Coro’s Blog: On Purpose
The Social Purpose of Associations
Published on September 9, 2022
We’re in a moment of awakening about the role of organizations in society. Organizations are examining what they stand for in a world undergoing fundamental transformation. This includes associations who are at the interface between their members and the stakeholders whose expectations are evolving rapidly as the world grapples with the challenges wrought by the pandemic, climate change, growing social divides and systemic racism.
To better understand the role associations are playing to help their members address these intersecting challenges, a survey was conducted of 13 national U.S. associations representing plastics, forest and paper products, consumer products, commodities, manufacturing, chemistry, printing, agriculture, and construction industries. It used the benchmark conducted in 2021 of Canadian associations: The Sustainable and Just Association: Canadian Benchmark of Association ESG Practices. Central to both surveys is the following rubric that gauged efforts of associations to help their members build their social and environmental practices and to flourish in an uncertain world.
A notable finding of the US survey is that most associations have adopted a societal or social purpose as the reason their association, sector or profession exists. As set out in this Social Purpose Association Toolkit, a social purpose association is an association which exists to support its members to better serve society and the greater public good. A social purpose sector or profession is a sector or profession that exists to benefit society. Most of the associations surveyed who had not yet moved in this direction expressed interest in becoming a “Social Purpose Association”.