Doing Good is Good Business

The Bridge to the Future.. heaven or hell?

Doing Good is good business

How often do you hear these words?

I had an interesting meeting with the sustainability team at Pick n Pay in  Rondebosch, Cape Town.  I listened intently to what they were doing across a broad range of fronts; from making the company compliant with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), to applying sustainability principles, bringing young entrepreneurs and small suppliers into their huge value chains.  And integrating it all together under the new brand, People n Planet.   Like Coles, or Woolworths, or Tesco in the UK, Pick n Pay is a household home name to millions; and they do amazing work, assisting the communities they support.  Pick n Pay employs 52,000 across many African countries. 

The business conditions are tough. In South Africa the unemployment rate has recently hit 27%, an all-time high, with youth most at risk.  The same corrupt political party has, unbelievably,  been returned to power. Mind you, after seeing our own Australian elections, nothing surprises me.  So, President Ramaphosa, the country has high hope for you, after Zumagate and his gangster state. 

Raymond Ackerman, the PnP founder, has a philosophy of ‘Doing Good is good business’. It is a family run business and I have known their current chairman, Gareth Ackerman since 1995. Gareth is as passionate about ‘Doing good is good business’. He suggested I have the meeting with their Sustainability team.

At that meeting, I discussed the work of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and many of its recent initiatives, stressing that the GEN culture is actually opposed to mass consumerism and market capitalism. So what are we doing NOW collaborating with business?  Simple, we have no other option to make changes quickly, other than collaborative effort.  And the maxim of doing good, is good business,. comes into play here.   Many forward thinking businesses are actively concerned about aligning with the SDGs to assure their futures.

New or more of the same harder?

I spoke about ecotourism and that at the UN conference in PNG in June where as part of a panel on sustainable tourism, I would talk about how we want to develop a value chain that is not build around the top brands. In fact the opposite.  GEN Oceania and Asia (GENOA) is putting together a unique value proposition; an ecotourism project,  that so far spans nine countries in Asia and Oceania.

GENOA is united in its desire to give people a beautiful, unforgettable and defining life experience.  We want to expose them to a different way of living, loving and learning. GEN has a beautiful culture that values individuals, the group and the community. It offers deeply memorable ceremonies and experiences, just waiting to be shared and learnt.  It values life experiences over material possession, and understanding of the journeys we all are required to make.

We want to take our guests into these exciting communities. Off the normal tourist path, the big name brands and the tight ecosystems that support them. Like Pick n Pay, we want to develop alternative value chains. Value chains or networks all working towards a resilient and exciting future.  Those who have joined our learning experiences, report it as being transformative.

Our social business model in turn help communities upgrade their own villages (meeting spaces, infrastructure, kitchens, accommodation, gardens), stimulate economic activity (local goods, education, tourism, cultural celebrations) and bring resources to regenerate. (environmental regeneration, food, energy, water security, social networking and cohesion).

But the ecotourism forms part of our larger Ecovillage Transition Programme.  This programme transitions traditional villages towards a sustainable future.  Most of the world still lives in small villages and communities.  We have signed a JV with Tower Insurance in New Zealand to work with communities in Fiji .  Doing good is good for business

With climate change, population growth and diminishing global capacity, sustainability is no longer a nice to have.  And that is why forward thinkers, like the insurance industry and some retailers understand the risks in the future. And take action.

GEN is present in South Africa, I explained.   With so many living in poverty and so many drawn to the city looking for work and a better life,  the call to action is HUGE.  I was gratified by the Pick N Pay team seeing the benefits of stepping into the future together on a different path. But as much as business needs to respond,  GEN who has so much to offer, also needs to organise for  a bigger future. It needs business and business needs it.

Some of the documented and positive outcomes of the Ecovillage Transition Programme is;

  • Eradication of poverty
  • Increased well-being
  • Food, water, energy security
  • Restoration of ecosystems
  • Strengthen social cohesion, systems of governance and management of conflict
  • Building accountable institutions
  • Gender equality
  • Improved education
  • Strengthen local economies and create employment
  • Cross sharing of principals and ideas to enrich both GEN and local communities
  • Sustainable living practices
  • Mitigation and preparation for impacts of climate change 
  • Awareness of and active supporters of the UN SDGs, their importance and relevance  and how these impact and are supported by the communities

Doing good is good business.

Gareth Ackerman

F*cked we are… so just carry on

This blog post looks at some of the author’s travel observations and outlines the actions he has taken in response.

Having traveled extensively over many years what struck me most was the following;

#1. People. We are a virulent virus across habitable space.

#2.  Waste. It is pervasive. Our legacy is plastic. Not the magnificence of Petra, or Antioch or Caesarea, but instead fields of plastic and rubbish.

