Pursuing a Purpose That Embraces All Our Stakeholders

COVID-19’s grave public health, economic, and geopolitical consequences have underscored how interdependent the world’s people, countries, and institutions are. This pandemic has also emphasized the urgency of international cooperation and collective innovation to solve a complex global problem. While humankind’s interdependence is hardly a new concept, it remains a lesson human beings keep relearning, particularly in times of crisis like the present moment.

If you have the privilege of leading a large, growing business, you know how interdependent your company is with the world. You recognize that your company’s sustained success depends on the progress and prosperity of those inside and outside of your organization. At Cognizant, we pay close attention to how well we’re meeting our responsibilities to all of our stakeholders — employees, clients, partners, communities, shareholders, and more.

Our company’s longstanding empathy for the world outside our “walls” is why I joined 181 CEOs who, one year ago, signed the Business Roundtable’s refined and expanded Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation — a commitment to delivering value to all of a company’s stakeholders. I believe that modern businesses, to be fit for the 21st century, must measure their success by more than the single indicator of financial returns and be a force for good in the world.

To their credit, Cognizant’s founders invested in fostering a sustainable future for the company as well as for the constituencies and communities we serve. Over the past year, however, and particularly in response to the COVID era, we have moved our practice of stakeholder capitalism into higher gear.

That commitment begins, of course, with prioritizing the health and safety of our employees as we carefully monitor the spread of the pandemic. For a company like ours that competes on its knowledge and skills, everything of value we create for clients, investors, and communities comes from our 280,000 employees. To encourage their insights, imagination, and engagement, and to mirror the perspectives of the diverse clients and communities we serve, we continue to drive diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. Doing so strengthens our ability to innovate and to understand our clients’ needs and aspirations. It’s simply the right thing to do for our employees, clients, and the success of our business.

To ignite the passion of our employees, we recognized the importance of providing a compelling statement of our company’s reason for existence. Therefore, our extended leadership team and I spent several months defining, refining, and communicating what we call the “Cognizant Agenda,” which consists of our company’s new purpose, vision, bold moves, and values. We define our purpose this way: We engineer modern businesses to improve everyday life.

We chose these words with care to explain why we’re in business, what we stand for, and how connected we are to the world. You’ll notice that our statement of purpose makes no mention of financial goals. Instead, it serves as our North Star, keeping us grounded and moving forward while guiding our actions each day. Our purpose also conveys that while we are a B-2-B company, the work we do with and for clients helps improve everyday life for billions of people.

Since our founding more than a quarter century ago, Cognizant has been client-centric to its core. We live to serve our clients. So I was delighted, but not surprised, that our employees, despite all the stress they’ve been under, in many cases juggling childcare and the distractions of home, rose to the considerable challenge of serving our clients with empathy, initiative, and integrity. In keeping with our purpose, they are helping our clients increase their competitiveness through business model and technology innovation. I’ve seen the best of Cognizant rise to the surface in our employees’ relentless dedication to the success of our clients. The evidence of their efforts was visible in our strong second-quarter results.

Our shareholders are another essential stakeholder. To protect their interests, our executive leadership team and Board of Directors worked diligently to refine the company’s strategy and focus, and make the changes and investments needed to reposition Cognizant for accelerated growth and leadership in today’s advanced digital technologies. We recognize that running a responsible business starts with our board and leadership team setting a cultural “tone at the top,” and with all of our employees living our core value to do the right thing, the right way, and always make the ethical choice.

Our company is just as committed to fostering a sustainable future for society. Cognizant and its foundations have a long history of contributing to the health, well-being, education, and progress of the communities in which we live and work. In April 2020, for example, we announced an initial $10 million philanthropic commitment to support communities around the world in addressing COVID-19’s immediate and long-term impacts. The Cognizant U.S. Foundation has already awarded more than $40 million to organizations working to educate and train the next generation of workers in communities across the U.S., and is determined to help address the country’s painful history of racism. The Foundation supports organizations working to ensure communities of color thrive in a 21st century economy and recently committed an additional $5 million to serve these communities.

Two decades ago, the authors of an influential book called Natural Capitalism wrote that “the evidence of our senses is sufficient to tell us that all economic activity — all that human beings are, all that they can ever accomplish — is embedded within the workings of a particular planet.” I see that as an important reminder of the business world’s many interdependencies and responsibility to not only create value for customers and investors, but also add value to peoples’ lives. We’re determined to get progressively better at contributing to the human community and a sustainable world. We will continue to put into practice Business Roundtable’s Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.