Lead With We: How people and business can lead social impact (and save our future)
In today's video, we discuss how people and business can lead social impact into the future. We chat with best selling author and global keynote speaker Simon Mainwaring about the opportunities for corporate social impact programs.
We look at mistakes businesses make with their social impact programs, and how companies can find their unique perspective. We also explore the evolution of social impact, what LEAD WITH WE stands for in his latest book and how problems solved via social impact are major business opportunities.
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Today, I've got two special guests.
My first guest, who is also my cohost, you've probably seen her from other episodes. Her name is Erica Graham-Jordan. She's the regional vice president here at Benevity.
And our second special guest, and you probably know this individual, he's very well-known in the social impact [00:01:00] industry.
His name is Simon Mainwaring, and he is a brand futurist, global keynote speaker, and bestselling author.
He's also best known for the author of We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World. He's also the founder and CEO of We First, a creative consultancy, and author of the new book, which we're actually here to talk about, Lead With We.
Thank you very much, Simon, for joining us today.
Simon Mainwaring: [00:01:30] Thank you for having me. Hi to everyone.
Erica Graham Jordan:
Excellent. Let's jump right in.
Simon, for those of us listening who have maybe not read your first book, can you share a bit of background on the impetus of the book?
Maybe any trends you found in the first version, and then any outcomes that came to life as a result.
Trends, outcomes and insights from writing the book?
Yeah, it's interesting. Firstly, thank you. Hi to everyone.
After 15 years working around the world, like a lot of Aussies do, you always have [00:02:00] one Australian at every party, right?
Well, I was one of those Australians traipsing around the world with my family and I ended up working in L.A. and I had a good career.
I worked on Nike at their ad agency.
I've run Motorola globally and launched the Razr phone and I had this successful ad career but I don't know if anyone can relate to this, I came away from all of that work feeling like I was unchallenged or there wasn't enough meaning in my work and so what happened was, [00:02:30]
About 2007/2008, I wrote this book called We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, and the reason that was, was I'd seen the global economic meltdown and like a lot of us, we all sat there and went, well, this isn't fair.
You see people's hopes and healthcare and homes being lost and then I went around Greece and Iceland and the Gulf state and the whole world had this knock on effect in terms of this whole economic slowdown and I thought, there's got to be a better way of preventing this [00:03:00] and at the same time, Bill Gates gave a speech at the World Economic Forum, his creative capitalism speech where he said the private sector's got to play a bigger role in social change.
It can't just be government and it can't just be philanthropy.
So, I wrote that book. It did well.
That launched the company and for the last 10 years, we've been specifically building purpose driven brands, helping them to find what to say and how to say it, their strategy, integrating that inside their company, large or small, so it's true of the organization and then thirdly, helping them [00:03:30] with their impact storytelling so they get the credit they deserve, it drives their growth and helps them win the talent they need and so on.
What the book really explored was how you could use social media at the time to facilitate dialogue between institutions and citizens, brands and consumers.
I would say though, as we all know if you watch the press, that a lot of that promise has been lost or wasted because the advertising dollar has won or there's been privacy creep or there's been a lot of polarization through social media [00:04:00] and so to your question about where do I see things now, I think the great challenge is there was a lot of promise when I first wrote that book.
I think only a small percentage of it was actually exercised and capitalized on in terms of impact and I think we now find ourselves in a much worse situation where issues like climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, ocean pollution and social inequities are just everywhere.
We see it all around us in our lives and so now we've got much bigger problems [00:04:30] to solve for and that's why I wrote my new book and I sort of doubled down into spending every night writing and every weekend so you can get some thinking out there that you hope will help.
Erica Graham Jordan:
Wow, there's so much of what you said that I think will resonate really well with the Benevity community, right?
So much of the focus on purpose, how do you mobilize your people, how do you connect with your end consumers and how do we tackle some of these big issues that we're all really trying to focus on. [00:05:00]
With that in mind, I kind of have a two-edged question.
Historically, when you kind of look back and say over the past 10 years, what have been the brands and the campaigns that you've worked on that you've been most proud of that really have taken this purpose to life and then knowing that we're working on these big challenging topics, who do you look at saying, oh gosh, they're really doing it right, right now?
