Making Your Business the Best In the World and For the World

With the ability for people to tune in and ask questions from all over the world, G+ Hangouts are a certainly a powerful social technology worth exploring for your brand and community building efforts. We recently kicked off the first in a series of G+ Hangouts we’ll be hosting throughout 2013, and our featured guests were Dave Cobban, Citizen Mobilization Director of Sustainable Business & Innovation for Nike, and Jay Coen Gilbert, the Co-Founder of B Lab.

Our topic was From Profit to Purpose: How Business Can Build a Better World. During this hour, we discussed not only the theory behind what a lifecycle of sustainable business contribution can look like, but also the tangible results Dave, Jay, and other change agents have already brought to life.

Here are some key takeaways and you can watch the full video replay here.

1. Business can’t succeed in a society that fails. The world is facing crises that threaten society in every way: physically, environmentally, socially, and economically. Leaders looking to build lasting 100 year companies are realizing they must rethink the inputs and outcomes of their business models if they want to thrive. For example, Nike believes that if you have a body you’re an athlete and that the planet is our playing field. As it becomes damaged or we face economic and social instability, our ability to be healthy and active is diminished, so it is imperative both morally and for the sake of the business, for Nike to do its part and be a leader in sustainable innovation.  You can learn more about how Nike is changing the Making of Making here.

2. The private sector is emerging as a third pillar of social change. With both shrinking government budgets and philanthropies facing continued funding challenges since 2008, it’s time for the private sector to make an impact. There are three key elements business must embrace to effectively take on this role: 1. Seeing customers as partners with a goal of creating win-win outcomes, 2. Contributory consumption models, where a small portion of every sale is put towards a cause well-aligned with the values of the brand, and 3. A coalition of brands that can leverage their enormous resources and reach around research, training, marketing, and distribution.  You can read more about these three ideas here.

3. We need an expanded view of “sustainability.” Sustainability encompasses even more than mindful environmental practices. Purpose-driven brands understand that in order to build their bottom line and a better world they must create a business that is morally, socially, economically and environmentally sustainable throughout every aspect of their model. 

4. Purpose can be baked into the DNA of a brand. While early CSR efforts were tacked on to existing campaigns or at the end of the fiscal year with leftover funds, B Corps are now baking values and purpose into their business models from the start. From community impact, to sustainable supply chains, to living wages, you can think of B Corp certification like a LEED certification for the entire business, not just the construction. Becoming a B Corp is not about showcasing how great you are, but putting the necessary values, systems, and culture in place to build a business that lasts. You can find out more about becoming a B Corp here.

6. Publically measure what matters. Big systemic change also requires transparency and accountability to redefined standards of success. For example, while B Corps span many industries, they all must meet rigorous standards on environment and social performance as per the B Impact Assessment. B Impact Reports for individual companies are also made public, so consumers don’t simply have to trust a logo but can take a deep look into company practices. Nike’s product creation teams use the Nike Materials Index to select environmentally better materials and each material’s impacts are assessed in four areas: energy, chemistry, water, and waste.

7. Big systemic change requires collaboration.  Just as brands can no longer treat their customers as just transactions, they must also move beyond the idea that they can’t collaborate with competitors. Already, we see powerful expressions of such shared responsibility that were probably unimaginable a few years ago.  Nike is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, led by Patagonia, along with other competitors like Puma and Asics. As well, after identifying common sustainability concerns, Nike teamed up with NASA, USAID and the US Department of State for a new collaborative innovation initiative called LAUNCH. You can get involved with their seven-year challenges for new economic models and new materials at

In short, fixing our world is a shared responsibility and we’ll continue to share more resources to help you build your business and a world we want to leave for our children. 

Who would you like to see on our live G+ Hangouts? Tell us in the comments below about the change agents and leaders you’d like to learn from this year.

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