For Penny Pennington, leader of Edward Jones – the FORTUNE 500 financial services company – actions speak louder than words. When she recently shared the progress the company was making with its program to address racism and positively impact opportunities for people of color, she made it very clear that there is no excuse to fail to deliver on purpose commitments, saying “our commitment to inclusion and diversity transcends platitudes and promises.”1

Moving purpose from a carefully crafted statement to action and results requires investment commitment and a willingness to have difficult conversations, however uncomfortable that may be. “Take the five-point commitment to address racism and positively impact opportunities for people of color that we launched in 2020,” she explains. “We conducted a pay equity study; we have committed to unconscious bias training and anti-racism training; and we have made investments in organizations like the Urban League in St. Louis, which is making a huge difference in providing opportunity and reducing inequity in our own community. And, importantly, we promised to give everyone a voice. Now, that’s a pretty big promise, right? But, we committed to a series of courageous conversations, and over 12,000 of us have participated in online meetings where we have what are sometimes very uncomfortable conversations about race, our experiences, and how we were brought up.” 

For Penny Pennington, delivering on purpose is also a leadership imperative. “I feel that I have a particular opportunity and responsibility to be the embodiment of our purpose and what we’re seeking to do in the world,” she says. “And that embodiment comes in the way that I talk about our ambition. I believe that it is my job to set the ambition level of the organization, and then it’s my job to help foster the conditions that enable that ambition to be met. And so I have to be the one that isn’t just talking about what we’re seeking to do through our purpose, but actually living it.” 

She also points out that while delivering on purpose is about societal impact, it is also about delivering tangible value for the company and driving improvements in performance and productivity. “Last year, when we re-articulated our purpose statement, we of course asked ourselves why we were taking time to start this conversation in the midst of a period of great anxiety, when we have clients to serve, technology to transform, and new products to develop,” she explains. “And the answer is that as we have talked about our purpose, and galvanized around it, that has raised our ambition level. It’s made us more growth-oriented. It’s helped us innovate even faster, because we are forced to recognize that we’ve got big work to do if we want to achieve what we have set out to accomplish through our purpose. Our ambitious purpose is actually going to help us be more competitive, more differentiated and more useful to more people. And that’s what leaders want. That’s what colleagues want. That’s what investors and consumers want our company to be.” 

Unless otherwise indicated, throughout this report, “we”, “KPMG”, “us” and “our” refer to the network of independent member firms operating under the KPMG name and affiliated with KPMG International or to one or more of these firms or to KPMG International.

CEO profiles

1Edward Jones Shares One-year Update and Progress on Five-Point Commitment to Address Racism and Positively Impact Opportunities for People of Colour”, Edward Jones, June 15, 2021.