What brands and campaigns have you been most proud of? Which brands are doing it right today?
There's a few brands that we were lucky enough to work on. We work with startups and solo entrepreneurs, all the way through [00:05:30] Sony Pictures and Avery Dennison and SAP and these very large complex organizations.
I mean some of the fun ones on the way were redefining Tom's, the shoe company, their positioning and their purpose in 2015 and I was actually the interim CMO there for a few months and we gave them the solution where their purpose was to create a world where you live for one another.
That is one shoe was given, bought and another is given but also leadership and employees are there for one another.
Employees in the US and employees around the world are there [00:06:00] for one another. The private sector and the public sector are there for one another.
So the way of being their own in the world is living for one another.
And on the strength of that work, they've expanded, they've evolved and now they're addressing a lot of issues from mental health to gun control and they've actually moved beyond their one for one model but it's still true of the company that it's all about living for one another.
Another one, Timberland has been a leader out there for a long time and they found, like a lot of your listeners, that now suddenly everyone's [00:06:30] using the same language.
Everyone's using sustainability, CSR, ESG, B Corp, SDG, acronym galore, word soup, salad soup.
So, you've got to stand out because if you don't differentiate it, you can get lost in all this noise and so we defined the new purpose and positioning for Timberland and in terms of activation.
It was wonderful to do this work around it that led to the Nature Needs Heroes campaign and they've got a 15 million tree planting initiative. So real rubber hits the road.
And then one more example would be there're people who are out front of this conversation but we also work with companies that are just at the beginning of their purpose journey and we worked with Mammut in Switzerland, which is a very elevated, very elite Alpine brand that has been around since 1864 in the Swiss Alps.
And we worked with them to define their new purpose, which was to create a world moved by mountains.
And it's shifting the focus off them and their products to helping people appreciate and be emotionally moved [00:07:30] about the mountains themselves and all of this applies not just to external stakeholders and [00:07:35] but also to internal stakeholders and culture building because your ability to have a resilient culture, a productive culture to get the talent you need and inspire them to do their best work is so critical today.
And as for brands doing it well out there, I will ... Well, I won't say the usual suspects.
There are the Unilever's of the world and the Patagonias and so on, but for example, there's a company called Orbia which is a large multinational, which crosses so many different industries [00:08:00] but what they've done, they've made their logo mark into a series of circles and those circles change each year reflecting on how they've delivered on some of their various impact metrics.
So literally the brand story itself, how it shows up in the world, is reflected in this ever evolving logo.
Or if you look at a Danish gas company or energy company, they used to be one of the leading oil and gas companies in the world called Orsted.
They totally re-engineered themselves to alternative energy and they're now ranked [00:08:30] for three years running the most sustainable company in the world. And they were an oil and gas company.
So, it shows you that anything is possible and I cannot finish this answer without just giving a nod to the hundreds and thousands of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs who are just showing up so meaningfully and just kicking butt on so many different levels in terms of the fundamental premise or the reason for being of their business is to actually improve our future.
So hats off to all of them.
So, Simon, I want to keep in this line of [00:09:00] like track of train of thought and actually, that goes into my next question.
So, speaking of these brands that are doing it well, what do you see as rooms for,
Opportunities for improvement in corporate social impact programs?
Well, I think there's a few mistakes that we see and this is said with respect but we, night and day, every day for 10 years, have dealt with foundations, NGOs, nonprofits [00:09:30] as well as for-profit brands of all sizes.
Mistake #1: Identifying the cause you're working with as your company's purpose
A couple of things, sometimes when you've got a CSR program, you mistake the cause you're working towards as your purpose.
So what do you do at company X?
Oh, we help address ... We help support cancer research or we work towards women's empowerment or we're helping with childhood education but that doesn't differentiate you at all from the tens if not hundreds of other organizations, for profit [00:10:00] or non, that are committed to the same issue.
So you get lost in the noise.
Mistake #2: Your program is not differentiated in any way - Not having a specific point of view
Secondly, even if you do define your purpose, you don't do it in a differentiated way.
Too often, with the crowd that there is now talking about the good works they're doing, companies can define themselves in very similar terms and therefore, again, they're undifferentiated or their programs, the messaging with which they talk about their programs are kind of table stakes for that category, that cause, that industry, whatever it might [00:10:30] be.
