Before it is too late, we should embark in earnest on the most fundamental existential (and also truly revolutionary) task facing modern civilisation, that of making any future growth compatible with the long-term preservation of the only biosphere we have.
— Vaclav Smil
‘What does the world need?’ is one of the most pressing questions of our time. Why? Because this question encompasses a number of other questions: Why are we here? For what reason do we exist? What values create the foundation to what matters most? What kind of world are we trying to make? We must transform our mindset, but to what end?
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought us to a moment of transformation at great speed. It is a tragedy but one that offers an extraordinary space for us to reimagine what a better future might look like for us all.
Now is the moment of opportunity. Business can do good. To remake our world, it can seek the good and manifest it in all that we create. If we are to build a future worth living in, we must try to achieve equilibrium between our economy, our ecology and our community. We need a reimagining of the very purpose of business, and the role it plays in regenerating the economy, the environment and civilisation itself. That is what the world needs from business. That is what business needs to give the world.
We must turn away from the devastating effects of the quest for endless growth, pursuing profit at any and all cost.
The universal virtue of doing good in business, combined with the need for a more life-changing and regenerative society, has been veiled for too long. We now stand on the edge: one third of the world’s entire wealth is held in ‘offshore’ tax havens; we are beset by fires and floods; the glaciers are retreating from the mountains and calving themselves into the oceans at breakneck speed.
Your customers’ needs have changed, too. For some time, a shift has been taking place in the discussion about what type of world they want to live in. This is fuelled by a generational shift in values, knowledge and understanding that our world is simply not working for many people. Our children’s generation has no ticket to the future. They won’t have jobs for life. They won’t have great returns on pensions (if they have one at all). Buying their own home feels like a pipe dream. Yet, despite all of this, they are steeped in values. They care about the environment and are deeply concerned with matters of social responsibility, equality and diversity.
Today, in business, there is a growing realisation that we are counting the wrong things, which diminishes how we see the world. We have lost the sense of life as a whole, as wholesome. We must start by accepting the interconnectedness of our natural world. Because nature is not designed selfishly, but to serve and support the needs of all life. We need to measure success in a more nurturing and qualitative way. To ask: what is growth, what is progress and how do we measure these things?
We could start by appreciating the accomplishments of our economic growth over the last 200 years, but also acknowledging its increasing limitations. By changing the means by which we measure productivity, prosperity, sustainability, profit and loss, and reviewing the business models designed for endless growth. By measuring carbon capture, regeneration and the quality of life.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before people go to Mars. But not everyone is going to Mars, so why not fix the planet we already have?
It doesn’t matter whether you are a small, a medium or a large business; you have an important role to play in creating a business the world needs.
The 19th-century critic and social thinker John Ruskin recognised our need to do more than satisfy our own desires. We need to focus on what will sustain us for eternity. What if we were to view what we make as gifts bestowed upon the world? So I invite you to reflect on what type of world you are trying to make, build and create. Consider the social purpose of making, whether you work at a vineyard, a bank, an energy company, on a farm or for a trainer brand. How does it matter to the world?
Be inspired. Feel the potential of your dreaming. Don’t be overwhelmed.
When we imagine the possibility of something, it has a chance of becoming a reality. There is an opportunity to build a new way of living and working, creating new business with a new vision for a new dawn.
There are many benefits of change. If you are just beginning your journey as a founder, or you’re rethinking the role of your business in today’s world, take the time to ask yourself a few questions:
— What world am I trying to create?
— What will be my legacy and my company’s legacy for future generations?
— What would my business look like if it were more beautiful?
— Why would I want to do it any other way?
These questions speak to our collective imagination. Your imagination is fired by suggestion, not by direction. It is in that leap of imaginative creativity, so compelling in its elegance, that you can bring a new reality into existence.
This is an edited extract from Do Build: How to make and lead a business the world needs. Text copyright © 2020 Alan Moore. Published by The Do Book Co on 4th March 2021. Pre-order your copy from: Do Books (includes ebook) | Bookshop.org (UK) | Bookshop.org (US)