If Planet Earth were a business, no executive could look at the metrics — whether melting glaciers or widening income disparity, whether disappearing rainforests or the global economic crisis — and not come to the same conclusion: we need a turnaround. Assuming that NASA’s Mar. 2014 forecasting is right — or even half-right — we’ve got 20 years to stave off irreversible global industrial civilization collapse “due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.” Business leaders see this compelling case for change. And increasingly, many are taking a stand to be accountable for addressing humanity’s challenges. They recognize how we’re all part of this breakdown and are saying it’s time to change the game. Now. For good.
These leaders see that concerns about the future have become so blinkered by deeply entrenched conventional financial parameters that we’ve entirely lost touch with the true purpose of business — to provide value-added goods and services for a socially just, environmentally sustainable and economically thriving world.
That’s why companies like Unilever, Whole Foods, Salesforce and HP are shifting their products and protocols away from ones that maintain disintegrative global trends. Instead, they are leading toward a more interconnected world for the sake of a flourishing future for all stakeholders. They’re awakening to a greater responsibility for generations to come, and in so doing are proving the correlation between doing good and doing well.
As Paul Herman, author of HIP Investor (Human Impact + Profit) says, “We have mounting indisputable evidence that investing in initiatives that serve people and the planet provides a greater economic return than not doing so.” And, they aren’t doing it alone. Some people, like forerunners in social entrepreneurism, responsible investment, and the Corporate Leaders Group saw the signals early. They’ve been working on win-win solutions that deliver returns and serve the world for 10 years and longer.
More recently, creative cross-sector business partnerships like BICEP, the Business Alliance for the Future and We Mean Businessare making their members’ collective voices heard. Others finding new ways to work together and signing on to difference-making social and environmental initiatives include business groups such as BCorp, American Sustainable Business Council, Sustainable Brands, Conscious Capitalism, Huffington Post, Real Leaders, UN Global Compact, World Business Academy and many more.
Individually, these groups are having real impact. Three examples are: Social Venture Network’s Divest-Invest energy campaign, Ceres’ Call for Action on Climate Change, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)’s Vision 2050new agenda for business serving the world. Yet, a critical question remains — are these worthy, noble initiatives happening fast enough, or at a scale large enough to produce the systemic change we need to remedy the breakdowns we face?
This question was asked to leaders of 30 business associations and networks at a gathering of the Business Alliance for the Future earlier this year. All 30 agreed that the answer was “no.” The collective view was there is about 5 years left to turn the raging tide. Many said they’re clear that the business community has the solutions and resources to address our global challenges. But what’s missing, they said, is a way of unifying or working together, in interdependent ways to support aligned organizations. They want to work within business and with other sectors of the economy, to accelerate what’s already happening on the ground.
So what’s needed here is something to fill the gap and create a breakthrough in collaboration to exponentially accelerate needed systemic change — without creating another organization. It’s true that organizations have been working on collaborative cultures, high performance teamwork, coopetition for a few decades. Yet, the collision of immense global challenges with shifting social consciousness and exponential technological change requires totally new human commitments and capacities to think and act in unified and interdependent ways. This world isn’t a dreamscape.
New collaborations are possible, doable, and happening. Just last month, sustainability pioneer Paul Hawken revealed Drawdown.org to show how reversing climate disruption impacts is not just possible, but predictable, if we share solutions that we know already work. And in California, the World Business Academy’ Clean Energy Moonshot is calling for new partnerships across government, business, science and civil society for an audacious, accelerated pathway to 100% clean and renewable energy economy. This new way of thinking about business is the challenge — and opportunity — for our age.
The future of business is making the future its business. By accelerating Business’ Decisive Leap in creating a breakthrough collaborating for good, business will become the engine that pulls us away from the precipice of decline and collapse and toward a future where business, people and nature flourish. To learn more about the work of the authors in the Business Alliance for the Future, visit here.
About the authors Claire Sommer is a sustainability writer based in West Orange, NJ. Since 1999, her business writing consultancy, Kayak Media, has helped Fortune 500 companies tell their stories. Clients include Wyndham Worldwide, Unilever, McGraw Hill, BNY Mellon and Aetna. In recent years, Claire’s work has centered on sustainability writing and helping sustainable businesses grow. She also writes for Greenbiz, Sustainable Brands and Green People Media.
She is a Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward, a NOLs (National Outdoor Leadership School) alumna, and a graduate of the LeaderShip for Sustainability program. Vince DiBianca, senior partner of Praemia Group has worked with thousands of leaders inspired to achieve game changing results that make a world-changing difference – where business excels, people thrive and nature flourishes.
Over the last 40 years, Vince has served as coach and consultant to CEOs and C-suite executives from global organizations including: Allstate, Deloitte, Hughes Aircraft, Men’s Wearhouse, Novartis, Reebok, Sears, Whole Foods, and the United Nations and many smaller organizations. Recognizing that we face a once-in-a-civilization opportunity to impact global change, Vince is spearheading Business Alliance for the Future, an alliance of business associations and global affiliations to advance the emerging “business for good” movement.