How to find your Karma: Co-designing a purpose-led business

At Zano our motto is to ‘Think Big, Be Brave and Drive Change’ and over the summer we have focused on how to give businesses a co-creation toolkit and complementary technology to enable them to become more purpose-driven — finding their Karma.

We have been user testing with a number of medium sized businesses doing what we do best, listening and co-creating something that we know will enable businesses to find a starting point focusing on the issues that matter most to both their internal (staff team) and external (everyone else linked to the business) stakeholders.

What businesses are becoming aware of is a new ‘tsunami of change’, with individual customers demanding more ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products, corporate customers increasingly demanding more information to satisfy corporate ESG reporting, changes to government regulation and policy and finally a new generation of employees who want to work in a purpose driven business and are not driven by money alone. At Zano, I have monitored these emerging trends and reported on them over the last few years. From this learning, we have blended that social innovation and co-creation knowledge with technology to produce Karma.

During this co-design there are two key questions that we are asked all the time: (1) why Karma? and (2) where did this all come from?

Firstly, we think that Karma is the right term for a toolkit and technology that can help a business find its true purpose or what Michael Porter calls ‘shared value’ and John Elkington calls the triple bottom line — Social, Environment and Economic (People, Planet, Profit). Also, if we look at what the true definition of Karma is (not the westernised one!) it is: “the destiny that you earn through your actions and behaviour. When you behave kindly, this is an example of a situation where you earn good karma that will result in good things happening to you in the future.” So, our aim is to support businesses to find their Karma.

Secondly, our work has come about over years of working within social innovation and researching key concepts around corporate social innovation, sustainability, purpose led business, CSR and ESG — yes there is a difference between them all and our focus is on the purpose led business approaches or what John Mackey and Raj Sisodia call Conscious Capitalism.

Karma is borne out of recent reports and prototyping that I undertook for Matrix and the Young Foundation through my ‘six imperatives pathway’ and ‘social jam’ modelling. My starting point was to ask how we build a simple, workable model that businesses can use to serve their shareholders, employees and at the same time add value to society, the environment, and their local communities?

The key choke point was our understanding of what community is, but to me this is clear: ‘A common perception is that communities relate to just people (residents) living in or associated with that community. However, communities are much more complex by nature and should consider the networks and micro-movements within that community. These may include the following: informal (people), non-profit organisations, social enterprises, educational establishments, business, government and associated statutory organisations. These micro-movements are inter-linked into a local community eco-system impacting directly and indirectly on each other. These local communities also link into wider regional communities and so forth. No one micro-movement should be treated in isolation when identifying ways to create social, environmental change and positive impact for people and the planet.’

It is critical to acknowledge that at a time of decreasing government support in developed nations, building back a better society post-COVID and significant demographic and societal shifts, communities are becoming increasingly fragile with increasing levels of inequality (e.g., youth unemployment, poverty, ageing population etc.) and rising environmental issues that will eventually impact on local business. Businesses are intertwined in the community ecosystem, providing employment, training purchasing from local suppliers and income (salaries) distribution within local communities and micro-businesses (e.g., hairdressers, corner shops etc.). These bigger SMEs can be viewed in many ways as ‘anchoring the community’.

However, in recent years, there has been growing recognition that increasing inequality in local communities will be a significant threat to business (e.g., lack of skills, educational attainment, etc.). To date, many businesses have focused on corporate social responsibility which may be well-intentioned and aligned in some part to the ethos of the business but have limited impact on the local communities that the business is anchoring. Many businesses are also rushing headlong into embedding ESG software that measures everything — that is fine, but do you need all that data just because it is there? Businesses need to understand what its impact is on their local community (social and environmental) and build a detailed understanding of what the issues in that community are. Only then, once it has connected through deep listening in the community, can the senior management team identify a ‘common purpose’, aligning its social and environmental aims with the community and leading to effective co-creation. Once business can do this, we have a chance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030.

So, it is only natural that business should take a moment to reflect and recalibrate towards a more purpose driven business agenda or what Bill Burnett and Dave Evans call an ‘Odyssey Plan’. Karma is a three stage plan for business: Re-calibrate, Collaborate , Rewire, utilising an innovative new sense-making platform collecting crucial insights from internal and external stakeholders, enabling businesses to make effective and meaningful decisions (with complete buy-in and transparency), leading to the identification of key social and environmental challenges that will have a positive impact on the local community, deliver results aligned to global SDGs and long term sustainability of the business.

By implementing this new Karma methodology and following the revised six imperatives pathway, business will be better prepared to understand the requirements to become a more purpose led organisation. As always, we are keen to learn and collaborate with our peers and if any of this resonates, please get in touch:


Kramer, M. & Porter, M. (2006) “Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility” Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Kramer, M. & Porter, M. (2011) “Creating Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth” Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Burnett, B. & Evans, D (2016) “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Mackey, J. & Sisodia, R. (2014) “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Warnock, R. (2016) “Sustainable Shared Value: Business Driven Economic Growth with a Moral Compass. Belfast: Matrix —

Young, D & Gerard, M. (2021) “Four Steps to Sustainable Business Model Innovation” Boston: Boston Consulting Group