It’s time to go beyond business as usual

This time last year my latest book was published. It is still equally important. I’m going to start 2023 by sharing a section from the book (Better Business Better Future) on a daily basis during January on Medium. Here, starting with the preface.

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THE PREFACE

“The future is unwritten. It will be shaped by who we choose to be now.”
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES AND TOM RIVETT-CARNAC

As I write the final words of this preface, we have reached the very end of 2021. A year that together with 2020 will go to history due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have however also 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 say that global warming is likeliest the culprit and that its consequences will not show up in a distant future. The consequences of climate change are already here and is having an impact on the world as we know it. After a few stumbling steps in the right direction during the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November (COP26), it is clear that some of the greatest challenges of humanity still remain, and that it will take an extraordinary effort to change from business as usual.

Events and 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 dare 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.

It went like this: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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 during their time in service.

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 this 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 organization, and capture the vast business opportunity that the sustainability revolution presents.

/ Good business is simply good for business and seriously needed in solving the world’s wicked problems /

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 futureproofing your corporate business to ensure that it stays relevant and attractive and can thrive going forward.

What feels truly promising is the growth of impact startups and impact investors who aim to solve some of the world’s most urgent challenges and wicked problems. Among corporate businesses, there also seem to be a sense that the traditional measures of corporate social responsibility are no longer enough and that sustainability is not only crucial going forward, but a key business risk and opportunity that cannot afford to be overlooked.

The Vision 2050 initiative driven by the World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD), for instance, shows promising proof of insight in their ambition to create a world where more than nine billion people are living well within planetary boundaries by mid-century. Still, studies show that while this is an area that big businesses today speak ambitiously about, their activities so far have been far more superficial than transforming. Losing the initiative, however, is not an option.

It will be far from enough to acknowledge the need for Better Business or to put a selected set of aspirational initiatives into action, such as the increasingly popular — and important — NetZero target for carbon emissions. First and foremost, we need to think and act holistically and strategically to capture the opportunity of Better Business and integrate sustainability into the core of our businesses — that is, into purpose, mission, vision, values, strategy and offering, as well as into business models and operating models. We also need to embrace our business ecosystem to proactively support its evolution and aspire to change the world for the better.

In the late 1990s I was part of the pioneers in this transformation as I led one of Sweden’s first sustainability brands. A journey that has always been with me. So, when I was asked a few years back to help Oatly facilitate the co-creation of their strategies for sustainability and innovation to help them change the world, I knew I had to step up to the challenge. Their transformational journey had already started in 2012, and by the time I got engaged, they were already well on their way and growing exponentially. This, of course, became truly interesting client projects, with additional time spent on their digital strategy and exploring exponential, agile, dynamic, adaptive, and teal organizations as platforms for human growth. And, as always, there were no easy answers. Instead, it became a search into building something new. This left me with the feeling that we were on to something important. So important that I continued to explore the area even more in depth after the projects closed to understand what companies and business leaders can do to integrate sustainability more systematically into their core and strategically transform their businesses into a force for good. I also explored what types of business leaders we need to become and what types of organizations we need to build to handle the increasing challenges and complexities of the world and co-create the future that we want for the generations to come. I looked high and low, wide and deep and slowly unfolded the rid- dle, one step at a time. This was also a natural extension of the work for my last book, Navigera in Framtiden (Navigate into the Future, published in 2018), where I explored and identified some of the key business and leadership principles of coping with a VUCA world of accelerating change.

Now, this book has finally come to life through the contributions of an amazing network of business leaders and sustainability experts on the frontlines of Better Business. I have indeed learned a lot on the way.

As I share this, I would like to express thanks to my many teachers, some of which are considered the finest management thinkers in the world, such as Clayton Christensen, Rebecca Henderson, Linda Hill, Michael Tushman, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. I would also like to extend my deepest respect and gratitude to all who, over the past few years, have contributed to the book being brought to life in different ways. If someone is missing in the list of acknowledgment, my memory is the only one to blame. My deepest gratitude especially to Dr. Joyce Miller and Dr. Antoinette Braks, who have helped me expand my perspectives beyond what I ever could imagine on my own journey of adult development.

A big thank you also to you, who now aspire to read this book and are inspired to make a meaningful difference. I believe you will find the book worthwhile and helpful. What took us here is not what will take us there — into the future that we want. It is simply time for us to step up to the challenge.

Warmly,

Elisabet Lagerstedt

Höllviken, Sweden December 31, 2021

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Please also discover the Better Business Acceleration Program™, a year long journey of exploration starting with a six weeks online course based on the book. Upon completion, you can call yourself a Certified Better Business Acceleration Leader™, and are invited to an inspiring series of bi-monthly guest lectures with trailblazing leaders and companies together with a community of leaders sharing the same journey.

More information: https://www.future-navigators.com/page/254204