#3.  Desires / Aspirations. I like talking to people, asking what are your aims/goals?  Inevitably responses are about Maslow’s fundamentals.  Makes sense. For those who are in the red (struggling to put food on table, roof over head, clean water, security and safety) it is impossible to be green, (unlike those in the top 8% who produce 90% of emissions), but behind the need lurks a strong desire for… stuff, more stuff, = success.

Sadly, this ‘more’, is, hey “good for business”.

Business becomes agile, leaner, embracing new technology, shedding jobs.  Profits rise and that helps the 1% get even richer.  Market capitalism is now saying business needs a vision beyond mere returns – it needs to have a social purpose – see NAB Chair’s latest revelations   (if you can, but you have to pay to read it). Even top-of-the-rung are now disenchanted with corporate and shareholder greed.

Muhammad Yunus, is a Nobel Peace Prize visionary and well worth listening to.  I have just read his new book – Three Zeros, which is inspiring. He is coming soon to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Read more at Grameen Australia. and attend his sessions.   His vision of everyone being a entrepreneur (god help us) has helped, but even if  social business’ were to rule the future economy; it doesn’t matter, f*cked we are.

Why?  Simple answer, too many, wanting too much and driven to instant gratification!

I saw a sign recently at a war memorial  in Malta; ‘we gave our today for your tomorrow’ They did,  but what are we doing to secure the future for tomorrow?

We talk about sustainability, give great speeches, focus on corporate values, customer centricity  and building ‘ecosystems’, while universities add new course on sustainability.  We now have social businesses. Great, part of our evolution you may think.

Truth is, we continue as we are; maybe now more aware and caring, but unable to influence the big ticket items because they are too big and too complex.  The basic unchanging bottom line is we need our economies to grow; so buy, make, sell.  Maybe our sign  will be ‘we’ve had ours, so you have none tomorrow

That is why I wrote BECause... we need a revolution.  If we want to save our planet and ourselves we need real change, not a few cats tinkering with peripheries. Bec in my book represents real change.  And do you think it will be peaceful?

but if you decide to play a small part, what would it be?

I can’t talk for you, but I started small in 2009 and now attempt to do the following;

  1. Ride, run, walk, public transport
  2. Share my accommodation, services
  3. Buy stuff that lasts
  4. Fix, mend, reuse, recycle.
  5. AVOID PLASTIC;
  6. Don’t vote for morons (difficult to find candidates with current climate at home)
  7. Use solar and gas power – (No wind sadly where I live)
  8. I support our community bank (we developed our own community bank at our  eco-village, without recourse to the banks).
  9. We are planing a local currency so as to remove ourselves from the traditional banking system and its greed.
  10. Offset my travel by planting and growing my own food.
  11. I avoid global brands, supporting local business and community.
  12. I support a cause and try and do services that help the common good.

So what will be your legacy? Take action.

The mind once enlightened, cannot again become dark

During our lifetime we may be fortunate enough to receive lenses that provide deep understandings of how things work. Those insights provide models of continuous learning that inform, nourish and sustain us. As a Noble Peace Prize winner said, “It felt like god had revealed a small part of how the universe worked’ adding he was not a religious man.

The point is what has been seen cannot be unseen.  Such meta understandings help us on our pathway towards enlightenment.  Of course, humility and openness are key ingredients to ensure ongoing learning, otherwise we run the risk of becoming dogmatic zealots.

The meta model of understanding human capability, work and the evolution of human value systems were such lenses. What a fantastic journey that has proven to be –  it led me to interview and analyse the most interesting people, and allowed me to assist many and diverse enterprises.  These lenses have stood me instead over multiple decades.

I also know that those lenses have been shared when I hear others encouraging their teams saying these lenses will alter their worldview and help their careers.  Mark Milliner, Ian Stone and Jacki Johnson were the most recent. Thank you for the affirmation in understanding.  Now as Billy Boyd says, I must bid you farewell and in closing I would like to offer you the following insights;

  • Work is a treadmill, but with different and exciting carrots on offer. Fast, fun and challenging.  Our work journey is driven by our deep need to actualize.

    Our need to be of value is enduring.

  • Work can be very satisfying, but while our capability is the driver, our current mode of transport is an old outdated dinosaur called capitalism. There are no free rides, and no one is exempt from travel. It is not a felt fair system and is a value detractor. As Muhammad Yunus says, future business will need a social license to operate.
  • A consultant is a role with accountability and no authority.
  • Work that detracts from planetary, regional and local sustainability cannot be tolerated or supported.  Irreversible damage is caused by companies and governments that have lost their ability to regulate for the common good of all -we need right work.
  • Consulting has allowed me to travel and work in many different and exotic places.
  • As a road warrior I have been equipped with the latest tools of the trade as they evolved… but the problem is my e-wastage mound grows. Full value chain accountability is needed.
  • Consulting has given me time to lead a personally rich lifestyle and get to know my kids – a real blessing… there was a financial sacrifice, but it was worth it.

