Millennial Minds: Lean in and listen

Published on March 2, 2021

I am embarrassed to admit that at the conclusion of my environmental science class in high school, my thoughts were consumed by how to suppress the devastating facts I’d just learned. I had been taught about how our consumption of greenhouse gases was destroying entire ecosystems, causing the mass extinction of animals, disproportionately harming poorer nations and communities, and I had been fed grim predictions for the future of our planet. What I had not been taught, however, was how to prevent this dismal destiny. I had not been taught about the companies bringing solar energy to remote villages, or the advances in plant-based food production, or the resiliency species displayed when hunting regulations afforded them the chance to repopulate.

Getting away with it

Published on January 15, 2021

Once upon a time, an enterprising young businessman bought a large amount of corn and set sail from Alexandria to Rhodes to sell it at a time when corn was particularly expensive in Rhodes due to a shortage brought about by famine. But what if he knew that his wasn’t the only ship on its way to Rhodes, and that just a day behind his ship was a whole fleet of ships with more corn than the people of Rhodes would ever need?

Peddling the purpose paddle

Published on January 30, 2020

So, Larry Fink has posted his annual letter, rightly called into question by the ever-alert Economist. Greta Thunberg has again castigated the great and the good at the annual bash in Davos and Donald, the leading defender of the status quo is carrying on being, well, Donald.

Welcome to 2020.

There be dragons - or are they dinosaurs?

Published on November 12, 2019

Dragons Den*, the international reality TV franchise that came out of Japan in 2006 and pits fund seeking entrepreneurs against celebrity seeking venture capitalists was on Canada’s public broadcast channel CBC last week. ‘Cleaning up with a dragon’ and similar whoo-hoo one-liners introduced an ‘Up-cycle Special’ featuring fledgling businesses setting out to make the world a better place.

I happened to be in Montreal with my Canadian partners Umalia and as part of our week I spent one morning talking to the founders of the business which would set the den on fire that very night.

Raising the purpose banner (again) is only the start

Published on July 22, 2019

It’s great to see my partners @MartinJenkins and their clients in New Zealand making strides forwards (see here). It is progress when communications and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teams unite under the purpose banner*. But to deliver sustainable success for all it is critical that Executive Teams and their Board’s grasp the initiative and hot-wire purpose into the core of their business strategy. When that happens purpose is elevated and given the status it requires to affect real change. It subsumes old school generic mission/vision statements and becomes THE Single Organising Idea (SOI), of the business and the ecosystem it both influences and relies upon.

“Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what will happen in 2050?”

Published on June 23, 2019

Last week the UK government rejected all 18 of the recommendations put to it by a committee established to investigate, amongst other concerns, the negative impacts of the world’s second largest polluter - fast fashion. Meanwhile in Brussels the European Union was incapable of uniting to set a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050 and over in Canada the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, gave the go ahead for the completion a controversial oil pipeline that will help ensure the survival of our world’s first placed polluter.

To boldly go where we’ve not been before doesn’t need to be a leap of faith

Published on May 8, 2019

Sometimes the future is not hard to predict - it’s totally logical. Widely cited, Star Trek’s Chief of Logic (COL), Spock nailed it when he said that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” If we are bold and if we act now to change our organisations and our systems we will help ensure that future generations do that other thing the pointy-eared one said and “Live long and prosper.” Some people who hold the key to realising that future seem to be finally getting the message.

Purpose without total commitment is meaningless

Published on February 12, 2019

Prof. Ioannou’s latest article on sustainability and strategy in the Harvard Business Review confirms that companies can do well by doing good. “Our exploratory results confirm that the adoption of strategic sustainability practices is significantly and positively associated with both return on capital and market valuation multiples, even after accounting for the focal firm’s past financial performance.” This is good news but how should companies react to this news? The article goes on to suggest that companies considering the adoption of sustainability practices are arriving at a cross roads that questions their motivation “are we doing this to survive or compete”. Of course it is both.

