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When Life Gives You Mission Statements…

Steve Symington discusses the sincerity of companies' mission statements -- and offers one compelling business doing it right.

February 22, 2021

One of our guiding principles here at 7investing is that we focus on buying companies, not tickers – that is, we recognize that buying a stock represents taking an ownership stake in a real business, and we strive to “invest in good companies that are run by people we also consider to be ‘good company.’”

Reading a company’s mission statement, then, is a great starting point for investors to determine whether that condition holds true. Because when it does – coupled with an otherwise-compelling business model, of course – it often yields exceptional results for all stakeholders, from the company’s employees to customers, shareholders, and in many cases even the broader population.

But it needs to be more than just lip service. I look for companies to deliver tangible progress toward their mission statements over time.

One company delivering on its mission

As for one company whose mission statement is especially compelling to me today? Recently IPO’d insurtech company Lemonade (NYSE: LMND) immediately comes to mind.

For one, Lemonade CEO Daniel Schreiber describes his company as being built “purely on a digital substrate with AI and behavioral economics as our foundations.”

More pertinent to the topic of mission statements, Lemonade also took the unusual step of organizing itself as a public benefit corporation, or B-Corp, the certification of which requires meeting “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

“So although Lemonade seeks to make a profit, our mission is also to be a force for public good,” the company explains on its FAQ page. “Insurance was created to be a social good, and Lemonade’s mission statement is to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good.”

To that end, Lemonade is also unique in that it retains a flat fee of customers’ premiums to ensure it can always pay claims and build its business. Then, if there’s anything left over from the portion of premiums outside of Lemonade’s flat fee at the end of the year, Lemonade donates the money to pre-vetted charities selected by its customers through its annual Giveback program. Though Lemonade is still in its earliest stages of growth, the amount dedicated to its Giveback has rapidly increased since the unique program’s inaugural year in 2017 — and should only continue to soar going forward as the company scales.

Lemonade Giveback chart
Source: Lemonade

To be clear, on the heels of Lemonade’s meteoric rise in recent months, I’ve seen no shortage of skeptical (bearish) investors arguing its intentions (to turn insurance into a social good and donate funds to charity) are insincere, and that Lemonade is little more than another insurance company supported by a slick app interface. But between its extraordinary move to become a certified B-Corp and the tangible results of its Giveback so far, I see no reason to doubt the company’s dedication to its stated mission.

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