Building Sustainable Legacies


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Deep “new” change vs. changing the titans – a comment on George Monbiot opinion on Unilever

Let me be honest – I love Monbiot’s columns: they are sharp, edgy, provocative and to the point. They challenge present thinking and strive for more. I also think that Unilever is one of the way to few examples of a multinational working honestly on making the world a better place. I think we should clone Paul Polman – he is that good! So Monbiot’s critic on Unilever certainly got my attention – if you haven’t read it, here it is: http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/08/loved-to-death/. As usual a real Monbiot piece of work. And I think he makes the point well in many ways of challenging Unilever for not yet having managed to be as coherent as they probably wish across all brands and divisions. I can think of a bunch of examples that would greatly support Monbiot’s case. Yet, I also think that Unilever more than any other similarly large multinational has initiated significant change both inside their organization and in their markets including consumers and investors. But, or better, and, there are still dark and blind spots. Look at Nestle and you see more dark than bright spots, despite their Creating Shared Value (CSV) claim – what they do with their water strategy and what they claim outrages me! It is tough for a large multinational to change course – maybe impossible. Just a few degrees of change, however, brings significant leverage and change due to the sheer size and relative impact of such large organizations.

Of course a few degrees is totally insufficient – we need radical, deep change. And we need it now. But, much like in any other industry or field of practice – business schools included – such radical and deep change does not happen in the established, large organizations with the famous brand names. Transformational change happens in the fringes, with small, relatively unknown players who have little to lose and much to gain. Such organizations are still lean, agile, fast and thus innovative. Like sailing boats compared to streamliners! I am in favor of supporting those streamliners who dare to embrace change, even if its just a few degrees and I am willing to celebrate those who are ahead of the pack and are undertaking radical big change that from the outlet looks impossible, yet inspires others to follow (and Paul Polman at Unilever is leading such radical big change). I believe we should focus our criticism on those who are fast asleep and have not yet woken up to the new realities of a resource-constrained, climate-changed world. Our criticism should tear them out of their sleep and their comfort zone, shake them up and get them to sit up straight and think – fast. Our students have created a consumer opinion poll to show companies in the food sector what consumers think of their sustainability initiatives – vote here to express your opinion, share the link and we will ensure the world hears about the results!

Monbiot talks about a critical issue: the lack of healthy food. Lets take a look at it. Indeed, since food has become a processed and heavily industrialized item, “healthy food” has become an oxymoron. To get the nutritious value an apple had in the 1950s, we would today need to eat 25 apples we buy in our supermarkets – “an apple a day” won’t keep the doctor away anymore! Sugar, salt and fat are our top 3 societal enemies that are and will be costing us not only unimaginably big health bills but are also ruining us as healthy, capable and caring human beings. Just take the combination of stress and sugar – it will turn anybody in a monster, unable to breathe, care and slow down. I recently wrote about this in the Transatlantic Blog. The pharmaceutical industry must love all of this, the number of emerging new conical deceases  are sky-rocketing, assuring life-long medical dependencies and revenues. Read what Michael Moss (salt, sugar, fat) has to say about it! I believe that the single biggest opportunity for food companies today is to turn their practices upside-down and to step back from feeding the world junk. To remove all the unhealthy, addictive ingredients and to serve us healthy, nurtious food that supports our well-being, happiness and health. There is chocolate without added sugar (thanks to Villars in Switzerland, a hugely innovative, small chocolate producer at the fringes!). It is possible! It is also unacceptable – I agree with Monbiot – that food companies including Unilever boycott and prevent proper “traffic-light” labelling of our enemies sugar, fat and salt. They managed to prevent a law to pass in Switzerland and I am sure in many other countries – scandalous! It feels like back in the days when tobacco companies tried to manipulate research that proved that smoking was bad. Unilevers of this world: embrace the challenge and return healthy food to us with your great distribution and brand power that you have. You can not only save the world, but build the foundation of a society that can start to heal itself and become well again. BSL is a place to help make it possible: we are a platform where engaged citizens work on burning societal issues. Our food-waste collaboratory on May 6th is such an example: we are committed to reduce consumer food-waste by 50% by 2018. What could you do in your space and what are you going to do to make a difference?

 

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Breaking Down the Wall Between Academia and Practice

Our current scientific heritage has driven us to fractionate knowledge and a deepened understanding within specific areas or disciplines. It has also led us to a society and organizations structured by functions rather than issues or challenges. For any school of the future it will be of fundamental importance to break these man-made and inherited barriers between interdependent and interconnected areas of knowledge and of society.

In order to effectively develop future-relevant research and establish the basis for practice-relevant education, the management school of the future will tear down the currently existing, yet unnecessary, walls between business and management practitioners and researchers. New research and educational priorities will demand the removal of current barriers between academics and practitioners, allowing free movement in both directions, e.g.:

  • A professor takes 2-years off [1] to work in a start-up in Somalia, or
  • An entrepreneur spends a 2-year executives-in-residence [2] sabbatical to digest and distill his professional experience

Business leaders, entrepreneurs, directors of NGOs, consultants and activists will be encouraged to join the management school for one or more years to digest and distill their experience as research from the work place.

More than anything, the management school of the future needs a comprehensive mix of educators and researchers with a wealth of experiences and backgrounds. Moving back and forth between reflective work at a management school and work in the action frontier of business and other organizational work is a critical success factor of ensuring high relevance of the faculty in their role as lead-learners in the educational and research process.


