Last month, my lovely colleagues and I attended the B Inspired event in London, organised by the inspiring and hardworking team at B Lab. It was an event for certified B Corporations and those who aspire to run a positive business that genuinely puts purpose before profit, with a focus on serving people and planet.
It was truly inspiring to see so many companies, from small start-ups to large corporations, take part in the movement. The ‘TED’ talk style event was hosted by Fearghal O’Nuallain, a geography teacher and explorer. Fearghal is genuinely passionate about sustainability and has seen first hand the effects that climate change has had on the world. From 2008 – 2010, he spent 18 months completing a circumnavigation of the globe by bike; 31,000km through 30 countries.
Fearghal started the event by introducing us all to the ‘overview effect’, a concept originally reported by astronauts who looked back at earth from space and saw it was just a ‘pale blue dot’ from that distance. This led to a cognitive shift in their perception of our planet. They were struck by its fragility and delicateness, and by how everything was connected. We – as in all humankind – share a responsibility to look after the planet and astronauts get to truly see as it is. There is no Planet B.
Poetry with purpose
Ferghal works as a geography teacher and brought along his incredibly talented and poetically gifted student Katiann, who recited her own poem, that gave the crowd goosebumps.
Trustworthy businesses are successful businesses and purposeful businesses are trustworthy businesses
Professor Colin Mayer CBE, Oxford University.
Walking the talk
From the first kick-off ‘fireside’ conversation, I learned of the insightful work Tortoise media was carrying out, analysing how many companies were walking the talk. Alexandra Mousavizadeh from Tortoise Media has ranked the Top 100 FTSE companies measured by their commitment to key social, environmental and ethical objectives such as carbon reduction, gender equality and good business practices using this walk vs talk scoring method. It’s worth a peek.
Andrew Medhurst, a former senior compliance and risk manager in Lloyds’ corporate banking division, now helps manage finances for Extinction Rebellion. He’s truly walking the talk by quitting his stable, well-paid job to work with Extinction Rebellion.
“We’re not only destroying the planet for our children and grandchildren, but we’re actively encouraging them to invest into a long-term financial product that they may not need when they are 50. What they may need is food and shelter — not a share portfolio.” Andrew Medhurst
From maximising profit to minimalist living
Patrick Pichette, a former CFO of Google, was all about ‘profit maximising’ whilst managing a 65Billion USD portfolio.
I’m of the firm belief that a business has to make a healthy profit to be able to transfer this to making positive changes in the world. We all have a responsibility to look after ourselves, and the earth. So his thoughts instantly synced with me.
A free market economy does not know how to price the environment. The only thing it knows is how to maximise benefits in the short term. With this approach, the true cost can just not be accounted for. What happens if we honestly embed the true cost of everything that it takes to produce what we do? For example, a garment that Patagonia produces is 25% to 40% more expensive because it takes into consideration the true cost of what it’s actually using as resources, as well as the impact of the resources. This was a very interesting way to explain that extra 25% cost. We need a corporate structure and pricing that truly reflects the embedded cost of all that we do.
Capitalism is failing us and Patrick urged us to watch the Ray Dalio video about this. He went on to explain how tech progress has skewed wealth creation and concentration. Being a CFO of Google and having access to unsurmountable wealth, has made Patrick realise that money is a means to make the world better.
He has now devoted much of his wealth to create a 260 square miles private national park and is dedicating his life to living minimally.
Patrick listed his core 4 life principles, which I’ve summarised below. He wants you to tell people about it!
- Encourage people to adopt a plant-based diet
- Support environmental and animal rights. (Patrick talked about how our planet needs a lawyer and that’s exactly what Earth Justice do)
- Become a minimalist and a conversationalist (it’s good for the planet)
- Focus on nourishing your body and soul.
You can read more about his talk on Medium.
All of these principles are completely in sync with our goals and values.
Eco-warrior designers chat
As a designer, I was immensely inspired by Tom Kay from Finisterre and Kresse Wesling from Elvis and Kresse and their chat about reasons for starting their brand, and what keeps them going.
Both of these brands started as a result of noticing problems with the ethics of many sports and fashion brands.
There were many conversations about diversity. In fact, all of the conversations involved the subject in one form or another.
Nishita Dewan challenged the crowd to think of their organisation and how much respect was there for one another within their company, asking, “Do you see a junior in your office environment challenge the senior management member? Or would they hold back on their opinions?”
Nishita further went on to explain the UN coined term, ‘GQ’ – which is a Generational Intelligence Quotient, as opposed to IQ, which just encourages working in silos. The GQ encourages a diversity of age groups within an organisation, as different generations bring a wider range of skills and values.
Rosie Brown, Co-CEO of COOK, talked about creating a safe space for people to connect within an organisation, and how to ensure that everyone has their voice heard.
Amit Gudka, co-Founder of Bulb (a certified B Corp) shared their real-time, in-house data-driven approach to understanding their internal workforce composition versus local benchmarks.
“Being inclusive is not enough. We need to be visibly inclusive.”
Amit Gudka, Co-Founder of Bulb
Kajal Odedra, Executive Director, Change.org UK shared her experiences of how to go about creating a diverse employment strategy and what policies they’ve adopted.
All of the people encouraged business leaders to be positively brave.
So far, very few companies have officially declared a climate emergency. Amongst others who have, my colleagues and I were invited to the stage and Louisa Ziane, Global Brand & Sustainability Director at Toast Ale, spoke on behalf of all of us. Louisa’s words were loud and clear. All businesses need to take a stand and declare a Climate Emergency, make noise and take action (not just stay within our comfort zone). There is so much more to be done and we need our society (business and individuals) to take action to take climate change seriously.
Here is a YouTube line up of the talks and panel discussions of the day:
If you feel like you want to make real changes, join the BCorp movement. Take the B Impact assessment, and start making those changes in your business straight away. We need to make this all happen together!