How adapting eco focus allows Business to thrive long term
Recent events in my region (...and the world!) has highlighted the need for me to shed some light on the things I believe are causing some serious confusion, pain and suffering in everyone around the world right now, and why some fundamental changes in 'the way we live together on this planet' must happen.
The tragedy is that the things we rely upon, yet do not personally own, we show no care or respect for. That which provides for all are protected by nobody and exploited by all. This is what is known as 'the tragedy of the commons'. It seems most people are confused about what it means to be a citizen of this planet and it gets even more confusing when there is business and profits involved. We shouldn't need laws to make sure we don't exploit every single resource mother earth has provided us with. In fact, we shouldn't need to protect the environment, we should create a world where the environment does not need protecting. Lets start by aligning ourselves and our businesses with that fundamental truth.
Humans are compassionate beings but have lost our ability to think and choose for ourselves. This unconscious handover of control has caused massive separation and disconnection not just from ourselves and other people, but also from nature and other life forms. We are living in survival mode, focused solely on our own battles, stuck in our egoic minds, detached from our hearts and our conscience... like sheep, silently hoping someone else will do something about it.
"The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It”
- Robert Swan OBE
We have to define what we stand for, own up to our mistakes, live up to our values and act in coherence with that which is right. That which supports life, not destroys it. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of all the lies and establish trust again? The perceived 'risks' we are are facing for deciding to do the right thing, is nothing against the risks we have already exposed us all to by not acting in the best interest of all. It's about time we shifted our perspective on what we perceive as risks, problems and costs. Their is no greater suffering than indecision and there is no greater cost than causing unnecessary harm. The greatest damage to our planet has been done by commercial activities, therefore the biggest responsibility (opportunity) is on business to drive this movement. As we are all in business of some kind, and all consumers in this global marketplace, this responsibility falls as much on me as it falls on you. It is time to challenge the way things are done.
The world is far to dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love
- William Sloane Coffin
Business can be such a powerful force of good, but what tends to happen as the organisation grows is that the vision gets blurry, and the standards that were originally set up start to slip. Priorities shifts away from acting in accordance with the values, values that perhaps weren't even established from the start. A true leader would never let that happen, a true leader makes sure everyone knows where they are going, why they are going there, why that matters and how it makes the world a better place. When studying the world's greatest organisations and leaders, I have discovered that there are certain patterns, strategies and attitudes that seem to lead to greatness. Some of which I have summarised below. As a passionate entrepreneur and environmentalist, I know that an organisation will never be able to thrive in the future, if the environment in which it operates cannot thrive because of it. Everything around us works in cycles, it is time we implemented that mindset in business too. Here are a few ideas on how we could do that!
MY TOP 10 TIPS FOR BUSINESS TO THRIVE IN THE FUTURE
1. VISIONARY LEADERS HAVE A CLEAR 'WHY'
A workplace where people know why they do what they do and why that matters, is not something you come across everyday. Regardless of whether you are part of a bigger organisation or working for yourself, without a clear why it will be difficult to feel inspired by it, and it will be impossible to create something of lasting value. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, something of real purpose. We want to feel inspired everyday and we want to be able to inspire others. Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? Same job, different perspective. Everything you do should be be guided by that bigger vision, no matter what role you have or how large the organisation is. It all starts by asking why. Simon Sinek explains this in many different ways in his books and Ted talk "Start with WHY".
2. PEOPLE EMPOWERMENT
People who believe in their company, usually has a company who believes in them. Caring for, and empowering people to grow and develop according to their strengths and needs, encourages inspirational leadership from the ground up, and fosters creativity and innovation. Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia talks about the extraordinary power of caring for your people like family, in the book "EVERYBODY MATTERS". This could easily be overlooked if you are working for yourself, as we all have a strong tendency to ignore our own needs when we get busy. Be aware of the limits you put on yourself, be aware of the way you speak to yourself. Decide to be the most influential person in your own life, because as motivational speaker Jim Rohn puts it... "your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development".
Regardless of what title you hold, you are a leader. Even it the only person you are a leader of is yourself, you make decisions everyday that impacts a lot of people. Your power as a leader comes from having the guts to make tough decisions and stick to your values. A leader must make be willing to make the decisions no one else is willing to make. Tracey Bailey, founder of Biome Eco Stores, decided to take action and make Biome a store entirely free from palm oil. It was next to impossible to identify which products contained unsustainable palm oil or not, so she decided to eliminate hundreds of products that contained hidden palm oil ingredients and became the world’s first POI approved store (Palm Oil Investigation) . This is what true leadership looks like! The Source Bulk Food sets another great example by only selling bulk food items.
3. ZERO HARM
A business or organisation must not engage in any activity that could cause unnecessary harm to any land, air, water or life as a result of doing business. This might seem like an impossibility but the fact is, no one has the right to harm or destroy that which belongs to all of us. With so many alternatives available, we really have no excuse but to do the best we can to change our ways for the better. A great example is Soneva Eco Luxury Resorts in Thailand and the Maldives, who have built all their villas from sustainable and recycled building materials. They have installed solar power as well as their own in-house water filtering system to avoid plastic bottles.. just to name a few! If you are not in business to better the world and enrich the lives of other people, then what are you in business for? We all have a responsibility to become aware of our negative impacts and to do something about it. If nothing has been done by anyone else, that is a great incentive for you to take the lead and change it yourself.
