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The Potential of Purpose & the Impact of Pro Bono Services

By Guest Author September 2, 2022

By: Haider Nazar, Co-Founder and CEO of MAHA Global

In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, it matters less what we say and more what we do. Over the last few years, many companies have made bold claims on plans to address global issues like climate change; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and community impact. However, few actually live up to their commitments.  

The organizations that measure and demonstrate action and performance against their commitments can improve trust with their stakeholders and increase market share, while reducing the cost of customer acquisition, the cost of recruiting, and employee turnover.

At MAHA Global, we have found, and quantified through research, that investing in purpose — especially that of your employees — is the most effective way to make progress towards social impact commitments.

Distinguishing Between ESG and Purpose

When looking at social impact, it’s important to understand the difference between ESG and purpose. You’ll often see these terms used interchangeably. In reality, they are not only distinct, but also require unique approaches that drive different outcomes.

ESG is compliance driven, with reporting that focuses on how companies are doing less harm. For example, net zero long term goals, CEO-to-employee pay ratios, employee injury statistics, and incremental improvement in diversity hiring. Rarely is ESG a measure of a net positive a company is delivering to society at large.

On the other hand, purpose reflects strategic initiatives that extend further than driving profit. Historically, purpose has been a reputational perception of how brands are treating key stakeholders. Unfortunately, over time it became clear that much of the conversation around being “purpose-driven” was just that; mere conversation. With no appreciable follow up performance, stakeholder trust took a hit. 

Today, consumers, investors, employees and the community want to see results. That means moving away from perception indices (NPS, PR mentions, etc) to look at how organizations profitably build products and services that benefit society.

Operationalizing Purpose

In a world where trust is tenuous, purpose is becoming a strategic imperative. MAHA Global’s vision is to help companies eliminate guesswork, and adapt with confidence. We work with companies to analyze how they integrate environmental, social, DEI, and more into their strategy and products, and measure their performance against industry peers. Much like a revenue intelligence platform that optimizes leads, MAHA helps companies determine the attributes of purpose to focus on optimizing trust. 

The value of quantifying purpose is significant. As mentioned earlier, brand trust is critical in today’s market. The CEO Forum and Fortuna Advisors recently published a report stating that high-purpose brands have an EBITDA multiple 4.2x higher and a total shareholder return 19.6% higher than low-purpose brands. Moreover, a recent Deloitte study identified leaders overestimate customer trust by 38% and employee trust by 45%.  

The business case for purpose is clear. 

Investing in Employee Purpose

There are tradeoffs a company will need to make to build authentic strategies, usually based on competitive drivers and resources. However, there is one best practice that can apply broadly; galvanizing employees around their individual purpose and connecting it to the higher purpose of the organization.

At MAHA, we have seen how effectively integrating purpose into daily work can increase employee engagement, retention, and trust, while reducing burnout and even medical claims. Our method includes providing insights on how purpose is spread throughout the organization. If certain departments or regions have higher purpose, what does that say about their work, their leadership, or their particular focus? Understanding those insights, and then sharing with other teams helps build a culture of more purpose and trust.

Salesforce has designed a way to activate employees around any cause they care about through their Pro Bono Program. To better understand the impact of work, we partnered on a study to see if employee social impact programming resulted in increased job engagement and performance, and if by correlating purpose and business performance outcomes, can Salesforce reach future social impact goals faster?

By surveying over 200 employees across four departments, we found:

  • Employees that participated in pro bono versus general volunteering demonstrated a 5% higher purpose score
  • Employees that used Salesforce products in the community felt more job satisfaction and had higher engagement in their work
  • Teams that had higher participation in pro bono volunteering demonstrated higher engagement
  • High pro bono participation correlated with high purpose
  • High-purpose teams correlated with high engagement

The pilot illustrated an earlier point regarding ESG versus purpose. Teams were not participating out of obligation to satisfy Salesforce’s commitment to its stakeholders. Instead, employees felt empowered to act on their purpose because they felt that their leaders were authentically committed to helping them find more purpose at work.  Further, their ability to explore and use Salesforce products to help their community led to more job satisfaction and team engagement, even as their sense of purpose evolved. 

Being able to see the link between engagement and purpose gives team leaders a new tool to build higher performing teams. Through this study, a clear opportunity for Salesforce leadership has emerged: Prioritizing community impact through pro bono volunteering will give their teams more pride in their work, higher job satisfaction, and a feeling of more belonging with their teams.

Whole Organization Strategy

While we have so many tools to measure financial performance, most leaders do not know how to measure stakeholder engagement (employees in this case). Our study with Salesforce illustrates the utility of using employee pulsing and tracking purpose sentiment, and how it relates to material benefits like employee engagement.  

As organizations look to reimagine their scorecards of performance, what might the future hold for this type of work? To go deeper and understand the role of purpose at the level of the entire enterprise, an even more comprehensive approach to measurement could include:

  • Industry datasets that allow us to compare real performance against how we are perceived
  • Proactive crisis management – a disparity in public sentiment towards a company versus their actual scores can signal a looming crisis that can be averted with the right adjustments 
  • Analytical tools find the pain points and determine where resources should be reallocated 

As we look to the future, and try to proactively navigate economic uncertainty, trust will become a key indicator of performance. By investing in purpose, and mobilizing employees to act on what matters to them, companies can increase their organizational resilience and build trust with all of their stakeholders. 

Learn more about the Salesforce.org Pro Bono Program. And for more reading about pro bono volunteering, check out this post: 4 Ways Pro Bono Service Impacts Volunteers, Companies, Nonprofits, and Schools.


Haider is Co-Founder and CEO of MAHA Global, setting overall strategy, building AI for purpose, and serving corporate changemakers by helping them make smarter stakeholder decisions and operationalize their strategies faster and more efficiently. 

Most recently, Haider has worked on refining MAHA’s Purpose Algorithm, developing its Stakeholder Intelligence Platform and working directly with dozens of Fortune 500 clients, helping them optimize their pro-social and pro-environmental initiatives. He has been invited to speak on Corporate Purpose at several events including Davos and UN Global Goals Week. 

Haider resides in Marin County, CA, with his wife and three kids. His family loves hiking, camping, cycling, photography, and any excuse to adventure outside in nature.