Our societies are challenged when it comes to both physical and mental well-being. Research suggests that just 17-30% of our population is ‘flourishing’ (meaning: perceiving oneself as leading an engaged, happy and meaningful life). Meanwhile, levels of depression have increased tenfold since the 1960s, and we suffer from serious physical challenges with 69% of our population being overweight (in the United States, that is). Meanwhile, countries and organisations have shown to measure their successes in financial terms – neglecting the fact that upgrade balance sheets do not automatically transfer into better lives for people.
I personally believe there is a serious business case for organisations to be actively involved in increasing the general levels of well-being in our society. In my view, this job can only be done by the organisations we create and work for. The reason is simple: leverage. Change an organisation and you change thousands with it. Change products slightly and you may impact millions, or even billions, of customers directly.
I would advocate for a strong upgrade from our current thinking, where ‘Don’t Be Evil’ (Google) should no longer be the norm, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments are no longer made solely responsible for the good things a company does. ‘Don’t Be Evil’ is a powerless statement without any real direction or implementation value. It leans on two thoughts (do good, and comply with legal advisors, probably). In my view, it should be rewritten to ‘Do Good, Period’, and include measurements on what you have accomplished in this area. Second, the CSR departments aren’t powerful enough, simply because they are mostly separated from the real value chain. They are also not creative enough and usually end up (~50% of initiatives) giving money away instead of transforming the business model for the better. They are simply not part of how the company actually makes money.
The trick will be to build business models that incorporate Purpose+Profit (purpose first, hence our company name!) in the model from the start. It would let organisations work with a ‘positive sum game’ mind-set, rather than ‘zero sum game’ beliefs. Any other initiative that’s separate from the real business, like CSR at the moment, will be like filling a bucket that is full of holes. We need a new perspective, one that takes the view of ‘humanity’ rather than ‘me’, to sustain life for the long term on our planet. Organisations are the main entities to make this happen.