Women fight for their rights in Kabul, hurricane Ida hits New York City and over 4.5 million people across the world perish due to Covid. Change is needed and not of the climate variety. But change is difficult; although as physicist William Pollard said, ‘not changing is fatal.’
The Coronavirus crisis has exposed fault lines in our economy and the very foundations of our society and unless we seize the opportunity to change, the results will be disastrous, for all of us.
Business can only succeed if society and the planet thrive. Most business leaders understand the severity of climate change, the significance of Black Lives Matter and the importance of gender parity. Yet turning pledges and promises into action, delivering real change, is much more challenging.
A changemaker is ‘a person who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen.’ In 2021, businesses can no longer focus solely on commercial gain, to survive they need to become, what I call, ‘changemaker companies.’
Changemakers reinvent the rules; they do things differently and are prepared to travel upstream
I have spent a decade researching and interviewing changemakers worldwide for my book Generation Share, to better understand the characteristics that set these social innovators, entrepreneurs and trailblazers apart. I work with businesses to show them how to make change happen, how to turn well-intended pledges and promises into practical commercial, social and environmental success by taking them through a practical changemaker transformation process. I’ve learned there are six character traits that define changemakers and build changemaker companies:
SHARE: Changemakers are sharers; they are collaborative team players who understand the importance of partnerships and embed the sharing of access and resources into their business models so everyone benefits.
BRAVE: Changemakers reinvent the rules; they do things differently and are prepared to travel upstream.
ADAPTABLE: Changemakers understand that to lead change, they need to be willing to adapt, that true innovation happens through learning what works and what doesn’t, adapting and iterating accordingly.
LOVE: Changemakers put love at the heart of everything they do; they consider their impact and embed love for people and planet into their products, services and their relationships with employees and partners.
POSITIVE: Changemakers are inherently positive, solution-finders; they see challenges as opportunities for improvement and sustainability.
FUTURE: Changemakers are future-conscious, they see the bigger picture, take a systemic approach and always consider the long-run, rather than opt for a quick win. They know that future survival is a long game.
With a 50% increase in the number of major companies committing to net zero ahead of COP 26 in November and with firms stepping up to address racial and gender inequality, there are some encouraging signs that we will build back better. But the need to commit to business change, however challenging has never been greater.
So on a practical level where do you start? Here are three questions that I use as a springboard for changemaking:
• What does your business currently do that is needed in a time of crisis?
• Using your existing capability, what could your company do that is needed in a time of crisis?
• And what do you need to do to make this happen?
During 2020, black and ethnic minority people suffered 26 times more job cuts due to Covid than the drop in white workers over the same period; over the last year, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached record levels, not seen for 4 million years. Change is needed and needed fast. For businesses to survive, change is vital, however difficult it may be.