The time for business to act is now

Published on October 8, 2018

On the 25th September 2015 in New York a document entitled Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was endorsed by the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly. The Agenda set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets covering a range of issues facing humanity including action on ending poverty, combating hunger, universally improving health and education, making our cities more sustainable, tackling climate change and protecting our oceans and forests.

If progress is this way, where is your business - in the vanguard, main-guard or rearguard?

Published on May 24, 2018

Earlier this month Unilever announced that 70% of its turnover growth now comes from an increasing stable of brands that have successfully defined or redefined their purpose and aligned themselves with the core Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). That’s up 10% on the previous year and comes hand-in-hand with what FT commentator Matthew Vincent described as a positive quarterly result. ‘Positive’ may not excite the parts of the short-term brigade other businesses can reach, but if your core purpose is to be a force for good that benefits all stakeholders (human and non-human), it’s a great result.

Not all systems are bad – just the ones that dehumanise us

Published on March 23, 2018

Image ©2018 Neil Gaught

I’m pretty sure that if you asked the vast majority of Facebook employees about their organization’s core purpose, they wouldn’t say that it’s to make money at any cost. Yet right now, for the rest of us, it’s begun to feel as though that’s exactly what its core purpose has become.

For me this is because Facebook is yet another example of a human-created system that ultimately dehumanizes us. It has turned connection, emotion and community into so much digital code to be mined. This is because, just like the stock markets we've created, the system has come to value making money above all else.

Looking back, I predict a riot

Published on December 21, 2017

Image ©2017 Neil Gaught

December is traditionally a time for reflection on the year just passed and for predictions on the new one ahead.

Here are mine.

In the second half of 2017 I went round the world promoting my book Core, and at the same time trying to understand what stands in the way of businesses identifying, defining and implementing a core strategy that would make them a force for good. I wanted to find out why doing good some of the time (read ‘when it suits them’), can’t progress to doing good all of the time.

Learning lessons in Lebanon

Published on November 6, 2017

Photo by Fares Jammal

As with technology, businesses in emerging economies have the opportunity to leapfrog the bolton CSR efforts and ad-hoc philanthropy of the developed world and put sustainability at the core of their enterprises straight way.

On an airplane climbing out of Beirut’s milky early morning sunshine, it was hard not to contrast my experiences there with the Core Debates held two weeks earlier in New York and DC.[1]

Heading to Utopia on purpose

Published on October 17, 2017

The first part of the latest leg of my CORE book tour took me to Boston, Toronto and Montreal. Along the way I encountered long-time campaigners with pipe dreams for a sustainable Shangri-La and business leaders with an increasing curiosity about what lies beyond ‘purpose’.

My first stop landed me in the middle of Sustainatopia – not a place but an event, this year held in Boston. I was there as a plenary speaker supported by my sometimes tour partner, the Ipsos Sustainable Development Research Centre.

How day-old Danish pastries turned a Norwegian supermarket philosophy on its head

Published on September 22, 2017

This is the story of how Martin Beyer helped change the direction and purpose of one of Norway’s largest supermarket chains. I met Martin when I was promoting my book CORE with Pure Consulting in Oslo last month.

Quite simply – while working in the supermarket’s bakery department – Martin couldn’t help noticing that every day a lot of not-quite-fresh food, such as loaves of bread, buns and Danish pastries, was thrown away.

People don’t get it - but business can help

Published on September 1, 2017

15 Core Dinner Debates have been planned around the world so far

Here’s a problem: People don’t get sustainable development. Thankfully there’s a solution.

Last week it was my great pleasure to be in Oslo to host the second CORE Dinner Debate with my friends and colleagues from Pure Consulting, Norway’s leading sustainability consultancy, and Ipsos’ Sustainable Development Research Centre.

“Single Organizing Idea is a very powerful tool. It forces you to combine the business purpose and sustainability goal of your company and to take these into the heart of your business strategy.”
Gerjo Scheringa, CEO Euro Pool Group
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