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Let it ‘B’

by Phoebe Harpham, Social Enterprise Scheme, OHO

The better way of doing business with a Plan B

There has been a lot of talk recently about a plan ‘B’ for business. You may have heard about Richard Branson’s new baby, ‘The B Team’, or have stumbled across the concept of a ‘B-corporation’. But what exactly is all this talk of ‘B’ about?

The B Team

Launched in London in June 2013 by Sir Richard Branson, The B Team is an initiative led by a group of global business leaders who believe there is a better way of doing business. The B Team believes that business has a responsibility to people and planet and should not just be about profit.

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The Players

The B Team is led by an all-star cast of international leaders in the business, not-for-profit and government sectors, headed up by Sir Richard Branson and successful international businessman Jochen Zeitz. This high calibre team hope to use their experience, influence and networks to change the way that business is done across the globe. Amongst it’s high profile membership, The B Team boasts:

 

  • Kathy Calvin – President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation

  • Shari Arison – Israeli businesswoman/philanthropist and richest woman in the middle east

  • Arianna Huffington – Greek-American author and founder of the Huffington Post

  • Mo Ibrahim – Sudenese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire

  • Guilherm Leal – Brazillian entrepreneur and billionaire

  • Strive Masiyiwa – Zimbabwe born founder of global telecommunications group, Econet Wireless. Also sits on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation

  • Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – former finance minister and managing director of the World Bank

  • Francois-Henri Pinault – French businessman and CEO of Kerring

  • Paul Polman – Dutch born CEO of Unilever

  • Ratan Tata – Indian businessman and former chairman of the Tata Group, India’s best known global brand

  • Zhang Yue – Chinese founder and CEO of BROAD Group – a Chinese manufacturing company widely recognised for its green policies and commitment to countering climate change

  • Professor Muhammad Yunas – Bangladeshi economist and founder of the worlds first microfinance bank – the Grameen Bank – for which he won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize

  • Mary Robinson – first female president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights

  • Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland – three times former Norwegian Prime Minister and Director General of the World Health Organisation

The Challenge

In his opening address at the launch of The B Team, Sir Richard Branson challenged the current business model and called for a ‘Plan B’ for business. According to Branson, “Plan A in which companies are driven by profit motive alone is no longer acceptable”.

Branson and The B Team believe that traditional business practices have contributed to many of the social and environmental problems in today’s world and, as such, business leaders have a responsibility to find solutions to these problems. The mission of The B Team, he said, was to help develop a ‘Plan B’ for business where “commercial gain is balanced with the environment and society’s well being”.

In a nutshell, The B Team believes that business must transform itself to become the driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.  The challenge to get millions of business leaders committed to this new way of doing business, however, is no mean feat.

The Plan

The B Team has identified three major challenges that stand in the way of its mission to create a better way of doing business: the current bottom line, incentives and leadership. The B Team’s plan is to realign corporate culture to become more holistic and responsible towards people and planet. It aims to do this in the following ways:

  • The future bottom line: The B Team hopes to create a new bottom line – the triple bottom line – where people, planet and profit are equally important.  It aims to do this by developing new tools and reporting standards that look beyond short-term financial results and report instead on long term corporate value and performance  across economic, environmental and social spheres.

  • The future of incentives: The B Team recognises that at present there is insufficient policy or regulatory support to encourage businesses to change their modus operandi and take on more responsibility for people and the planet. The B Team has pledged to work with experts to identify current incentives that may be harmful to the future bottom line and to lobby for new incentives and a legislative environment that encourages businesses to shift their behaviour to maximise environmental and social benefits as well as economic benefits.

  • The future of leadership: The B Team hopes to define, nurture and support a new kind of business leadership that replaces competition with collaboration, short termism with a long term vision, and economic single mindedness with a holistic and balanced view of business in light of people, planet and profit.

How you can become a player

Through engagement and communication, The B Team believes it can deliver widespread systematic change in the business world.  As such, the B Team is calling on the support of the general public and business community to spread the word about a Plan B for business. Studies have shown that if just 10% of population hold an unshakable belief, their belief can tip the majority to follow. The B Team is dedicated to reaching this tipping point and leading the business world into a new, better and fairer era of doing business.

In my next blog, I will continue on the ‘B’ theme and explore the concept of the ‘B-corporation’.

To find out how One Health Organisation can help your  company develop a Plan B for business, contact our Social Enterprise Manager.