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Published on 20 August 2021

Salt Manager Buddy Owen calls us to rethink business impact

'One world, one people.' If you're a Marvel fan, you may recognise this as the rallying cry of the Flag Smashers in the Marvel television series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The Flag Smashers yearned for a world without borders where everyone had equal rights and opportunities. This is a concept that I have no doubt God would support (see Gen 5:1-2). The violent way they went about achieving their vision, however, was less than optimal. In recent years, Marvel has increasingly dipped its metaphorical toes into the stormy waters of world political, social and economic commentary. And, I think, rightly so. 

However, we are not here to argue the merits or quality of Marvel’s commentary. What this does highlight, as the arts often do, is that the world is in tension and in desperate need of change. The younger generations can see clearly that things are not as they should be.

What is true is that change will come, and we can either be the ones who help to usher it in or the ones who try in futility to hold it back. As business leaders in the burgeoning 21st Century, with its endless possibilities, you are at the forefront of history-shaping change. 

And rather than harking back to bygone days it is time to plough new fields, to come together and realise that rather than being in competition with each other to maximise profits at all cost, you are united to each other in what Simon Sinek calls The Infinite Game.

In the infinite game, 'There is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.' (Sinek, The Infinite Game)

In order to perpetuate the game, profit must not be the only or even main consideration, but we must consider people and environment as well. If we use up the people and planet resources, the game will end.

John Elkington is one of the world leaders on this line of thought. In his book, Green Swans, he extends his popular triple bottom line approach – by way of a sort of product recall – to encapsulate the concept that companies easing their conscience through altruism isn’t enough to make the necessary change. Instead, a shift in motivation is required.

People and planet must be the driving forces guiding 21st century economics. He argues that a 10% change in the way we do things will result in too little too late for our world. What we need is 10x change and we need it now.

The cost of the switch from fossil fuels to sustainability will be high...

As will the cost of transition in mindset and motivation to make profit the by-product of well-run business instead of the chief aim. However, the earlier the transition is made, the sooner the rewards will be seen.

Even though the initial costs of transformation are high, Elkington believes that, in the near future, the move to sustainability will result in a multi-trillion-dollar global economy which will benefit every nation. 

Therefore, we have the ability and responsibility to be at the forefront of changing the way the world does business.  

Taking a more holistic view of the role of business in society requires adherence to the new social contract - 'one people, one planet' - with a shared responsibility to look after each other. That contract will look different in different parts of the world where there is a greater or lesser degree of expectation on the market and State for assistance. 

But what is indispensable is the acceptance that we are responsible for our actions and for looking after all of those in our society, especially the vulnerable and the displaced.   

Slowly evolving change which takes generations to develop is no longer enough.

Instead, what is required is immediate change which shakes the foundations of what has taken decades to form.

Values-based businesses that take seriously the social contract (i.e., God’s desire for His creation), are committed to playing the infinite game, and long to right the wrongs we have done to our planet, can reap the rewards of early adoption by loving people, rescuing the planet, and treating profit as a tool to continue the virtuous circle. 

At Salt, we resource and support values-based businesses so that they may change the face of business in the 21st Century, and commit to use business as a force for good in our world.