Last Monday, Gabelli School students were invited to attend a humanistic management conference, which aimed to discuss the creation of an economy for common good through four incredible panelists.
The panelists included:
Hunter Lovins, a sustainable business pioneer and author
Brent Martini, a former fortune 500 company CEO
David Levine, the president of AACSB International
Christian Felber, author of the book “Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good”
The panelists were four individuals possessing incredible economic knowledge, as well as a passion for making the world a better place. In this article, rather than repeat to you verbatim the entire panel, I wanted to discuss several lessons I learned that made the biggest impression on me.
Lesson One: Let’s look to nature’s principles to design our economy.
Throughout her speech, Hunter Lovins returned to the fact that our economy runs counterintuitive to our human nature. Human beings are designed to be caring. We have survived on this planet, and are happy because we have formed bonds with other people. So why is it that greed, individuality and power are the cornerstones of the way we do business? We have to craft a new narrative in economics, based on the science of who we are.
An amazing example of this has been the creation and development of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB. SASB is a nonprofit, that “sets industry-specific standards for corporate sustainability disclosure, with a view towards ensuring that disclosure is material, comparable, and decision-useful for investors.” In the words of Hunter, if you want a guaranteed job in the future, learn SASB style accounting, as this is the direction businesses are moving in.
Here is a short YouTube video by Michael Bloomberg, who is on the board for SASB, explaining why this is so important.
Lesson Two: Four tips from a former Fortune 500 company CEO.
Brent Martini spent much of his speech going over how times have changed during his career. Towards the tail end of his talk, he spent some time going over several tips he would give to business students.
Be true to yourself. Stay true to the values and beliefs that make you unique.
Demand more. Demand that those around you, and yourself work not only harder and more efficiently, but with a purpose of being a force for good.
Dignity of people is where it’s at. Humanism works for people. And if it works for people, then it is guaranteed to work for business. I am a zealot for humanistic management, because people run the company. How can the company be successful if the employees don’t want to be there?
It’s about creating a different narrative. We can all work together towards a common good. Treating people better, more fairly, and with the respect they deserve are all vital components of success in business.
Lesson Three: You have the power to create positive economic change in this lifetime.
David Levine began by speaking about old economic policy. In the past, economic policy that was good for people was called bad for business. However, the way our economy and business practices are developing, our preferences are becoming more value based. A prominent example of this is Ben & Jerry’s, which makes profit in tandem with common good and ethical and sustainable businesses practices.
According to David, we all have the power to “change the classic rules of the business game” and be a force for good. And the best way to do this is to simply go forth, and actually work for businesses that are helping people and creating a better world. And why stop there? For those who are, or who are interested in working for socially benevolent businesses, David suggests working in solidarity with other like-minded corporations. He believes this is how we are going to create the most amount of good for the most amount of people.
Putting our faith into firms that are working to create a common good is how we all have the power to create positive economic change in this lifetime.
Lesson Four: Creating an economy for the common good.
Christian Felber, began by talking about how old economics was responsible for many of our world’s problems. In this worldwide crisis, 1% of people own, and have the same power, as 99% of the population and 800 million people suffer worldwide from malnutrition.
According the Christian, the problem with our current economy is that there is an emphasis placed on greed. And while in the corporate world competition and profit are the driving forces behind action, every day, normal people, are much more inclined to agree with an economy that is for the common good of the world. An economy with a greater value on fair trade, ethical banking practices, and one that places priority on being both ethical and sustainable.
To end his speech, Felber brought up a diagram explaining what the old economic system was, and what the new and improved system had the potential to be. In the old system, competition and financial profit, where the benchmarks of success. However, in a new and improved, value based system, there was great value placed on cooperation and working with one another to create a world of common good.
By looking at the world through a new narrative, Felber makes the compelling argument that a system of common good was not just a theory, but that it is a true, tangible practice which will be prominent in our lifetimes.
For the panelists, this was just one of the many speeches they have done in their lifetimes to spread the word about sustainable and ethical business practices. For the many students in attendance, however, this panel was just the beginning of incorporating the practice of common good into their business careers and everyday lives.