[1]           Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

[2]            IMD, Lausanne


The Landfill Orchestra

Here is an invitation to dive into the amazing story of a slum that is built on a landfill and has started to build musical instruments out of trash. You’ll be transformed when you hear the sound of the recycled cello built frim an oil trum and when you see violins that looks unlike anything you have ever imagined yet sound like heaven.

A short film of hope that points out that we should throw neither things nor people away and that miracles are possible when we make the best out of both! Enjoy!


Give your 67 minutes on Mandela Day

Here is a message I received from The B Team and would like to share with all of you. Let’s celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day together, wherever you are right now!

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July 18 is known around the globe as Mandela Day – a celebration of the wonderful Nelson Mandela, his tireless struggle for human dignity and his lifelong commitment to pursue the greater good. His compassion, moral courage and vision of selfless leadership have been an inspiration to so many of us.

As people everywhere keep Madiba in their thoughts and prayers these days, The B Team, alongside Virgin Unite, is supporting the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in South Africa to honour his extraordinary life and values.

The premise of Mandela Day is a simple one: each and every one of us has the ability to make a positive impact in the lives of others. It doesn’t take much to make every day a Mandela Day: if we were all to give just 67 minutes, one minute for every year of Madiba’s fight for human rights and social justice, we can make a huge difference.

I for my part, will spend 67 minutes on July 18th mentoring a group of young entrepreneurs. But there is so much that we all can do. Visit www.mandeladay.com for further inspiration. You can make your pledge to give your 67 minutes at http://www.pledge4mandeladay.org/.

Of course there are other ways in which you can help. If you wish to make a donation from anywhere in the world, to honour Nelson Mandela’s legacy, please visit: www.virginmoneygiving.com/nelsonmandela.

Alternatively, from UK mobiles, you can also text MANDELA to 70107 to make a £5 donation. If you are in the US, text MANDELA to 20222 and $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance.

All funds donated via text messaging, and all funds collected by Virgin Unite through the website will go directly to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Inaugurated by Nelson Mandela in 2004, the Centre focuses on three areas of work: the Life and Time of Nelson Mandela, Dialogue for Social Justice and Nelson Mandela International Day. For more information, please visit www.nelsonmandela.org.

Join The B Team and Virgin Unite to support the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in honouring this exceptional leader, elder and wonderful human being. Make sure to give your 67 minutes on Mandela Day, or make a donation today.

Enkosi kakhulu! Baie Dankie! Thank you!

Richard Branson
Co-Chair, The B Team


Designing a university for the new millennium

Here is an inspiring model of desining a university for the new millennium.

The model described here has no silos (i.e. no departments), a circular building,  no faculty ranks, same teaching load for all, no lecturing or professing – only tutoring, classrooms built for roundtable discussions, curriculum setup to promote trans-disciplinary, question-driven and experiential learning etc. etc.

 

Following 35 years on the faculty of Columbia University in New York, more than half of that time as Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dr. Helfand developed a deep understanding of the problems of traditional universities. Seizing an opportunity to redesign higher education from scratch, he has served as a Founding Tutor and, since 2008, as President and Vice Chancellor of Quest University Canada. He is also President of the American Astronomical Society, the professional society for astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary scientists and solar physicists in North America.


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On Rethinking Management Education for the World

Here is a glimpse into sharing my story of “positive disruption” at TEDx in Lausanne:


The GRLI Announces a Strategic Alliance with EFMD and AACSB International

Excited to share the GRLI announcement about a strategic alliance with EFMD and AACSB International:

The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) has entered into a long-term strategic partnership with EFMD and AACSB International (AACSB).

The agreement will see two of the most influential global voices in management education working closely with us going forward. The formal announcement notes that AACSB and EFMD will partner with our GRLI network of forward thinking companies and business schools to focus on an important message: that business and business schools need to work collectively to devote greater attention to developing responsible companies and leaders in the future.

This is exciting news for both our agenda and for us as a global partnership. Over the past nine years we have learnt a great deal about catalysing change in the complex interface between management education, business and society. This move creates a platform on which we can transform success into significance as we work to scale our impact in partnership with EFMD and AACSB International.

Commenting on the agreement, Eric Cornuel, Director General and CEO of EFMD said “The GRLI, which we co-founded with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in 2004, plays an important role already in providing direction, support, and visibility to what business schools are doing to foster responsibility and sustainability. However while there has been some initial success, much more remains to be accomplished. GRLI will become the armed wing of our shared ambitions at EFMD and AACSB to accelerate change.”

AACSB International President and CEO John Fernandes said: “In recent years, the role of business as a sustainable and socially responsible enterprise has risen consistent with the world’s demand for accountability. Through our accreditations and services, AACSB and EFMD are important stakeholders in addressing society’s objectives of sustainability, social responsibility and ethical leadership. This move increases the intensity of our focus in this area, and will enable both organisations to serve our members more fully as they seek to address the challenges of 21st century management education.”

To reinforce our intent to make this partnership operate at the highest level, EFMD and AACSB will join GRLI’s current Board of Directors, by each appointing two representatives that will participate in governing decisions. The two organizations will also provide financial support to bolster our capacity to achieve our mission.

Detailed discussions will take place amongst the three organisations over the coming months to turn the agreement into a practical programme. This will include making knowledge and expertise developed by the GRLI accessible to EFMD and AACSB members, as well as participation in GRLI’s pipeline of projects and its various international events.

This is an exciting time for the GRLI and confirms our role as an influential catalyst for deep transformation at the interface between business, management education and society.