So, in our work, we're very adamant about getting very specific about why an organization for profit or non exists and then what's their specific point of view on that issue.
So, if you're addressing cancer, it might be that you are focused on caretakers of cancer survivors and that differentiates you from all those organizations doing research.
Mistake #3: Talk about your social impact programs in a self-directed way
And then the last big mistake that we see a lot of is that no matter how well intended you are through are CSR program as a purposeful company, [00:11:00] you talk about it in a self-directed way. I'll give you an example. This is what we do at ...
Here, we are Company X. We are committed to X, Y, and Z. We are doing these sorts of programs.
Our employees volunteer these sorts of hours.
We do this sort of donation matching and here's the impact or the trees we've planted or the meals we've done, afterschool program, feeding America.
The problem with that is, you're still talking about yourself and no one hears anything.
And time and again, we see brands [00:11:30] really putting a lot of precious resources and content out there and two or three years later, they're like no one has any clue or idea as to what we stand for.
Instead, you need to be the celebrant, not celebrity of your stakeholder community, which means you've got to talk about your suppliers, your employees, your partners, your customers, the impact that was achieved but in a community facing way, not a self-directed way.
And when you do that, not only [00:12:00] will they listen more, they're more likely to share that content and build your business's impact because it's about them.
So, I cannot stress this enough, in whatever your marketing program is around your CSR efforts, make sure you're the celebrant, you're celebrating others rather than talking about yourself.
And I just want to quickly dive into what you said about the first part about being generic. Being generic in whether you support women's rights, whether you support international [00:12:30] programs, whatever you support, how would the company actually go about ...
You explained it a little bit, but how would they go deeper into finding their niche and I guess, finding their perspective in that particular industry?
How businesses can find their unique perspective
Firstly, in our work, it's all a function of the purpose of their company.
If you haven't defined your high order purpose, why you exist, then you're always ...
You're kind of like you've got the ornaments on the Christmas tree but you haven't defined the trunk of the tree and what typically [00:13:00] happens there is you'll do a great internal culture program, you may do something with your suppliers, you'll do a CSR effort but there'll be all different ad hoc efforts and no one in their ...
Not even your employees can connect the dots.
They don't even know what you stand for that work there every day because you haven't defined that first piece.
To define your purpose, what we do is answer a series of questions for companies and I'll give you three that are important:
1. What is your enemy? What do you solve for?
The first one is what is your enemy? As in what do you get [00:13:30] out of bed to solve for? For example, at We First, our enemy is the me first mentality that really creates business that doesn't serve anyone.
Ultimately, you have to embrace a we first mentality where the whole is working so the parts can thrive.
With Airbnb, their purpose is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. What business are they in?
They're in the business of universal belonging. So, what is your enemy? [00:14:00] What are you working against?
2. What are you the "only" of?
Secondly, what are you the only of?
There's only one company like yours, one team like yours, one moment like this, one industry that you're working within, one cause at that moment that you're working towards, so what are you the only of?
3. When you're at your best, what are you doing?
And then thirdly, when you're at your best, what are you doing? When you are crushing it, when your team is like high fiving each other through the Zoom screens, hand sanitizing with gloves on, what are you doing?
And if you actually answer those questions and more, [00:14:30] you start to surface up, the themes reveal themselves because without doing that, without externalizing yourself, it's hard to read the label from inside the jar.
You're like well, we're this and we're this and we're this and we're this and it just bounces around like a speedball in your head.
Then, when it comes to your cause specifically, it should be a function of that higher order purpose.
Everything you do throughout your entire value chain with your suppliers, company culture and your CSR programs should be an activation, mobilization of that purpose.
And then what you do specifically [00:15:00] with your cause is you look at the various areas or territories that you could address in that cause.
So, it might be if you're an outdoor apparel brand, you might say is it about increasing equity and getting greater diversity out into the natural world?
Is it about addressing, I don't know, is that a phobia or hate speech, by reconnecting to something that we're all a part of, the natural world? Or is it about reforestation and replanting and regeneration?
Like there's so many different lenses [00:15:30] through which you could look at it, for example, at the role you play or cause related to the outside world.
