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It's Time for Business to Earn a License to Lead

The acronym VUCA -- Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous -- may have its origins in the military, but it is increasingly clear that it applies to all aspects of our lives today. The fact is we operate in an age of fast-moving and increasingly unpredictable change. No one country, society, industrial sector or individual organisation is immune. We are all impacted. Navigating this new reality is made even more challenging by the increasingly interdependent nature of today's world.

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A New Story for a New Economy: to find our human place in a living universe

Natural_pathway_Korten.pngEconomists debate whether the economy is recovering from the financial crash of 2008. Scientists debate whether Earth will recover from an economy that is destroying Earth’s capacity to support life. An unconscionable gap between rich and poor—between the profligate and the desperate— grows at an alarming rate. Economists assure us that faster economic growth will provide the technology and financial resources to heal the environment and create jobs to end poverty. Most politicians agree with the economists. Meanwhile corporations in the business of supplying fossil fuels to grow energy intensive economies resort to technologies increasingly destructive of Earth’s soils and waters. Competition for food and fresh water intensifies in the face of extreme drought and flooding. Some among a confused and desperate public respond with denial. Some pray for divine intervention. Some look for ways to profit from the crisis. Some, inspired by an emerging new vision of human possibility, work to heal our human relationships with one another and nature in a bold effort to turn the human course.

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Towards the sustainable economy: is it time to change our 'story of business' itself?

New_Chapter.jpgWe talk about sustainability becoming embedded in everything we do, as part of our corporate DNA. It is certainly true that sustainability has come a long way over the past decade – and with each step, we’re getting closer to the heart of business, but we’re not there yet.  Is it time to change our story?

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Ecoanalysis and Climate Change

[I am taking this opportunity to post an excerpt of a book manuscript that is still a work in progress. The title of the book so far is 'Making More - The Ecoanalysis of Growth-Capitalism.' The idea of the book is to use the theory of psychoanalysis to analyse the conflict between economy and ecology. The question that I'm struggling with is not so much "What shall we do?" but rather "Why have we not already done it?" While there is obviously something wrong with the way that we have organized our economies around an imperative of perpetual growth, perhaps there is also something wrong with the way that we conceive of the world in purely ecological terms. At least this is what I am investigating.]

At the beginning of the book, the ecoanalytical approach to the eco was compared to the way that psychoanalysis approaches an analysand in therapy. We can use this analogy to explicate how the issue of economic growth shall be approached in this part of the book. Imagine that an obese woman comes into psychoanalytical therapy. She is suffering from excessive eating habits that is now threatening her physical health and perhaps even her life. Would we approach her by weighing her, measuring her blood pressure and submitting her to a number of other medical tests and then proceed to explain to her how a continuation of her current lifestyle gives her 80 percent likelihood of dying within the next five years? And would we tell her that the cure for her problems is a healthy diet and daily exercise? The answer is obviously no. Psychoanalysis is anything but such a purely medical and physical approach to the analysand. Psychoanalysis approaches the analysand as not merely as a body but as a subject. The strictly medical approach to a person suffering from obesity is, for a number of reasons, likely not only to be ineffective, it might even turn out to be counterproductive.

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Demystifying the Purpose Economy

ppglobe.1.jpgThere is growing global awareness that the existing business model is ‘self-serving’ and outdated, and that growth and wealth need to be defined by a holistic mix of ethical, natural, financial, manufactured, intellectual, human and social capital.  Our economy is entering a new period where purpose arises as the ultimate capital and the cornerstone of making a difference to the kind of lives future generations have the right to expect.  A new breed of business leaders now embrace the purpose economy!

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It Does Not Take a Visionary to Change the World: Stumbling into Difference Making

Waddock_Sandra-Small_1_.jpgSome years ago, it occurred to me that the emerging systems and institutions that exist around sustainability and corporate responsibility did not just magically appear. They required the initiative, drive and desire for change on the part of one or more individuals — or, as Margaret Mead famously said, a small group of committed individuals. So, I decided to study the individuals who had started the institutions that now frame the discussion of corporate sustainability and responsibility.

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Shareholder Primacy: the Main Barrier to Sustainable Companies

beatesj-highres.jpgThere is great unexplored potential within current company law regimes for companies to shift away from the path of business as usual and onto a path towards sustainability.

We know that “business as usual” is not an option. We know that we need business to contribute if we are going to be able to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity and be the generation that ensures that also future generations are able to meet their needs. We also know that in the long run, this makes good business sense too. Why then does business not realize its potential?

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Project Sunlight and the journey to intrinsic values

JulesPeck.jpgIn this blog, which first appeared on Huffington Post, we explore some of the new values which will support the shift in the economy away from 'stuff' and consumerism towards wellbeing enhancing and sustainable lifestyles. We do this through the lens of examining Unilever's ground-breaking Project Sunlight.

Unilever's innovative Project Sunlight platform has attracted lots of blogosphere attention and sometimes criticism. The headlines of the criticism are that Unilever fails to fully recognize the distinction between the consumer and the citizen -- between extrinsic and intrinsic values and between real well-being -- needs and created consumer "wants." Without making this distinction, the argument goes, brands are not going to successfully take their customers on a journey to more sustainable and flourishing lives.

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For the Love of Money.

Sam_Polk_1.jpegIN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.

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Prosperity with less: what would a responsible economy look like?

davis_t_0741.jpgThe founder of Patagonia Inc discusses the value of the simple life, and growing an economy based on buying less, not more. 

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