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The importance of having purpose

Interview with Hilde Van de Velde, Chief Purpose Officer at Deloitte

Business magazine Ondernemers (ETION) interviewed Hilde Van de Velde, Chief Purpose Officer at Deloitte, about her views on Purpose in organisations, together with business philosopher Jochanan Eynikel, in light of the launch of his latest book, Check-In.

Why is purpose so important for organisations today?

At the end of last year, our Global CEO Punit Renjen was one of 181 American top CEOs who signed the American Business Roundtable’s statement of Purpose, committing to lead their organisations for the benefit of all stakeholders—clients, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. This is also a commitment for Deloitte that is embedded in our values. 

In addition, there is of course also the internal perspective of Deloitte as a for-profit organisation. We want people to do work that has meaning for them. However, there is also the business perspective: based on our expertise, we can help clients to create value in a sustainable way. 
 

What does that mean in practical terms for Deloitte?

We put a lot of thought into technological and social evolutions. How can ethics and AI be combined? How can you robotise and simultaneously discuss the social and human implications in advance with your clients? How can you anticipate the environmental impact of projects?

We have a role as a trusted advisor, which also impacts our role in supporting transformations. As Deloitte's core activity is to give advice, we also point out the negative consequences of certain decisions to our clients. With our experience, we are well placed to anticipate alternative scenarios. We allow ourselves to be led by values that we have implicitly cherished for years, but are now integrating more explicitly into our core activity. Our leadership teams know that we want our Purpose to be top of their agenda.

Read the full interview with Hilde Van de Velde and Jochanan Eynikel, published in Ondernemers (Dutch).

We allow ourselves to be led by values that we have implicitly cherished for years, but are now integrating more explicitly into our core activity. Our leadership teams know that we want our Purpose to be top of their agenda.

Hilde Van de Velde, Chief Purpose Officer Deloitte Belgium

You mentioned Deloitte's core activity, which is providing advice. How are you incorporating Deloitte’s Purpose?

Our Purpose is more than just a strategic programme. Everyone in our organisation, from new joiner to the leadership, is expected to live our Purpose on a daily basis. We are therefore anchoring it in everything we do, including each contact with clients and our stakeholders, to ensure that our Purpose truly is our guiding force. Organisations that have a Purpose but do not anchor it in their business will eventually have their authenticity challenged.
 

What role do Deloitte’s employees play?

Our people help drive our organisation to live its Purpose. 

At the end of 2019, we’ve launched a crowdsourcing exercise with the 45.000 Deloitters from North South Europe, which Belgium is a part of, around what Purpose means to them. Their input will be included in our plans going forward.

There are also other indicators for our organisation. Sustainability and Mobility, for example, are very high on our agenda; we aim to reduce our CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2021. Our travel policy and mobility plan are being adjusted accordingly. 
 

How do you ensure Deloitte is Purpose-led?

An organisation is only Purpose-led if the actions and decisions of the organisation and its people reflect that Purpose. At Deloitte, I see our values come to life on a daily basis. It starts with our recruitment process. Our recruiters screen potential hires for a value fit with Deloitte. 

My role as Chief Purpose Officer is to look at our business from the perspective of our Purpose. Just like our Chief Talent Officer challenges the underlying rationale of decisions through a diversity and inclusion lens. That is why we are part of the firm’s executive committee. With the right people in place, we will collectively become more and more able to make the right decisions. Decisions that make an impact that matters.

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Photos by Jan Locus.

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