So, you look at all those various territories and on the strength of your purpose, identify what is most authentic for you to speak to, you've got the most credentials to speak to and then also, what is most differentiating from your competitors?
Where's that wide space in there and when you do that, people will really align around it. They'll really go, oh wow, I understand your point of view now. I understand why [00:16:00] it's so important and I see that you're showing up specific to that with authenticity and in fact, I see all the different efforts you're doing throughout your entire value chain, point to that and then they'll be quick to speak about you to others and build your business.
Erica Graham Jordan:
What I love about so much that you just said was a reliance not only on yes, that purpose but also a team sport, right?
When so much has really evolved, probably since we all entered this space however many years ago and then evolving to just one [00:16:30] person in an office handing a big check somewhere and focusing on something rather than this evolution into a team sport.
And so when you think about that, how have you seen that evolution and to include all these different stakeholders and team members to really kind of focus on the same direction?
How have you seen the evolution of social impact?
Yeah, I mean I've been around a while in this space now and everything takes on it's lifecycle like with sustainability, it was like should we be sustainable for five years?
And then it was, how do we be sustainable?
And now it's, who's the most sustainable? And then [00:17:00] it's, what are your ESG metrics?
And now it's, do you really mean what you say with your ESG metrics? Like it just goes on this lifecycle.
So, part of the thesis of the first book, We First, was that we created this mess together, we're in it together, we've got to solve it together and to that end, with your internal stakeholders, employees but also with your customers and consumers.
Effective CSR Program: Stakeholders must co-own, co-author, co-create content, and collaborate with partners
If you want to have an effective CSR program, you have to really approach it in the sense that they co-own it, [00:17:30] they co-author it and they co-create content and then you collaborate with partners.
And let me explain.
This is all to your point about the we, which I'm so passionate about.
You've got to co-author it in the sense that everybody owns the brand.
So it might be as simple as hey, I'm going to ask our employees every quarter, specific to a certain cause, how do you want us to show up?
Do you want us to volunteer?
Do you want to donation match? Is there a region you want to lead into? Was there a cultural flash point that you want us to address?
So, you [00:18:00] can co-author it.
You then co-create it.
I mean just have a look at Dove.
When they wanted to address more recently real beauty and the objectification and sexualization of women, they did a campaign called Show Us and they asked 10,000 women to share photographs of them as real women, un-retouched, authentic women and then they created the world's largest free stock library of un-retouched photographs of real women [00:18:30] that any advertiser could use anywhere.
Now, that's not advertising they're doing, that is a commitment to their purpose, which is to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety.
And so they're working, they're co-creating the result with their audience.
One other point I want to make here as well, one of the big shifts I'm seeing right now is that we realize we're out of time.
These timelines we're working against are contracting towards us, in which case we've got to leverage [00:19:00] things like pre-competitive collaboration more and working with adjacent brands and industries and to really think about it, how can we collaborate at scale.
So my new book is really about the future of collaborative leadership because when you have a lot of isolated companies doing CSR programs, the vast tapestry of business is still self-serving and these wonderful efforts are not connected.
The synergies aren't being unlocked.
The compounding effect isn't being realized and so the only way that's [00:19:30] going to happen intentionally is yes, those companies move because they see the challenges we face but also, the companies doing good like yours, like those watching, open their minds and go hey, let's work with a competitor, let's work across sector, let's work with not-for-profits in new ways and kind of weave that social fabric more broadly because then you'll start to accelerate and scale your solutions to these challenges.
So, it is all about the we moving forward. We're in this together.
We're one human family. We've got one planet [00:20:00] and we all are facing some really serious challenges.
So, Simon, speaking about the book, could you tell us why you actually wrote it and have your attitudes or perspectives changed on social impact since you wrote it or maybe since the last book as well?
Why write the book? Changes in attitudes or perspectives since writing?
Yeah, they have in the sense that the first book was all about social media and social technology.
It was very new then, 2010, 2011.
Arab Spring had just happened and so on and [00:20:30]
I thought, business as usual could continue but we could really leverage these transformative tools where you can have these dialogues with institutions, with brands and work together to do more good.
As I mentioned, a lot of that opportunity has been squandered.
