‘There is only one rule: if you have a question, you are only allowed to use a maximum of seven words.’
This was the task that the audience in the SDG House at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam received, which resulted in questions such as: ‘How do we change finance?’ and ‘Link SDG and the B Lab to doughnut.’ Emmanuel Faber, Chairman & CEO of Danone, and Andrew Kassoy, co-Founder of B Lab, came together to discuss the opportunity that the Sustainable Development Goals and the B Corp Movement has on influencing business and the world. They talked about the importance of self-awareness for leaders, the challenges all organizations face in the next twelve years and the status of the economy and capitalism with regard to these new challenges.
Both Emmanuel Faber and Andrew Kassoy were very clear: There is an imbalance between private equity and public necessity and this results in a capitalist society where people do not trust their government, their bosses and their employees.
Kassoy: “We need a new operating system of capitalism in which we do not act from a shareholder primacy and focus on what maximizes profit but on what is right. Economics is not about finance, it’s fundamentally about people. We cannot take and take and then decide ‘to give back’, this does not solve any problems in a restorative, regenerative and sustainable way. The richest 42 people still own 50% of the total wealth on earth. Social justice is the only current goal of economy. Changing finance is, in the end, changing ourselves.” Kassoy shares his vision without trying to sugarcoat the truth. His honest and direct message remind me again of what is actually going on right now. It’s easy to get lost in everyday life but Kassoys message wakes me up again and challenges me to really rethink the way we are trying to create change. Are we setting our ambitions high enough? Am I?
Emmanuel Faber shared some personal insights about what it takes to be a leader in an organization that is taking steps towards change. He describes that travelling to a small village five hours away from Bangladesh and talking to the local villagers gave him fundamental insights about the project and products he was working on, insights that challenged everything he thought was the right thing to do before. To him, this self awareness is one of the most important aspects of being a leader: “Self awareness sometimes comes in the form of a lesson you do not want to be taught but somehow, you still listen because you know it’s important. When you are not self aware, you cannot transmit things you find important onto others because you are not aware of them.”
This personal story stayed with me throughout the evening. It reminded me of how we at Innate Motion immerse ourselves in a variety of cultures and try to understand why people do what they do, what moves them and what drives them. It was inspiring to see Faber in a vulnerable position; something not a lot of business leaders dare to show.
Both are focused on connecting the Sustainable Development Goals to organizations and to the B Lab specifically. The SDG’s are primarily government-focused and even after translating them to business questions, facing these challenges can seem daunting. Questions from the audience mirror this challenge: ‘How can I, as a millenial, relate to this huge project?’ ‘How can we create fast, but also substantial and long lasting change?’ The answer of Faber is clear: “We do not know how fast things will proceed, but if we don’t try, we will not succeed.
The night ended with Faber talking about how he tries to connect with his fears when he is making a decision. This resonated with me on a fundamental level. As someone who is just starting in the business sector, I am constantly plagued by fears and insecurities. Am I knowledgeable and experienced enough to have an opinion on this discussion? How can I contribute while I still have so much to learn? These fears can be stifling but Faber challenged me to not be halted by my fears, but to examine them instead. Being afraid is part of being human. What does this fear say about me? How can I turn my fear into energy in order to contribute to making business a force for good?