“When pushed, societies have prioritised health first and foremost, and then looked to deal with the economic consequences. In this crisis, we know we need to act as an interdependent community not independent individuals, so the values of economic dynamism and efficiency have been joined by those of solidarity, fairness, responsibility and compassion. All this amounts to a test of stakeholder capitalism. When it’s over, companies will be judged by “what they did during the war”, how they treated their employees, suppliers and customers, by who shared and who hoarded”
This is a powerful quote from this months economist by the recently departed Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. I always quite liked the guy and agree with him up to a point. I do think companies will be judged by what they did “during the war”, however the question on my mind is “which war and when did it start?” Yes of course we are seeing the current pandemic drive all sorts of corporate behavior that we haven’t seen before. But it has to be about much more than just treating your employees or customers well, improving payment terms for suppliers and the likes. These are the basics. So-called hygiene factors if you will. Business leaders, particularly of the largest global corporations, should be asking themselves, “does our business solve a societal problem or help in some way to make the world a better place?”. To extend Carney’s analogue, there are plenty of battles out there that need to be won. The fight against poverty, rampant inequality, access to health, education and the like, that are characterised by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that business has largely turned a blind eye towards. There are some exceptions of course, but most Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) or compliance driven sustainability initiatives are tantamount to surrendering without even starting to fight. Arguably the biggest “war” we will face is climate change and to date, business has been largely confined to barracks.
Ok, I’ll leave the war metaphors there. What’s my answer?
Well, regulars may recall that I shared some of my thinking in the April’s Bullog which I expanded the thinking into an OpEd or short column in The Scotsman, “How the Covid 19 crisis has created opportunity”. It argues that when business takes off the short-term commercial pressures of quarterly earnings and empowers creative and motivated employees , we start to see fantastic innovations emerge. I’ve long argued that societal challenges such as the SDGs can often be business opportunities in disguise. The scale of the commercial opportunity was even estimated to be up to $12 trillion according to a report by the UN Business Commission. Yes, I applaud whoever in LVMH proposed making hand sanitiser instead of perfume. Or the bright spark in H&M who came up with the idea to make facemasks in a Chinese factory that would normally make clothing. Could that morph into a highly profitable business in medical clothing perhaps? Who knows. But businesses who want to be on the right side of history in the long run, will use this current crisis as an opportunity for profound transformation, not a short-term PR opportunity.
Fattening the curve?
How are you all coping with the new “abnormal”? Bingeing on Netflix series? Are you “zoomed out” from constant virtual meetings? Maybe you’re eating or drinking your way through it or as some wit described it, “fattening the curve”.
One might think that with the current lockdown, there wouldn’t be too much to talk about and you would have a nice short, succinct Bullog this month. Well, not really, although I am going to try to keep these epistles slightly shorter in future as I know you have lots of other things to read. Ironically, I do find myself still quite busy with one thing and other although trying hard to balance the doing with the being.
Or “Surthriving” the lockdown?
The Craigberoch Cast and me held a fun event at the Skoll Virtual Forum entitled “Deceleration: the fastest way to drive social change in business?” and to our great delight, ended up having over 300 people sign up. How to make the most of the current enforced deceleration is a theme that appears to really resonate.
However, this event was really just the movie trailer for the Craigberoch LIVE: Virtual Decelerator Lab, which took place from the 21st to the 23rd of April. As I mentioned in the April Bullog, I was quite skeptical about how much of an event, which is very much around physical presence, could be brought to the virtual world. The answer exceeded not only my own, but most people’s expectations, cast and participants alike. Sure, there are certain things that are just impossible to do virtually, such as accessing the fresh air and beauty of nature. However, some things are actually better done on a virtual platform, including the ability to bring in trainers from all around the world without burning any carbon. Yoga, meditations and even improv comedy worked remarkably well and the feedback has been very positive indeed. Sessions were spaced out across three afternoons, with optional meditations in the evening and an informal debrief over dinner, with some beautiful “live” music. This allowed people to take part while balancing other work or family commitments.
We will certainly do more such events and try different formats and I could see Craigberoch LIVE becoming a permanent part of our repertoire. To stay informed of future events or to register interest in our next physical Decelerator Lab on Bute 19-23rd October (fingers crossed), visit the events page of our website.
Best of the rest
In terms of other things that are keeping me busy at home, I’ve joined a small task force to support the first ever Global Intrapreneur Week, which will take place from 8-12th June. This is being organised by The League of Intrapreneurs, but is a cross-platform event involving other Intrapreneurship networks such as The Aspen Institute’s First Movers Programme, the Schwab Foundation, Yunus Social Business. The event will focus on all aspects of intrapreneurship and should have plenty of inspiring speakers and stories.
Besides this and the decelerator, I continue to do a bit of consulting with a couple of clients, but of course that has all now gone virtual now too.
On the social front…….
I must admit that I do miss meeting up with friends in the pub or going to people’s houses for dinner. However, on the plus side, the weather has been amazing in Geneva and I’ve been managing to get out on my bike a lot to enjoy stunning views of Mont Blanc and of course, to walk Penny the Dog in the fields. Highlights on the social side include my friends Chris and Olly’s virtual wedding. The main shindig (Scottish term) due to be held in Glasgow had been cancelled, but a few friends managed to get together on zoom and record a surprise tribute to the happy couple over a glass of champagne. Wee Marj’s (my mother) 80th Birthday Party also went viral… sorry I meant virtual, although the cake as you can see, was certainly very real. Sadly I got to eat none of it as even Zoom can’t yet offer an online chocolate cake experience.
Looking to the month ahead, I’m going to continue the health routine offered by two of our Craigberoch cast members, by attending Emma Ryan’s online yoga sessions for 30mins each morning and have signed up for Mander Apte’s 4 day meditation programme this week which he taught to 2000 innovators in Shell. Why not join me for both?
That’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here. Until next month,
* The Bullog = Bulloch + BlogMake sense? Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.