In the meantime, these issues that we're already aware of and I wrote about in the first book have got a lot worse and so the thing that's kept me up at night for the last three or four years has been how do we solve for these issues at greater speed and scale [00:21:00] because those timelines are contracting towards us and what I see happening is they're compounding in the future.
The climate emergency, loss of biodiversity, all of these issues and they're hurtling back towards us in the present and it's going to create this hockey stick of expectation on business.
In my opinion,
We are in the last year or two where anyone watching this has the luxury of choosing how far or how fast they change or how effective their cause program is.
After that, our experience [00:21:30] of life will be so defined by extreme weather, by a lack of access to clean water, by climate refugees and so on and social inequities that everyone, every employee, every customer, every investor will be like, wait a second, do I want to work here?
Do I want to buy your product?
Do I want to invest in your company?
Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?
And I say this with confidence because the first chapter of my first book 10 years ago was the future of [00:22:00] profit is purpose and here we are, 10 years later and everyone's falling over themselves talking about their purpose.
I am telling you hand on my heart as someone who has the privilege of a line of sight across all the different brands that we work with, large and small, that the future for your company, if you want to be on the right side of history, if you want the market forces to drive your growth, if you want to maintain and increase the loyalty and good will of investors, employees and customers is to work together in new ways, to really embrace this idea of collaborative leadership.
So, in the book, I provide a step-by-step roadmap for what that means with your supply chain, leadership, culture, product innovation, marketing, CSR and impact work and then also how you work across with partners and across sector and then how you pull that all the way through and it's both for large companies and for small companies with data and a step-by-step process you can follow. And I'll tell you why I did it.
You asked me why? Because right outside that door, [00:23:00] I have my 19 and 22-year-old daughter move out three weeks ago, said to me, "I'm not sure if we're going to have kids because we don't want to bring more people into the world."
And that's real.
And I don't care what role anyone is, at some point, we're not going to be a CEO, a founder, a CSO, a head of cause marketing, chief of philanthropy, we're going to be a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, an uncle, a friend, and we're going to see people in trouble and we're going to realize we need to do things differently.
And business is waking up right now but people are really struggling to know how do I do it? How does my business do it?
How does my company do it?
How does my good cause work, get credit that it deserves?
How does that drive my business so I can have more impact and how do I make sure I stand out in all the noise? So that's why I wrote it.
And also, who wants to go outside and see people on weekends, right? Stay at home, write a book.
Erica Graham Jordan:
So much of what you said is also so visionary, right?
It's even alluding back to knowing and seeing what was going to happen 10 years ago when you wrote the book and then understanding and saying, look, I can see across all these businesses, this is now what we're seeing.
We've talked about collaboration, we've talked about the big macro-challenges that can be quite terrifying for people and they don't know where to start, what do you see as the long term vision?
It's collaboration [00:24:30] but how do we benchmark?
Who leads us? Like how do we get there in terms of strategic and tactical steps?
What is the long term vision of social impact? How do we get there?
Yeah, it's a great question and I appreciate what you said but I'm no smarter than anybody else, I just get the privilege of working day in, day out across all these different sort of areas and from that vantage point, you go, hey, wow, there's a pattern here and you share that pattern.
So that's where it really all comes from and where I see it going is this, the fundamental thesis of the book is LEAD WITH WE and [00:25:00] that is a mindset, like a point of departure, it's a process, like how you get it done, and a higher order aspiration.
And really, it's about making sure, as I said, the integrity of the whole, the natural systems, the environment, the beautiful natural world out there survives and also the social systems survive.
Why? Because brands can't survive in societies that fail.
I mean look at during COVID. Every business was closing because no one was shopping.
All the issues that came [00:25:30] with that.
And so how do you do it?
Well, the first thing is you got to lead, and that sounds like an obvious thing to state but right now, the vast majority of businesses not doing anything or waiting for someone else to fix it or hope it goes away.
And there's one of three scenarios, we do the same as we're doing now and we're going to be in real trouble in 10 or 12 years time, like serious daily trouble or half the people do well with cause programs and do good and half don't and these people who don't undo the good work of those that do.
Doesn't [00:26:00] work out. Just doesn't pen out.
