Breaking Through the Other Side
Oh, what a night: champagne upon arrival, a bubbling hot tub in the garden bar and great live music, all set within the urban-chic surrounds of Proud Camden. Like any atmospheric event, the venue, music and environ contribute only part of the magic; the concoction of people a vital contributor. And what a vibrant mix of forward-thinking entrepreneurs, thought leaders and cultural provocateurs there were at last week’s launch party of the UK’s B-Corps (Benefit Corporations). This cohort of companies join a fast-growing global community of more than 1,400 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and 130 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
Bart Houlahan, the founder of B-Labs (a non-profit focused on making for-profit businesses a force for good in the world) spoke passionately about how capitalism is transforming in front of our very eyes, and how being a B-Corp is not just about changing the organisation’s legal constitution from a focus on shareholders to serving all stakeholders, including society and the environment. It is about being part of a community of like-minded, life-serving innovators: business people who seek to create real value for present and future generations. This kindred-spirited community provides a nurturing space for sharing stories, experiences and learnings across sectors and sizes (by example Ben & Jerry’s, Method, Patagonia, Etsy, Seventh Generation, Swarm, The Big Issue and Volans are all certified B-Corps). Such a forward-thinking community is prototyping the future while dealing with the challenges of the day, ensuring our organizations do not simply survive the volatile seas ahead but thrive, going beyond merely limiting negative impact toward regenerative business enhancing the fabric of life. This is not utopian pipe-dream talk; it’s the practical reality of people rolling-up their sleeves as they manifest soul-dreams today.
Alluring as it was to be caught up in the electric excitement of this launch party, many of us shared with our compatriots on the night how this movement, and others like it, is symptomatic of something deep and profound emerging within us, our teams, our organizations, our communities: an emancipation of our innate human potential from the imprisonment of yesterday’s logic (the logic of trade-offs, of take-make-waste linearity, of Social Darwinist separateness and dog-eat-dog competition). Forward-thinking folk know only too well the carcinogenic corrosiveness of narrowly focusing on shareholder value, short-term profit maximisation, dominate-or-be-dominated dictums and self-serving strategies. And so, at one level, this B-Corp amendment of corporate constitution is simply good business sense getting the better of our individualistic insanity.
John Elkington (founder of Volans and the originator of the triple-bottom-line concept back in 1994) points out that capitalism must now transform its out-dated mind-sets, metrics and measures in order to adapt to future landscapes now drawing near. In the same breath, this shift afoot speaks to something quite beyond anything the metricizing mind is capable of capitalizing. The very dominance of the metricizing mind a hallmark of yesterday’s logic, not that of our emerging future. Yes we need holistic metrics, yet what is emerging here is quite beyond metrics.
Breakfast seminars, think tanks, conferences, research papers, expert roundtables and evening launch parties espouse ‘hot topics’ (purposeful business, managing complexity, CSR, climate change, the Millennial Age, wellbeing at work, regenerative economics, conscious leadership, and so on). These ‘hot topics’ are not disparate issues competing for our attention; they are all symptoms of a shift in our organizing logic and underlying worldview, a metamorphosis which calls forth a deeper perception of how we relate with ourselves, each other and the very fabric of life. So often, fighting through our frenetic schedules, we miss the forest for the trees; we narrow-in on the fragments and symptoms while overlooking the inter-relational profundity of these paradigmic times. Our very ideologies underpinning how we operate and organize are being replaced; our sense of place and purpose in the world is being challenged at deep and partly unconscious levels, testing and challenging us while emancipating and evolving us toward richer and wiser outcomes.
Put simply, the old worldview has had its day, no longer capable of dealing with the challenges and dynamisms now upon us; a new one is being born amid its breakdown. The future of business is our waking up to the reality that our organizations are living, emergent systems immersed within our living, emergent social systems immersed within the emergent inter-relationality of our more-than-human world. Firms of the future flourish in these volatile times by embracing unceasing transformation while remaining true to what it really means to be human. The more aligned we become to our true nature, and to the true nature of life, the more we consciously allow our naturally creative, heartfelt, soulful, passionate and compassionate ways of organizing and operating to take root in our organizations. This is the birthing of a new evolutionary stage of human consciousness no less. What an exciting time to be engaged the future of business.
Thought leader, author and adviser Giles Hutchins is co-hosting a unique collective inquiry into Good Business at Schumacher College, UK on 2nd-6th November.
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