I recently attended the Sustainable Business and Social Impact at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
As an Executive in Residence there, I was proud to see such an event, including a Dean's Distinguished Speaker talk with B Corp Co-found Bart Houlahan, hosted at a top business school.
It's another sign that "purpose beyond profits" -- as speaker Freya Williams noted (CEO, Futerra North America) -- is gaining momentum.
So if you weren't one of the 750+ people registered for the event, then maybe you'll enjoy scanning these 3 highlights below...
When deciding on your longer term business strategy, or making a more time-sensitive decision, consider this framing:
First, be a human. Second, be a business leader.
- Source: Jason Rahlan, Chobani's Director of Social Impact and Philanthropy, where he oversees philanthropic investments and grants for the company.
A related method for encouraging more responsible decision making is to imagine the business advice that your kids would give you.
[But maybe ignore their advice on how many Girl Scout cookies you should be allowed to eat in one meal, or how many hours of tablet they should have per day. The answer is close to zero for both of those scenarios.]
In one example, his study noted that text messages sent "from" kids helped improve the personal finance behavior of the parents (i.e., saving for rainy day), as compared to several other strategies he tested to improve savings rates.
Can we, or should we, be OK with the fact that sometimes sustainable business strategies require tradeoffs...even if most of the time you can "have your cake and eat it, too"?
- Source: Dan Heath, co-author of four New York Times bestselling books: Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments, which have sold over 3 million copies worldwide and been translated into 33 languages
As one CEO told me, business shouldn't be about "maximizing" financial performance at the expense of all other stakeholders and goals. Instead, the objective should be about attractive financial returns relative to the risks of doing so.
We've seen more interest and action in ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) investing in the last six months than in the last six years...[and] The world is never going to be less complex than it is now, so [let's mainstream ESG] today.
- Source: Ali Hartman, Head of Global Citizenship and Director, ESG Strategy, KKR
During the same ESG panel, Moody's noted that they have acquired multiple companies in recent years to help them better incorporate ESG criteria into their credit ratings.
In a similar trajectory, Cambridge Associates commented that ESG is "table steaks" in investing, becoming a part of most conversations with their investor clients, which are eager to learn or brag about how it’s a competitive advantage for them.
Finally, a panelist on the ESG theme observed that reaching a larger audience with sustainable products and services has to take an optimistic approach -- not doom and gloom. In her example with Impossible Burger, the desired customer response should be, "This shit is delicious!", instead of "Well, I guess I better avoid meat because I'm contributing to climate change."
Until next time, onward and upward.
I think my plant-based meat burger is waiting for me at the table. Yum, that is damn good.