Or we all go, wait a second, we're in this mess together, not because I was a bad person because I bought from that company that was doing harm, I'm working for a company that isn't providing a solution to a problem, I'm driving a car that is creating carbon emissions, I probably have too much meat in my diet and I'm contributing to whatever.
You've got to look at every single one of us individually, has to go, wait a second, in the same way I'm wearing a mask, in the same way I'm working from home, in the same way I'm not hanging around other people [00:26:30] and coughing in their face, in the same way we showed up individually for COVID.
We're now in a crisis of even greater proportions and the good news is, it's not a penalty, it's an opportunity for us to stop feeling hopeless.
It's a chance for us to go, oh wow, every choice I make in my life can be a vote for a better future, so I'm going to put my money with a bank that doesn't support guns or oil and gas or whatever or I'm going to put my money ...
Or I'm going to work at a company that is doing good or I'm going to be really choiceful in what I buy. [00:27:00]
So, first thing is to lead.
The second thing is with, and that is with the widest with, with the greatest number of collaborators you can and really, I found in my work of 10 years with purposeful companies, people usually restrict their efforts to those stakeholders closest into them.
My immediate suppliers, not tier three, tier four, tier five, just maybe even tier one, my employees in HQ or whatever but out in the field, it's a bit hard.
Customers, the loyalists, as much as I can on social media [00:27:30] but not so much and then maybe the odd nonprofit partner.
We have to just snap out of that and take a whole presumptive approach which is I'm going to work with competitors, I'm going to work across sector, I'm going to collaborate pre-competitively before we take our products to market.
We're going to level up the whole industry.
We've got to snap out of that because when you do, the whole world opens up to you. One example, the One Trillion Trees initiative right now where hundreds of companies from all around the world and NGOs [00:28:00] and organizations have come together to plant one trillion trees by 2030, just one example.
So, lead with the greatest number of collaborators, we, which is what is the largest number of people in the planet that you could impact.
And when you think about that as a decision making filter, every decision, CEO, payroll, R&D, product innovation, social media, community impact work, if you just go wait a second, I've got to [00:28:30] make this decision about whatever it is, how can I lead with we?
How can we show up to actually be as responsible as possible, and who's the greatest number of people I could do it with and how can we impact the greatest number of people on the planet in a positive way?
If we all did that throughout an entire organization on an ongoing basis and we all did it together, we would turn the connective tissue that got us in this mess between all of our individual actions that got us in this mess to our advantage rather [00:29:00] than our detriment because you do a little bit more and I do a little bit more and this company does more and everything can change.
And if you think I'm crazy, these issues are larger than ourselves.
It isn't going to go away.
Everyone had to pay attention to COVID.
They had to pay attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
We have to pay attention to the climate crisis because of the way it's showing up in our life and when we're in a crisis, we do show up differently and so I'm actually very optimistic.
I think business will respond in very powerful [00:29:30] ways.
We don't want to go out of business as a species but I do think it's folks like you with your amazing CSR programs and so on that are going to really have to lead the charge and help people wake up inside your companies.
So, Simon, you were talking about all these events that have made ... Put corporate purpose, all the companies that are talking about how they have purpose, all these events that have put purpose in the forefront and social impact in the forefront, so I've actually asked this question to other [00:30:00] social impact, I would say, influencers as well.
It's very interesting, the answers.
So, with the progress made in corporate social responsibility and diversity equity and inclusion, do you see a backtrack happening once or if society or media starts focusing on something else?
Do you see a backtrack on social impact progress?
A couple of things, I didn't think we've made anywhere near enough progress at all.
I was honored to be a judge for the sustainable development goals at the Cannes Advertising Festival and because 2020 had COVID, [00:30:30]
I looked at every entry, as you have to as a judge, from 2020 and 2021, 1100 entries from Global Citizen, the United Nations through every major brand and nonprofit out there and I would say that only 5% were addressing the root problem and providing a systemic solution that can scale.
So I don't even think we've begun to scratch the surface.
That said, will there be a backlash when they move onto something else?
Sadly, I'd say that [00:31:00] mother nature is now the advertising agency to keep us on point. Why?
Because if it's not fires in Sydney, Australia or Australia, it's fires in California or it's floods in Venice and Germany or it's people taking to the streets because they're on the wrong side of the prosperity equation.
