The year 2029 is off to a flying start and is the occasion for the traditional balance sheets. Last year, Apple celebrated the 20th anniversary of the iPhone (which no longer has much in common with the one the older among us have known), entomovorous restaurants have blossomed in the streets of Paris and the Hyperloop Brussels-Toulouse line has entered the test phase. But at the beginning of this year, I would like to take up the pen to evoke a phenomenon that is more and more important in companies today and which has largely exploded in 2028, from SMEs to large groups: most CEOs are starting to change their title to CPO. CPO? For Chief Purpose Officer.
ITen years ago, in September 2018, I wrote on a subject entitled "Stop making responsibility a peripheral issue", and I dared not hope that it would be, in some ways, so prophetic. Together, I propose to retrace the path of meaning, responsibility and ethics, which have become central in organizations whereas in 2018 they were peripheral and confined to a department of internal communication or CSR, with little real impact.
Before going into the details of how this happened, I would like to propose an analogy that takes us even further back. 20-25 years ago, in the 2000s, digital was the preserve of two departments: IT and Marketing. Today, you would look with big eyes at anyone in the company who would tell you that digital is not their concern. It's the same thing that has happened with accountability in recent years. There are 3 main reasons for this.
No one buys products that are harmful to society anymore.
The first reason is economic: it is the growing importance of the notion of transparency in our society and the difficulty for companies to conceal actions that are at the limit of legality and ethics. The application of " IzeatGood? "has been downloaded 49 million times in France since its launch at the end of 2019. I imagine that you can't imagine shopping without this app either, which evaluates each product according to the practices of the company that sells it. You have no doubt heard about their project to develop - in partnership with the Government - an app that will allow citizens to vote for the companies they consider the most ethical? Do you know that those with the lowest scores will be fined?
Just before 2020, we began to understand that, since money was the sinews of war, if we wanted things to change, we had to give power to the consumer-citizen. This was not stupid, because that's how companies began to put the social and environmental impact of their supply, production and distribution chains at the heart of their mission, to make them virtuous spaces, with respect for all stakeholders...and the planet.
Good practices are strongly encouraged by the State.
The second reason is political: the State has decided to ally itself with economic actors in subjects such as the fight against social inequalities or ecology, because it cannot solve all problems alone. The IMPACT law, effective since 1 January 2027, clearly illustrates this. As a reminder, it states, in essence, that part of the taxes collected is now redistributed to companies that take action and obtain concrete results on the issues defined by the legal framework.
The initial spin-offs are quite positive, with CAC 40 groups joining forces with the Food Banks and making their supply chains available, for example. The President of the European Commission has also announced that she is going to initiate a procedure to generalize the French example to all the States of the European Union.
We now vote with our resumes
So the CEO becomes CPO for an economic reason, it's logical, for a political reason, since that's the meaning of history, but the third and most important reason, it's human: it's you and me, and all the other French employees. There was that moment, just before 2020 as well, when we were fed up with not being heard either by the public authorities or by companies. So we voted with our CVs. Remember the manifesto signed at the time by 20 000 students from the grandes écoles who committed themselves to no longer working for polluting companies.
Sincerely, in a context where more and more companies are making real efforts to transform their business - and it is these companies that are performing better - who would want to work for a group that clearly displays the fact that it does not care about social and environmental issues? The proof is that, as you know, a major food group has just closed down even though it had a turnover of tens of billions of euros at the end of 2010, because the best employees left following the acquisition of another company that was controversial because of its products that were particularly harmful to the environment.
Overall, to attract the best talent today, we need to give them a territory to express their need for meaning and commitment. At Fabernovel, for the past three years we have been implementing a precise calculation of the time saved thanks to artificial intelligence and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and this time is transformed into skills patronage credits for social entrepreneurs and associations of their choice who are changing the world on their own scale!
In 10 years, everything has changed
So here's where we are. In the past, the idea of profitability was systematically opposed to that of responsibility. Basically, a business that made money was a business that at one point or another in the chain operated someone or something.
Finally, against all expectations, major groups began to take the measure of global issues over the long term because they understood that capital could be linked to a positive social impact. Today, we are in 2029 and everything has changed: if I make money, it's because I'm doing good!
Back in 2019: today, there are about forty people on LinkedIn with the following title "Chief Purpose Officer. A small handful of them are the managers or founders of their companies or subsidiaries.
With this article, I am betting that this phenomenon should largely develop in the next few years (under this or another CPO name) and that the companies that will be successful in the 2020s will be those that have seriously embraced this subject, in an integrated and strategic manner. Shall we meet again in 10 years' time? Same day, same time...
Arthur Massonneau, Senior Change Maker, Fabernovel
Arthur Massonneau supports companies in their cultural and digital transformation and leads an ecosystem of partners (startups, experts, researchers, etc.). Passionate about innovation, he is committed to exploring the influence of new technologies and new modes of consumption on our society, and seeking the best ways to build an equitable future.