THE BLOG
24/12/2013 05:46 GMT | Updated 22/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Forward Business Thinking?

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photo courtesy of http://www.winchester.ac.uk/blog/Pages/what-is-responsible-management.aspx

Recently I came across The B Team, which is hoping to move world-wide business in a positive direction. The B Team describes itself as a "not-for-profit initiative that has been formed by a group of global business leaders to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit." The mission is to be a, "catalyst for a better way of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet".

Co-founded by Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz, Plan B seeks to put people and the planet alongside profit. Plan A -- where companies have been driven by the profit motive alone -- is no longer acceptable. Branson and Zeith are joined by supporters who make up the Founders Circle including: Derek Handley (founding CEO), Havas Media, Strive Masiyiwa, Joann McPike, Kering/PUMAVision, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Virgin Unite are all initial incubators of The B Team.

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photo courtesy of https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RichardBranson/posts

"Plan B seeks to serve as a catalyst, to help tip the movement for better business into the mainstream, and to amplify and leverage the work of others to achieve large-scale change. They go on to say that the only way to achieve the impact they seek at the scale required is through partnership, coalition building, multi-platform story-telling and in harnessing the energy and expertise of a growing community alongside the collective power, voice and influence of the B team members. Ultimately, the B team aims to forge a platform that thousands of business leaders can be a part of in every corner of the world."

As its initial agenda Plan B identifies three major "future" challenges. 1) Bottom Line-Business has not accounted for the true cost of its activity and subsequent negative impacts on society and the environment. Plan B plans to focus on the long term, and aims to expand corporate accountability beyond financial gains to include negative and positive contributions to the economy, environment and society; 2) Incentives-Plan B plans to work with partners to develop new corporate and employee incentive structures and to identify and map both positive and harmful subsidies, helping to shift market and business behaviour toward incentives that maximise social, environmental and economic benefit; and 3) Leadership- accelerate a new kind of inclusive leadership underpinned by a moral compass of being FHPC-Fair, Honest, Positive and Creative. This is founded on cooperation and will be aimed at generating long term value for society, the economy and the environment.

Juxtapose the above with the fact that the United Nations is once again sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system. This is the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled "Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It's Too Late," which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world. The report links global security and escalating conflicts with the urgent need to transform agriculture toward what it calls "ecological intensification." Yes, even global security may be at stake as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise. The report concludes, "This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers."

According to the Report, "Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed". The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy noted that pending international deals are "primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy..." rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the Report.

In Nepal we've been reading a lot about Monsanto, a controversial US-based agricultural biotechnology company, wanting to increase the dependence of Nepali farmers, ruining livelihoods, on foreign hybrid seeds. This is very much in contradiction to FHPC and the information noted in the above UNCTAD Study. An advertisement published in a national daily, sought bidders or buyers for maize and vegetable seeds of Monsanto. We already know that Monsanto has "hybrid" seeds in Nepal. Although it has been denied that these are GMO's, enabling Monsanto to be in Nepal, or for that matter anywhere, is less than positive. This also shows the danger of allowing a corporate, without a focus on people, planet and finally profit, i.e. triple bottom line, to determine world-wide food security or any other major issue.

Somehow companies such as Monsanto lose site of the fact that they are leading to the extinction of the human race, although they would argue the opposite. The problem with Monsanto's or any other hybrid seeds is that they cannot be reused. This means farmers cannot keep the fruit and use it as seed the next year. Farmers who use hybrid seeds will have to purchase more seeds for the next plantation season. This effectively prevents them from generating their own seeds and makes them dependent on suppliers, mostly foreigners. . Almost 50 per cent of vegetable seeds used in Nepal are hybrid resulting in further dependence. Nepal was nearly self-sufficient in producing its own seeds for the production of corn a few years ago. In the last two decades, the Nepal Agriculture Research Council has developed and released only one variety of hybrid crop, according to a NARC Report.

Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmental activist and anti-globalization author was recently in Kathmandu discussing how we are losing our freedom of seed, food and knowledge. Think about this. As we lose these freedoms to companies such as Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta we lose the ability to control our lives.

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photo courtesy of Michael Rosenkrantz

Depending on where one sits, Plan B, seems to be a new type of business approach. Whether or not individuals change their motivations to think beyond themselves, focusing only on profit and short term gains, is something that remains to be seen. The founders of Plan B should be applauded for their efforts, but the proof will be in implementation and how much civil society (thank goodness for groups such as Stop Monsanto in Nepal) and government are brought into partnerships. This also depends upon how much business let's people be free as indicated by Vandana Shiva. For, in some sense, it is not only about government repression, but is also about how corporations control governments, in their lust for controlling resources, markets, seeds and food, ultimately limiting people's freedoms. But, we must save this planet enabling all to share in earth's vast resources in an eco-friendly manner, otherwise, Plans A, B or C won't really make any difference.