Or it's the fact that the produce that you want is not available anymore or right now, there's a supply chain meltdown all over the country and you can't get what you need because of [00:31:30] the knock on effect of COVID and so on.
So, every time I think the media will try and look away, something will snap its head back forward and I think it's not just about the media, I think it's about in our personal lives.
I think we're just going to be like I'm worried for my ...
I don't know, I'm worried for our future. Are you worried for our future?
I am, I don't know about you guys. I'm worried for our future and I think every day that we see things and we wonder how is that going to be better for me in 10 years, my kids, [00:32:00] the people I care about and so on.
So I think it's going to be as real and present as the people we love and I think it's going to be in the media all the time and the other thing I'd say is this,
The reason I'm so optimistic in the context of this challenging time is that we've never before had the requisite coalition of stakeholders at the table to do something about it.
What do I mean?
Now we have suppliers, leaders, employees, customers, consumers, [00:32:30] and nonprofit NGO foundations and so on all wanting to do something different, if you listen to the World Economic Forum, Business Roundtable, all of these things, but we also have the investor class who are clamoring for ESG commitments and ESG funds.
It's all about the money at the end of the day, follow the money and the money is at the table now because they're not going to invest in companies that aren't prepared for extreme weather due to the climate emergency.
They're not going to invest in boards [00:33:00] that aren't diverse because they're not defensible.
They're going to invest in companies that are doing good for you, good for the planet products because there's consumer demand. Those companies will grow.
The big boys or girls will look at that and go, "We just lost a point, a bit of market share, oh my, we've got to change too."
And the market forces will kick in.
So it's kind of like we've been wanting to have an alternative engine to the engine of capitalism for a long time but we didn't have all the pieces in place.
Everything was there except the investor class and now you screw that piece in and it's starting to turn over. [00:33:30]
So, I don't think we're going to slip back.
I think we're going to move forward, sadly, because these issues are so pressing and real in our lives and I think the right coalition of stakeholders is here to carry it forward.
And I swear to god, I mean I did a lot of research for this book for everything you need to look at from all the venerable institutions, we have, in my estimation, 10-12 years time.
The climate emergency is already here, 10-12 years time, after which there's a cascading effect, which we won't be able to control and it'll be incredibly [00:34:00] serious but right now, people are waking up on a scale I've never seen before.
There are massive forces gathering and resources gathering and you hear about companies and their commitments every day, that are shifting the narrative of business. So I do think we'll get there.
Erica Graham Jordan:
I feel like you're giving folks hope, right? We talk about big issues but then also tangible ways to get there and reasons to believe, like actions we can all take.
This is no longer theory. [00:34:30] The problems we're facing are real in our lives.
We can't buy a car because there're no microchips being made because of supply chain issues. People aren't working, they're working from home.
There was a report that came out today ... Was it the UN Climate ... That said that we are on track to increase temperature by 2.7 degrees Celsius globally by 2050. T
hat is not good if you look at what that means [00:35:00] for the planet. Like there could not be more urgency.
What are we waiting for?
Are we waiting for, I don't know, the whole of Greece to be on fire?
Well, that happened.
Like what more do we need and the great thing is, every one of these challenges is a marketplace opportunity.
Every one. Like look at, dramatic example, the combustion engine auto industry in the US after 2007 and 2008 tried to crush Tesla. [00:35:30]
Tesla is now outselling all the other makers who have all committed to transition to electric vehicles and here's a $300 billion man and they say he'll be the first trillion dollar man.
And I mean that's an extreme example but it's just a fact that ever since a need for transition in the marketplace that he was way out ahead of, everything, social inequity, supply chain issues, restoration and regeneration of the natural environment, clean food, clean beauty, every one of these problems [00:36:00] that you can solve through your CSR program is a way to build your business.
Erica Graham Jordan:
You tied it all together so nicely and when I think about so much of your work as also a futurist, so when you think of all these different pieces, what does that mean for your kids, 19 and 22, as they go to start looking for their first jobs, my kids, who are much younger, and that is a motivation every day, how do we think about that as the future of work from their experience?
How will they show up in, call it, 10 years time, what do you think that looks like?
What is the future of work?
