A guest article by Xander Mol on how to approach business after the lockdown.

Xander Mol - Business after the lockdown

Xander moved from the Netherlands to England in 2010 and studied Law. During his master in European Law he wrote a dissertation on compensatory provisions for biodiversity loss in the EU, which sparked his interest in sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Xander is furloughed from his regular job in the legal industry and spends his time working for Private Goodness, a Corporate Responsibility consultancy and Radical Recruit, a recruitment agency specialising in representing hidden talent in marginalised groups in London to help them through the COVID-19 crisis by assisting with research and company development.

A Fresh Start

We just headed towards the second half of May and are well into the COVID-19 lockdown. We see some encouraging movements in Europe. Italy has made its first moves in lifting the lockdown. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands presented his ideas about a careful and slow opening of the economy. Germany and Austria are partly removing restrictions and the British government is also moving towards easement of the lockdown.

Time to think about what is next. This blog will not focus on health measures that you may need to think of when employees return to the office. It will focus on rethinking our approach to business after the lockdown, bearing in mind the climate crisis.  

The UK just hit its 2020 earth overshoot day on the 15th of May. On that day we have used the resources that the earth can regenerate. Anything used after that is not regenerated. We are experiencing the impact of a health crisis and the climate crisis imposes severe health risks itself.

The lockdown feels like a natural moment to pause, reset, rethink and start fresh with challenges such as the climate crisis in mind. We have seen what people can achieve when they act as one, when a sense of community is rediscovered through a health crisis that disrupts all our lives. It is important to recognise the gravity of the Corona-crisis but the human spirit we have seen is something beautiful.

What can we learn?

Rethinking business after the lockdown

What is the purpose of a company? Should its values be any different to those we apply to human relations, our friends and our family?

Christian Felber writes in his book ‘Ware Winst[1] that values should function as the guidance in our lives and provide us with direction. Yet, the values of our current economy are completely different to the values of our interhuman relations. Our daily contacts and our friendships are thriving when human values are central to them. Trust, honesty, acknowledgement, respect, willingness to listen, cooperation, mutual help and sharing.

G.APP17 latest blog is just about the importance of Vision, Mission and Values.

In the free market economy, the rules of play are systemic pursuit of profit and competition – motivations for egoism, greed, stinginess, envy, ruthlessness, and irresponsibility. Felber refers to the foundations of capitalism. We do see many companies with amazing values that go far beyond a simple pursuit of profit and staying ahead of competition. Companies that think about their purpose in the community.

However, why is it that the model on which we have built our economy, the model on which we still build, makes us approach business so differently to those who are dear to us?

Where do I start?

A lot of companies are embracing Corporate Responsibility (CR) whereas others have the desire to incorporate CR but are not sure how to approach it – particularly start-ups and small companies.

Now is the time to move towards a sustainable purpose economy.

If you have a start-up or a small company, it could be difficult to think about where to start. While keeping that in mind, you could start with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which form a great tool to study and embrace. The UN has defined 17 different goals forming a “blueprint for peace and prosperity”. They have become key in creating a universal approach to tackle the biggest challenges we face and are valuable to use when you are thinking about CR and your company.

Brand reputation and visibility are crucial in the early stages of your business and how CR is an enormously powerful tool to improve and increase your reputation and visibility. To be effective, a focused and realistic approach is key. Identify your company’s superpowers. What is your company best in? Can you use resources and skills you already have for good?

Use your company’s core values, match them with the SDGs and work with charities, your local community and local government. Try to work together, towards an identified goal.

Meanwhile, think about how you can minimise your carbon footprint, ideally aiming to bring your footprint down to net-zero and beyond.

Embrace diversity. Quite often, it is shown that companies who truly embrace diversity, inclusion and equality thrive, while you give people with the right skills a chance to develop themselves.

Also, G.APP17 gives some quite useful tips for businesses that want to approach charity corporate partnerships.

Grab the Microphone

Your new approach to business success and your CR policies are working. So, grab the microphone to share your ideas and help other businesses flourish after the lockdown.

Helping your business community grow and change for the better is invaluable. We all need to rethink our approach to successfully find our way to a harmonious ecologically thriving and happy society.

To illustrate this, a representative of Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch chocolate maker that makes slave-free chocolate, was asked when the company’s mission would be fulfilled. The representative answered that their mission would be complete if all chocolate would be slave free and sustainably produced.

At the core of its business lies the drive to help its competitors change and to share and teach them the way they approach their production. 

What is Success?

Success is to run a financially healthy company that adds value through its products and services but also actively helps its community to thrive. A successful company ensures it takes chain-responsibility by dealing with suppliers with the same values and sharing its values with its clients.

At the heart of your business should be financial, social and ecological prosperity. Your successful company will ‘grow’ in many ways, not just financially.

A Challenge

To rethink the purpose of a business is not easy. The SDGs are a handy tool to guide you. In the meantime, think about people’s best qualities and approach your business with those qualities in mind. Be compassionate, social, honest, trustworthy, respectful, be willing to share. Ensure you know your environmental impact and work to minimise it.

It will be a very tough time ahead and you may wonder how to do this when your business is financially suffering. While that thought is completely understandable, businesses able to embrace change are much more likely to come out stronger in the end.

Action points to face a post-lockdown

  • Check out the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Think about your company’s superpower. How can it be utilised and shared for the good of the community?
  • Think about the best way to cooperate with charities, the local government and other companies in your area.
  • Think about how to grow your business in the areas of sustainability, diversity, inclusion and equality and ethics. Apply your human values to your business model.
  • Approach your financial growth in a non-traditional way. Avoid the thought of perpetual economic growth beyond what the earth may be able to sustain.

And finally, G.APP17 may be the innovative tool you were looking for. They will help you make the most of your charity partnerships. Check it out and contact them if you happen to have any question.

[1] Dutch for ‘True Profit’.