1. The role of business in the wellbeing economy
Business plays a vital role in the transition to a wellbeing economy. It is a vehicle for creativity and innovation with the potential to be one of the most effective advocates for change.
Working together with government and civil society, businesses have a major role to play in creating the means of meeting human and planetary needs.
In our current system, finance and the economy tend to serve themselves rather than serving society and the planet. A wellbeing economy is an alternative approach, in which we intend to reverse these effects: Finance serves and incentivises the economy, the economy serves society and ultimately the planet as part of its intrinsic purpose:
“Today society and planet are serving business while business needs to be the servant of society.”
Martin Rich, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Future Fit
Given the complexity of the ecosystem we are part of, there is no one path that can help a business transition to a new economic system, and no one model for a business that flourishes in the economy of the future.
We will need multi-stakeholder collaborations to address today’s most pressing issues. We will need businesses playing a vital role in driving innovation and finding solutions that ultimately allow society and the planet to flourish.
Here are a few elements that such businesses are likely to have in common:
- Connection – a corporate culture that aligns the organizational purpose with collective values
- Dignity – a business model that creates the means for employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to live dignified lives
- Fairness – a business model that distributes wealth in a way that supports equity and equal opportunities
- Nature – use of natural resources that flow back into ecosystems in ways that support regeneration rather than cause harm
- Participation – balanced and values-based relationships with all stakeholders
Baby steps or taking the big leap?
Most businesses take small incremental steps to improving their impact on society and the planet, without compromising profit.
In times where we are surpassing our planetary boundaries, many argue that it is simply not enough to be sustainable. We need to build regenerative systems that allow us to make up for the damage caused and add value back into the ecosystem in which we live. Kate Raworth has developed a corporate to-do list, in which she lists different levels, in which businesses respond to the environmental crisis. She maps stages from ‘doing nothing’ to ‘being regenerative’.
But to get to where we need to, requires building a bridge and a bridge is built from both sides.
“There is a paradigm shift between a new (transformative) economy and the old economy.” says Kevin Bayuk from Lift Economy
“Some people think if it is not going to change the world it is terrible, but we need incremental change too in order to build momentum for new economic models to emerge.”
No matter whether you decide to attempt a radical shift or to take an incremental approach: an essential first step towards alternative ways of doing business, is to build individual and organizational awareness of how our current business operations impact, and potentially damage, society and the planet.
Collective awareness is a first step to collective learning, and we will not be able to do this transition on our own. Once the value of taking an alternative path is recognised across the organisation, ideas and opportunities will emerge and more people will be willing to explore alternative ways of doing business.
This is an extract from the forthcoming ‘The Business of Wellbeing – Alternatives to Business as Usual’ Guide, launching in January 2020. For more information and further extracts, please click here.