Business Roundtable Declaration important yet insufficiently facing the depth of transformation needed!
“Bold declarations can be a distraction and a cover, an attempt to divert the rising skepticism about modern capitalism and the behavior of global corporations, both around the world and in US monetary/political system. But they can also be a banner, provide a rallying cry, a touchstone against which actions can be measured and the declarers held to account.”
I agree with this statement by Gil Friend who I hold in high esteem. I deeply believe his aim is to serve and his track record shows that to be true. He recently published a piece in Linked-In responding to the declaration made by the members of the Business Round Table in August. This statement is taken from this piece and the below is a ‘shooting from the hip’ spontaneous response — or should I say rant? — trigger by but not at all in negative judgement of this piece:
What the CEO "purpose of business" declaration is. And what it isn't.
Walking the talk begins with the talk. But you've got to walk.
Great piece [Gil] and well crafted to nudge the incumbents a little further towards the realisation that incremental change (doing the wrong thing a little bit better) will no longer do and that we need transformative change.
I have so many good friends who really do want to work with the corporate system to transform it from with in (eg Future Stewards). We need to do that, but how much longer do we measure/moderate our words and muffle our primal scream for URGENCY into a friendly whisper so C.E.O.s don’t feel antagonised and we “loose them” or “fail to keep them on board”?
Some consultants and change agents do this out of strategic consideration, others also because they fear to loose their client by being too radical. Is that not by now deeply anachronistic and actually playing into “predatory delay”?
When will we tell large corporates that (in many cases) they are too big not to fail? When will we speak up for global collaboration in the urgent need to re-regenionalize our patterns of production and consumption?
When will we call the b.s. out that still whiffs off too much of the circular economy conversation (when focussed on international supply networks/cycles and when overselling the potential for ‘upcycling’)?
When will we invite corporate leaders to consider that planned obsolescence was a good idea, but not for their products, but for their entire business and industry as they transform into truly regenerative enterprise ecologies?
The world is on fire!
The window of opportunity to avoid climate cataclysm is closing fast in the next 2–3 years (not like the overly conservative IPCC is suggesting in giving us another 11 years).
We are already at a point that we have to work miracles, if we want to avoid the probable and the unthinkable!
I welcome the recent declarations from the Business Roundtable! It is a mayor step to stop hiding behind the financial obligations to shareholders and widen the circle of stakeholders not just to “all Americans” but better to all of humanity and life!
It is time to understand that there is deeper purpose to doing business that simply the financial balance sheet and short term profits for some to the detriment of many. All good steps! All calling for deeply transformative action urgently!
I know there are many good and well meaning people in positions of business leadership. I do understand that the time of us-against-them is long over and we are all in the same boat. That’s why I often suggest that even the notion of nation states and competing national economies is now an anachronism causing predatory delay when we are facing societal collapse around the world by the middle of this century.
We now have to reinvent not just our societies and cultures but our entire human civilisation. While we are at it we would do well to create a regenerative civilisation worthy of that name, since what has passed for civilisation so far — built on the exploitation of planet and people — has not been living up to the lofty ideal of being civilized.
We have no time to celebrate lofty declarations any longer, we need to say: well done, and now show us action.
Not action within the tram-tacks of the thinking that got us here, nor based on erroneous assumptions the future is more or less going to be based on the same globalised economic system and power structure we are dealing with now. We need leaders to admit to themselves and their stakeholders that we now need deep transformation!
Precisely because these CEOs are by and large highly intelligent and capable people, we need them on board to the point where they question the very existence of their industries and businesses and dare to come together to support the fundamental redesign of the human presence and impact in Earth even if that means dissolution of most of the existing patterns and structures in industry, economy and finance.
We are not just running out of time. We ARE already out of time!
All we can do now to avoid the worst will have to come with a no-guarantees warning, as we have left it too late for guaranteed survival.
Life has never been about that — and achieving the now necessary transformation is maybe to a large part about understanding that the quality of how we live and who we are in relation to each other and to the family of life on Earth matters more than longevity.
So it is time for all of us to care less about loosing our positions in board rooms or upsetting our high-paying corporate clients. We need to speak up NOW and if we loose a few, start working with those who listen and are are willing to engaged in real transformative innovation.
Yes, it is time for ‘deep adaptation’ as Jem Bendell has called it more recently in his purposefully shocking attempt to move the goal post on a sustainability leadership conversation that was circling around itself in a self-serving way rather than responding to the reality we now face.
Collapse and brakedown is now inevitable — and already happening in social and ecological systems around the world — but we might be able to celebrate the collapse of what no longer serves, grief deeply for the collapse of many unique ecosystems, and help our economies, societies our entire way of being in the world to transform. Maybe if we do that we will be able to avoid the complete collapse of the systems our future and the future of life depends upon.
Ups, sorry of the rant! … and deep appreciation of you and your work [Gil]!
We do need more than corporations with purpose now. We need entire industries to plan for their own obsolescence and how to redeploy the good people within in them towards activities that don’t just serve “all Americans” but serve all of humanity and the wider community of life.
Call me a radical if you must. I do not want to demonise anyone with this response, I just want to invite us to stop moving deck chairs on the Titanic and face the full extent of what we are now call to do (or perish) as a species!
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures