It is time for Better Business
Early on in my career (late 1990s) I was responsible for one of the first commercially successful sustainability brands in Sweden (Grumme). It already back then focused on conscious consumers – and parents – with a promise for future generations, and environmentally friendly products, using phosphate- and chlorine-free plant-based ingredients as well as refills and smart packaging to minimize waste. This marked the start of my long journey to explore the potential of what I now simply call Better Business.
I have over the past decade specifically explored a world in accelerating change and its vast consequences for corporate businesses and its leaders. I have deep dived into the areas of strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, change and transformation, as well as into digitalization and sustainability, and the future of organizations. I have now tried to distill the most important learnings in my next book, called Better Business, Better Future (to be published late 2021).
As I recently wrote the preface for the book we had just experienced extreme weather across the globe—from alarming floods in central Europe and China to severe heat and fires in North America, Siberia and Southern Europe; from serious drought in Iran to monstrous monsoons in India. Scientists said that global warming is likeliest the culprit and that its consequences are already having an impact on the world as we know it. [ii]
Insights like these do not reduce my inherent optimism for humanity or the planet. Rather, they call to my business strategist and inner change maker for answers and action. They also inspire me to continue to expand my perspectives, because we will not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. This means that surfing will not only be of interest to companies like Patagonia going forward. Instead, we, as business leaders, will need to learn how to surf the monumental waves of the sustainability revolution to stay relevant and attractive in business. It will simply be a key to surviving and thriving, because we are all parts of the larger life-sustaining system that we call Earth. Patagonia has already realized that. Have you?
This endeavour will take courage to unlearn and relearn, go beyond business as usual, and inspire humanity to step up and move forward. We could certainly all use some of the expanded perspective and rebellious spirit of Steve Jobs and Apple from the early days of the digital revolution. Remember their iconic commercial from 1998, where they celebrated those who dared see things differently because those are the ones that can change the world? Their one-minute ad featured images of 17 inspirational personalities, such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi—all indeed great change makers.
This time, however, it is the sustainability revolution that needs our full attention to mindfully design the future that we want rather than let the opportunity slip through our fingers. It will be our collective responsibility to move things forward, inspired by activist business leaders like Yves Chouinard (Patagonia), Anita Roddick (BodyShop), Paul Poleman (Unilever) and Emmanuel Faber (Danone)–who have all dared to think different.
Why is this so important? Well, let us consider that the business case for sustainability has long been proven. Then reflect on the tremendous business risks in letting wicked problems like climate change and biodiversity loss accelerate even further. Large investors are already demanding that corporate leaders act to protect their assets long-term. And venture capitalists have long placed bets on the tremendous business opportunities that lie in this transformation, which is now only accelerating. Not to mention the implications that business as usual would have on the planet and humanity.
My mission with my coming book is to inspire you, as a corporate business leader, to get in touch with your inner change maker, elevate your perspective and move beyond business as usual to co-create Better Business and healthier futures. The time has come to step up, to re-envision the future of corporate business, transform your organisation, and capture the vast business opportunity that the sustainability revolution presents.
This requires us using a strategic and holistic, yet practical approach that includes not only our businesses but also our business ecosystem, as well as the larger world beyond it. It also requires for us as corporate business leaders to step into our full human potential. Why is this so vital? Because good business is simply good for business and seriously needed in solving the world’s wicked problems. And as a corporate business leader, you are crucial in this transformation. In understanding the challenges and providing purpose, direction, and resources, you can contribute to meaning, transformation and growth and help enhance the wellbeing of both people and our planet—all while future proofing your corporate business to ensure that it stays relevant and attractive and can thrive going forward.
Text from the preface of Better Business, Better Future (to be published late 2021), by Elisabet Lagerstedt (copyright).