weren’t there. For any business to be effective and create lasting value and impact for its stakeholders, it must be purpose driven.

But where does purpose start? From my perspective it starts with each of us. Leading with purpose is fundamental to achieving our aspirations and succeeding in our personal and professional endeavors. And it is vitally important that we strive to work with organizations that align with our purpose and empower us to channel our passion into a drive to make a difference.

I speak from experience. Our purpose at Edward Jones is to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. It’s our why, and from that why extends what we do every day. For 100 years this purpose has been our North Star as we’ve focused on the opportunities – and responsibility – we have to make an impact on people’s lives. It’s a privilege to lead an organization with a purpose that is focused on helping others thrive in every chapter of life. This resonates deeply with my own values and purpose.

Stemming from this purpose, Edward Jones is focused on three areas of impact where we have the expertise, resources, and passion to drive change: partnering for lasting financial strength, promoting healthier futures, and advancing inclusive growth. They are fully integrated into our business strategy and throughout our organization, allowing us to innately bring our purpose to life at our firm and in our communities.

For example, our business is grounded in helping our clients build long-lasting financial strength and that starts with financial knowledge. Our Financial Fitness education curriculum – launched in 2020 – aims to kickstart this at a young age, engaging high school and college students from diverse backgrounds to build their confidence around money. Our goal is to empower students to create smart financial habits and position them for financial resilience throughout their lives. Already we’ve seen tremendous success, reaching 407,000 learners toward our goal of impacting a total of 1 million adults and youth by the end of 2025.

Financial health is just one of several pillars of our overall well-being, each of which are intricately linked to the others. We believe pervasive health issues stand in the way of people building, maintaining, and enjoying wealth in life. Our longstanding partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association is an example of this. According to our research with Age Wave, Alzheimer’s disease is U.S. retirees’ most feared health condition of later life. Together, our associates have raised more than $30 million in support of the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, we strive to advance inclusive growth throughout our own organization and beyond. In June 2020, we made a Five-point Commitment to address racism and positively impact opportunities for people of color, including diverse representation goals and everyday ways of working. These are all part of the important efforts we are actively making to build a truly equitable culture at Edward Jones – a place where our clients and associates can feel like they truly belong.

Of course, this approach goes far beyond our firm; it also applies to the many companies who are focused on stakeholder capitalism and ensuring that they exist to benefit society. It’s an idea that has been around for decades, but one we must put into action through our actions now. When companies and leaders put purpose at the center of everything they do, it transforms our perspective on success and our potential to make a difference. With purpose as our starting point, we all benefit.

I look forward to exploring this topic in more detail with U.S. Chamber Foundation President Carolyn Cawley at the upcoming Corporate Citizenship Conference and hearing other leaders’ perspectives on how we can all put this principle into practice as we help more people and more communities to thrive and prosper.

About the authors

Penny Pennington