Ideas, inspiration, courage, readiness for action and change were in the air at the 2019 B Corp Summit
In Amsterdam, 23 and 24 September were two intense days entirely dedicated to one big B for Benefit — 650 participants and 41 speakers ready to guide the creation of a new economy that can save our planet.
Connection, sharing, exchange, training and inspiration are the key words of this unique event, which annually brings together certified B Corps, business leaders, changemakers and European and overseas companies, committed to using business as a force for the common good.
Today we are witnessing a major revolution in the global economic system, in which B Corps play a key role. This is how John Elkington, founder of Volans, kicked off proceedings in his keynote speech “Fixing our tomorrow”. The global economic system is failing to achieve its purpose and there is an urgent need for a total redesign with an emphasis on the power of business to contribute to tackling the greatest global challenges of our time: protecting and renewing a devastated planet and rebuilding an unequal society. B Corps have turned this redeeming business idea into a mainstream model, but we are still far from the goal.
“If it melts, it’s ruined! This is true both for ice cream and our planet” — Anuradha Chugh, Managing Director of Ben & Jerry’s, one of the most famous ice cream manufacturers in the US. This ironic, but striking metaphor emphasizes that there is no planet B. It is therefore essential that the whole business world take responsibility by being an inspirational role model. “We look to Greta as a leader, but she is a 16-year-old girl. We are the ones with years and years of training and huge revenues. We need to step forward and take control!” Because “we are the agents of the exponential change needed to fix the future […] We do business to save our planet!” — Ryan Gellert, General Manager of Patagonia.
Governments alone have not been able to solve these challenges, so it is up to companies to pave the way and, additionally, to take on the vital role of being a force for change in a business system that is completely redesigned for the benefit of people, planet and profit — in that order of priority.
“We are at a point of no return. The global economic system is failing and capitalism is being put to the test: Only 19% of young adults identify themselves as ‘capitalists’” — Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-founder of #BLab. “The capital market is the biggest obstacle to the change that we are pursuing,” which is why it is necessary to transform both the system and people at an individual level. “There isn’t a well-trodden path. We make the path along the way, so let’s start walking and let’s make it together” (Gilbert).
This is the idea behind #LeadTheBeat, the title of the two days in Amsterdam: an innovative approach to positive change. If the economic system does not work, it is time to build an economy B, in which businesses, organizations, movements, academics, policy makers and individuals work together toward a better future for all.
“At the end of your life the person you are will meet the person you could have been. Maybe we should translate this reasoning into a moment of reflection at the company level.” — Marcello Palazzi, B Lab. What is your fundamental role? How can you lead your industry and help other companies follow your example? How does your business impact the surrounding community and natural ecosystems? These are the questions that managers and companies have to answer in order to define their path and their approach. These were the issues discussed at the summit’s workshops.
It is not just a matter of redesigning a system, but also of inspiring and involving people: “It’s not about becoming a market leader, but about changing the system!” Ynzo van Zanten, Choco Evangelist at Tony’s Chocolonely, and no system can function without people.
As Anders Barsoe of Let’s Sushi explains: “Fish isn’t cute, so people don’t care whether we are environmentalists. So we tried to talk about something that would interest people: No fish? No sushi! We make sushi, but our ambition is to save the oceans.” This nice example perfectly demonstrates the key to engaging people: pressing the buttons that most affect them.
“We are the first generation of leaders who fully understand what should be done and the last generation that can actually do something about it in order to save the planet!” — Douglas Lamont, CEO of Innocent Drinks. The B Summit Corp is a way to remind ourselves that with great power comes great responsibility, but we are the only ones to take on this task.
Way2Global’s tagline, “Beyond borders for a better world”, is the reason why we wanted to share the experience of the B Corp Summit: Translating and disseminating valuable content is the small, but important contribution that we can offer with our business. We aim to reach as many people as possible, in the hope that someone this evening feels as inspired and motivated as we do and will be ready tomorrow to join the leaders who are paving the way to a better future.