    “My partner (also a consultant) and I agreed that one parent would always be fully present for the kids (we now have three beautiful adults).  We took it in turns.”

  • It has allowed me to write and publish two books, the third an adventure which sits on the cusp of the new journey and provides a segue to the new future.
  • The right mentors come when the pupil is ready for them.  Gillian Stamp, Don Beck, Malcolm Hollick, Robin Mills – thank you for believing in me.
  • It has led me to renounce the “short-termism” of the free market system, especially greed.

     The word ENOUGH does not exist in business vocabulary.  There can never be ENOUGH!

  • I have lost faith in accountability. I see too many overwhelmed, overpaid and incompetent leaders escaping censure.
  • I am grateful to all my clients who believe in us and were willing to experiment with us.
  • Relationships are frail and need constant tending, trusting and sometimes clear tasking.
  • Look after your networks, friends and family.  Also members of the same family are often not born under the same roof.
  • Thank you to my current team, I am privileged to work with Adam Thompson, Tim Levett, Verena MacLean, Bruce Whitby, Samantha MacDonald, Tanya Brockmeier, Amanda Johnson , Brent Sheridan and Sam Wilkinson.
  • In retrospect, although it did not feel like it at the time, I have learnt more when I have failed or been in conflict.
  • My corporate consulting journey has driven my need to understand other ways we could better organise, for fairer and more just outcomes for all, not just a select few.

 The transition beckons.

I have seen a different world, running on a different operating system and that is now my Call to Adventure. What is seen, cannot be unseen.

Aluta Continua!!

 

GEN=Plan B

A exciting, sustainable, and bold parallel universe exists in our current time and dimension.  And we can all find out about it and be part of it if we choose.

Have you heard of the Global Eco-Village Network  (GEN)?  Well I am an ambassador for this movement and I really value my role.  Why?

Because I am privileged to be able to offer another viable option to an overheated world that allows humans to live differently, sustainably and far more happily.

I am not an ex-hippie, nor do I even hail from a community background. Quite the converse in fact. Elon Musk offers humanity another option as well, a plan to colonise Mars, because we stuffed this up so badly.  Global Leaders have no answers to the wicked problems that overwhelm them.

Their mantra is the same;  growth and jobs (never mind business is cutting jobs and AI looks to replace 35%+ of known jobs).  Market capitalism and the consumer model is terminally ill and will never deliver what we so badly need which is not more jobs or more growth.

GEN is a global body, representing the regions of the world in a loose affiliation of networks.  It is a parallel world that has developed independently and runs counter culture to the consumer, market driven economy.  Its focus is not growth but about mindful living at a human scale and creating sustainable, resilient communities in the process. It is innovative, resilient and its teachings and practices are increasingly becoming known.

You may not know that GEN is a UN recognised body. Since 2000, GEN has had consultative status at the UN-Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) commission, and is represented at regular briefing sessions at UN Headquarters. GEN is also a partner of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, UNITAR.

GEN is concerned not only with supporting and developing ecovillages, but urban eco-communities. It represents a range of diverse communities, some very advanced and some still forming, some in the rich old millions and some in the hungry billions.  At its heart each community is bound in one or more ways to the following values:

  • food, water, energy access and security
  • sustainable environments – through restoration, management practices
  • Land use and permaculture
  • education for sustainable development
  • developing circular economies
  • community health and wellbeing
  • stakeholder participation and community management skills
  • women and girls empowerment
  • technology innovation
  • acting locally, reaching out

I  want to draw your attention to two powerful large scale change initiatives.  The first is the  Pan African Ecovillage Development Programme, a model to change the dynamics of developing regions, and the other an educational model, a true ecotourism opportunity.

My new book (Enough) is coming out in December 2017 and I mention this because, back in 2007 when I started to write it, I envisaged a programme for the rejuvenation of Africa, which I called the African Ecovillage Development Project (AEDP).  Little did I think then that in 2017 GEN would be asking for funding to help send delegates from the Pan African Ecovillage Development Programme to COP 33 in Bonn.

What a wonderful and powerful initiative.  Astute leadership in some African nations have seen this as an opportunity to build resilient and self sufficient communities. Let’s look to help it grow and to hope to see such programmes emerging elsewhere, rather then putting faith in the old broken paradigm of growth.

The other initiative emerging from GEN Australia is an educational initiative. We want to make our GEN member’s assets available to people to visit, to share, to be part of community and to experience a different way of living.  We are, with GEN International and our network, going to present a wonderful and thrilling GEN eco-tourism experience from a once off trip to a world tour from which you can return and start living differently, in a community or not, but as a member of a different human destiny.

Next steps

CHOOSE LIFE.

Think differently, take a dare to be different.

Life is short. Remember, we all have all the time there is.

Life LIFE!