Nett Positive Companies Build Trust
Our guest in episode 44 is Andrew Winston, a global expert on sustainability and co-author of the book “Net Positive” showing how to build companies that profit by fixing the world’s problems, not creating them. He wonders whether we can sustain using the earth’s resources as we do now and if world crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine can negatively influence the path to sustainability.
Part of the success of any organization is to put the interest of society before self-interest. A net positive company improves the well-being of everyone, it impacts and at all scales—every product, every operation, every region and country, and for every stakeholder, including employees, suppliers, communities, customers, and even future generations and the planet itself.
In his book, written together with former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, they reveal, for the first time, key lessons from Unilever and other pioneering companies around the world about how you can profit by fixing the world’s problems instead of creating them. To thrive today and tomorrow, they argue, companies must become “net positive” giving more to the world than they take.
A net positive company:
** improves the lives of everyone it touches, from customers and suppliers to employees and communities, greatly increasing long-term shareholder returns in the process.
** takes ownership of all the social and environmental impacts its business model creates. This in turn provides opportunities for innovation, savings, and building a more humane, connected, and purpose-driven culture.
** partners with competitors, civil society, and governments to drive transformative change that no single group or enterprise could deliver alone.
This is no utopian fantasy. Courageous leaders are already making it real—and the stakes couldn’t be higher. With bold vision and compelling stories, Net Positive sets out the principles and practices that will deliver the scale of change and transformation the world so desperately needs.
(source: Best Business Books, Financial Times)
A Summary of what you can expect to listen to
Net Positive Companies: Andrew Winston describes ‘Net Positive’ companies as those that aim to solve the world’s problems as a means to profit and grow. He emphasizes the urgency of addressing climate change and inequality, stating that businesses must play a role in finding solutions and improving the well-being of everyone they impact.
Trust and Transparency: Winston links trust to transparency and humility in business. He suggests that companies should openly share their successes and failures, and engage in actions that genuinely benefit society, thereby building trust with stakeholders.
Sustainability in Business: Winston’s journey into sustainability was driven by a practical realization of the unsustainable use of resources and the growing inequality in society. He argues that addressing environmental and social challenges is essential for the continued functioning of businesses.
Societal Interest vs. Self-Interest: He discusses the alignment of societal interests with business interests, suggesting that true business success comes from serving and benefiting communities, customers, and employees.
Net Positive Advocacy: The interview touches on the need for companies to influence policy in ways that are beneficial for both society and the business, advocating for sustainable solutions and responsible corporate behavior.
Critique of Sustainability as a Concept: Winston acknowledges that the broad use of the term ‘sustainability’ can dilute its focus. He emphasizes the need for specificity in corporate sustainability efforts, targeting tangible outcomes like reduced carbon emissions and improved human rights in supply chains.
Sustainability and Profitability: He challenges the narrative that sustainability is anti-business, arguing that sustainable practices often lead to short-term and long-term benefits, including efficiency, resilience, and stakeholder engagement.
Corporate Responsibility for Global Challenges: Winston asserts that companies should take responsibility for their impacts on global challenges like climate change and inequality, without assuming sole responsibility.
Sustainability in the Context of Global Crises: The interview addresses the impact of war and economic uncertainty on sustainability efforts, suggesting that crises can both hinder and accelerate progress toward sustainable goals.
Success Stories in Sustainability: Winston cites Unilever and tech giants like Microsoft and Google as examples of companies making significant strides in sustainability, highlighting efforts in renewable energy, social issues, and supply chain improvements.
Future Projects: Finally, Winston discusses his ongoing efforts to promote the Net Positive movement and change the narrative around profit-driven business models to one that is more inclusive and sustainable for all.