There are so many inspiring stories of people who have started from nothing, yet achieved the impossible. These people have one thing in common, resourcefulness. As motivational speaker Tony Robbins always says, "resources are never the problem, it is our ability to be resourceful". There are endless examples of this; Walt Disney, the Wright Brothers, J. K Rowling and Oprah Winfrey. As old structures and paradigms appear to be collapsing, we need this skill more than ever. We need to encourage thrifty thinking! How can we reuse what we already have? How can we recycle energy? How can we grow what we need? How can we eliminate waste? Those are some questions that should be asked more often. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle or rot. Waste is just a lack of imagination! Break the rules, play with the impossible, challenge conventional wisdom and rethink everything. An organisation that does just that is Green School Bali, a school that challenges and outperforms our outdated school system on every level.
The complexity and interconnectedness of the problems we are facing in the world today are beyond what our best individual efforts can solve. This has lead business leaders and organisations all over the world to put aside self interest and old rivalry, to collaborate with one another. If we are unable to come together as one unified species and advance together, we will not survive. We know that humanity is neither lacking ideas nor potential, perhaps we just need to open our minds a little more, widen our search radius beyond the known, remove all built in age limits and dissolve all industry boarders. As the old saying goes 'a rising tide lifts all boats', improvements by one can benefit all. Don't be afraid to take the first step to reach out and support your 'competition'. You can never loose by supporting someone else.
Storytelling is and always has been the most powerful way to put ideas into the world. Most of us live in constant information overload so to best reach people, tell a story. People generally do not care until they can relate somehow. It seems to go unnoticed that thousands of people die of starvation everyday, yet if we happen to hear a story about one of these people from somebody we know, or a source that we trust, something magical happens. We connect, our hearts open and we are able to feel compassion and empathy towards a total stranger. We need to get people to care more! If you or your company are doing something great, share your story with the world. If one drop can create a ripple in the ocean, imagine the effect you could have!
7. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
A focus on continuous improvement and learning is a powerful force that sets the average organisations apart from the great. Just like the greatest people always strive to be better today than they were yesterday, continuous improvement is a journey with no finish line. Things are in constant motion all around us and so we must move with it and welcome it, or we become stagnant. As leaders we need to be prime ourselves to become aware of the small things we could do better every day. Being open minded enough to face what we need to learn to move from the present state to our desired state. The level of progress we can achieve depends on how comfortable we are with being uncomfortable. Change is the only constant so embrace change before you’ll be forced to change when the paradigm shift makes you obsolete. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is a master of this. If you haven't already read his story, it is a must read!
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw
8. WORK YOUR STRENGHTS
Know your strengths and work to develop them, the same goes for the people in your business. When your personality matches your purpose and your passion blends perfectly with your strengths, you are on the right track. Sometimes when we feel stuck it is because we have not clearly defined where we want to go, we aren't entirely sure where we are heading on our journey. Perhaps all the people who would like to quit their jobs or businesses are doing something they are fundamentally not very good at. That is wasting potential on a high level. When you know what you are good at, and you are doing something you are passionate about, what you do wouldn't even feel like 'work', because you are contributing to something of greater purpose. Stryker is a company who has nailed this using the CliftonStrenghts Solution which has earned them the title of 'Employer of choice' many years in a row.
9. FUN AND WELLBEING
If what we do isn't fun, then what is the point? Imagine if we all enjoyed what we did everyday for an income, can you imagine how business would advance? Can you imagine how much greatness would emerge! Gone are the days when we could treat everyone as factory robots and get away with it. We have to understand that what matters most at the end of the day is never profits, it is the people we love and our health and wellbeing as humans on this planet. We should always strive for an environment where people feel fulfilled, passionate and free to express themselves creatively, because people who feel good do good. The most innovative and successful companies in the world have always prioritised fun, that is what has helped them achieve the success they have had. As they grow and money continues to flow, it only gets better. Look at Google, Dropbox, AirBnB, Pinterest or Bumble to name a few. Many have meditation rooms, fitness facilities, zipline access to the neighbouring bar, rooftop gardens, log cabins as meeting rooms, indoor treehouses as well as free child care and kombutcha on tap! As extreme as this may seem, they have proven the point. Perhaps offering a free coffee or yoga class once a week, or swapping the old cubicle landscape for a more open and creative workspace, is a great place to start. Bring your people together and discuss how you could incorporate more fun into your organisation today.
What many of the greatest people and businesses also have in common, is that they give back. Not once they achieve a certain financial result, but as an essential part of their business from the beginning. If you are reading this, that means you have access to a computer or a smartphone, which means that you most probably have roof over your head and access to clean water. More than most people on the planet. You and I are extremely privileged compared to many others, and perhaps it's time to start acting like we know that. May the work of Jane Goodall inspire you to get started.