On October 5, the One Young World conference, which convenes young people around the world to create positive change, gathered several leaders in the sustainability world to discuss the future of the integration of the environment and the economy. Known as “The B Team,” members Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group; PUMA chairman Jochen Zeitz; Arianna Huffington, president of The Huffington Post Media Group Paul Polman; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Yunus Centre; Guilherme Leal, Founder & Co-Chairman of Natura; Shari Arison, Owner, Arison Group and United Nations Foundation president & CEO Kathy Calvin participated in the event (view the full video here).
The name of “The B Team” highlights the idea that current state of business isn't working. Sure, many businesses have largely increased the quality of life for people that they impact, but at great cost to the environment — and the benefits are often poorly distributed across socioeconomic backgrounds. This short-term, profit-only bottom line is what they call Plan A. But when Plan A doesn’t work, you need a Plan B. The B Team is a group of 16 leaders who, according to Kathy Calvin, “believe the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.”
Together, The B Team came up with a declaration of change for each of the leaders’ own companies and their hopes for the industry. This included three inaugural challenges that are key to finding transformative solutions at a larger scale:
- Achieving a triple bottom line
- Finding incentives for organizations and companies to act with social responsibility
- Encouraging the future of leadership
These challenges were met with great enthusiasm from the audience. Each of the panelists chimed in with their own ideas about the role of leadership in socially minded business. Yunus asserted that businesses need to use their access to creative power and technology in order to solve problems, as the corporate world has the ability to enact change across entire supply chains all over the world. The notion that businesses have more power to drive change was echoed throughout the event.
During the event, three ambassadors of One Young World prepared a charter in response to The B Team declaration. Charlie Oliver, Angela Jhanji and Alan Mak called upon The B Team and their businesses to:
- Create a new sustainability ordinance that is transparent, easy to understand, widely available and able to make direct comparisons across industries
- Commit to making an immediate impact themselves and creating shared milestones to prove they are leading by example
- Look inwards toward the supply chain and make each link more sustainable
The three ambassadors also discussed a shift towards purpose and a call for collaboration: There is a need to share industry values, knowledge and assets at a pre-competition level. The ambassadors called upon CEOs to create a platform within their companies to collaboration with a focus on scale and long-term impact.
Ultimately, the event was focused on the future of leadership. Huffington noted how inspiring it was to see young leaders develop businesses that were incorporating a triple bottom line into their business model. Yunus also pointed out that young people are now interested in creating businesses that solve problems as well as make money. Ambassador Mak made a call to the B Team to put young people in a place of leadership and to create a platform within their businesses for young voices to speak out. While the gathering was a conference for youth and young leaders, it is clear that young leadership is becoming increasingly important, as young people understand more about new business and new media.
The event closed with a reading of the charter created at the conference, which centers on these main tenets:
- The empowerment of young people and young employees
- Purpose beyond profit
- Collaboration as well as competition
The moral of the story? Young leadership and socially driven companies seem to go hand-in-hand, but only when businesses collaborate across borders and industries will they make the necessary progress toward fulfilling the world’s social and environmental needs. If the B Team remains true to its declarations and the charter agreed upon at the conference, we can look forward to a lot of much-needed change in the coming years.