Yeah, I mean it's a complicated question because I mean the education experience [00:36:30] from preschool through high school through the university right now is so severely compromised.
And I think there'll be a whole group of kids that have gone through in this window of time of four or five years that are traumatized not only by COVID itself but the lack of socialization, which is so important to their identity, which is a byproduct of education.
You go to school, you hang out on the playground and so on and so on.
I think that will remake the work experience as well forever and if you look at all the data, and yes, it's a moment in time now but the vast majority of data says [00:37:00] that we are going to have more of a hybrid approach and anywhere between 50 to 70% of businesses say they're going to be remote full-time from now on.
I think that depending on the industry you're in, that need for socialization will come back to some degree whether it's because you get more creativity that way, whether it's just fundamental to human nature, whether our lives feel diminished when we're all just at arm's length all the time.
Sort of cowering in our homes but I think we're going to travel less [00:37:30] because it's irresponsible and companies will get in trouble for unnecessary travel.
I think there's going to be ...
The whole [inaudible 00:37:38] of employees will be better respected, which means, oh, I want to work from home two or three days a week, and we'll use the tools to that end.
I think we are going to see, as a function of the great resignation going on right now,
Companies that are not articulate about the good work they're doing in a differentiated way will have real trouble attracting talent
No one's going to want to work for them [00:38:00] and if you're not articulate about it, even if you're not doing bad things, they're going to assume you don't care and they'll go to somebody else who does share what they're doing.
So I think the future of work will be hybrid.
It will take a more holistic approach to health, mental health and well-being of everybody and I think it's going to be reframed around the role that business more broadly but then your company specifically is doing to make things better.
Erica Graham Jordan:
That's music to our ears.
That's so much of what our client community talks about, what they're bringing [00:38:30] to life and those are the trends that we hear from brands across the board that we work with, big and small. It's also heartening to know that's what you're hearing across ... Right?
There's some overlap in terms of who we're all working with but that is the conversation on the forefront of-
I've got to tell you, I'm lucky enough on the strength of the book and the work that we do to speak at a lot of conferences and be in a lot of boardroom levels of these big companies that have all the resources in the world to check out what's going on [00:39:00] and again.
I'm just reporting back from the future because I hear it sooner and more often and then I can sort of pull it together.
And for what it's worth, business, both B2B and B2C are wide awake now, wide awake and part of its risk mitigation, they want to do less bad just so they don't get in trouble, part of it is our employees are just on us like crazy and we've got this huge talent churn, so [00:39:30] we've got to fix things, DE&I and mental health and working from home and all of that and then if you're a consumer facing B2C company, you're just ...
There's too many other new young companies coming along plant-based, clean beauty, whatever it might be, clean apparel, sustainable apparel, that they're just like, oh my god, we're not relevant if we don't do this.
And each one of those things is important in its own right, but the aggregate, when this is happening here and this is happening here and that's happening there, this is happening there.
It takes on a life of its own and if you're not [00:40:00] careful, you will get left behind but if you are committed to your CSR program, you are articulate and consistent in your storytelling around it, you'll be on the front of that wave and it can move you forward, you'll drive growth and impact.
Simon, we could be talking to you for a very long time but if any of our listeners or watchers want to connect with you, what's the best place to reach you?
[00:40:30] If you're really passionate about propelling your business growth, so we all stay in business but really solving for these issues that are going to affect all our lives, go to leadwithwe.com
You can find out more about the book there.
I've taken everything that we've done with all of these brands that you know and laid it out in this programmatic approach in the book and it is something that is a very actionable tool that will allow you to propel your growth but also scale the solutions you provide and I don't just [00:41:00] say that because that's good for your business.
You'll find so much fulfillment on a personal level.
You obviously already care about this because you're listening to this webinar, this podcast but this is what we should want for ourselves, show up, do meaningful work, be rewarded and make a difference and it's 100% possible.
So, leadwithwe.com and if you want to know more about my company, just go to wefirstbranding.com.
You can see a lot of the work we've done for brands you'll know and large or small and just [00:41:30] I'm excited.
We're not going to pay attention until it's a moment of crisis. It's a moment of crisis. We're paying attention.
People like us who care, this is our moment and it's time to go like hell.