What Is a Mission Statement?

Definition and Examples of a Mission Statement

Executive discusses her plan at business meeting
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A mission statement is a brief description of an entity's fundamental purpose. It answers the question, "Why does our business (or nonprofit or government agency) exist?" The mission statement articulates the company's purpose both for those in the organization and for the public.

Learn more about how a company crafts its mission statement, what makes a mission statement successful, and some examples from major companies.

What Is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement is a sentence or short paragraph that defines the existence of a business, nonprofit, government organization, or any other entity. Mission statements get at the heart of why a company exists, rather than how it exists. In other words, a mission statement isn't a business plan that explains how the entity will turn a profit; it's a statement that defines the motivation for trying to turn a profit in the first place.

It's also important to avoid confusing a mission statement with a vision statement. The difference is that a mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future. A mission statement answers the question "Who are we?" and the vision statement answers the question "Where are we going?"

Examples of Mission Statements

Here are the mission statements of some well-known companies and government entities.

  • Amazon: "Our mission is to be Earth's most customer-centric company. This is what unites Amazonians across teams and geographies as we are all striving to delight our customers and make their lives easier, one innovative product, service, and idea at a time."
  • Tesla: "Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."
  • Costco: "Here at Costco, we have a very straightforward, but important mission: to continually provide our members with quality goods and services at the lowest possible prices."
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): "Provide America's taxpayers top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all."
  • General Services Administration (GSA): "Deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across government."

Many mission statements change and evolve over the years. It's a good practice to establish a mission statement from the start, but be sure you consistently review it to ensure it expresses your organizational purpose as you would articulate it today.

How Mission Statements Work

The mission statement definition itself is often the result of group consensus effort, and writing a mission statement can be a valuable team-building exercise. Once formed, the statement can then be distributed as a quick way to describe the broad goals of the entity.

Every business should have a mission statement, both as a way of ensuring that everyone in the organization is "on the same page" and to serve as a baseline for effective business planning.

Because mission statements are part of a company's public face, they are also often used in a company's marketing. Businesses frequently include them in the bio section of their website, for instance. Sometimes, a company's mission statement even becomes the core of its advertising campaigns.

Properly crafted, a mission statement can lend a strategic focus to an organization and motivate employees to work together toward a common goal. Poorly crafted mission statements, on the other hand, often consist of the latest buzzwords or business jargon and have unrealistic or unattainable goals, which can negatively affect employee morale.

Having a coherent, realistic mission statement is fundamental to engaging your employees and fulfilling your corporate goals. You can work to improve the strength of your mission statement by gathering employee input during the crafting phase. That helps create a sense of unity and shared ownership in the mission statement. You can also explicitly recognize the talents and contributions of your employees in the mission statement.

Key Takeaways

  • A mission statement briefly describes the goals and purpose of a business, nonprofit, government agency, or some other entity.
  • As opposed to a business plan, which addresses the how of a business, the mission statement addresses the why.
  • A well-crafted mission statement can inform marketing efforts and create a sense of unity among employees.

Article Sources

  1. Amazon. "Come Build the Future With Us." Accessed June 22, 2020.

  2. Tesla. "About Tesla." Accessed June 22, 2020.

  3. Costco. "What Is Costco's Mission Statement and Code of Ethics?" Accessed June 22, 2020.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "The Agency, Its Mission and Statutory Authority." Accessed June 22, 2020.

  5. General Services Administration. "Mission and Strategic Goals." Accessed June 22, 2020.