Stakeholder Capitalism. Creating Shared Value. ESG. Sustainability… The notion of business with a social mission is hardly new, but to many, these “big words” are staring us down and prompting an excuse to delay action as a “right” model is being figured out. At the start of the year of “息 REST”, we asked ourselves, what is it that lies at the heart of it all?
Learning by doing, from the heart As many businesses were forced to “rest” in 2020, we worked more closely than ever with our partners to rethink the roles they can play in society. Looking beyond philanthropic and CSR efforts, we teamed up with the Urban Renewal Authority to kickstart new pilots to renew communities while renewing neighbourhoods. We developed new impact strategies with HKBN Group and Bowtie towards building inclusive markets and serving the underserved. Together we collectively tried to find balance in strategy and solution, profit and purpose. And in this journey, we found more. While our team built invaluable insights on industry innovations, our counterparts became more open to share and break moulds together. Where some used to say “I’ll leave it to you experts to drive impact”, the same individuals soon began to come up with their own ideas and asked “how can we make this work together”. In the C-suite, discussions moved from “how can we convince the board to forgo profit for purpose”, to “how can our teams build on existing capabilities to become more impactful”. With every conversation, we saw the weight each small step carries, and the elusive momentum built up as slow progress and small wins multiply. At the end of the year, it may yet be too early to assume any business organisation has been changed for good. But what we get out of trying together is something even bigger — the transformation of its people from the inside out.
Reflections on a perfectly imperfect journey In 2020 we are reminded that the quest to “Business 2.0” is perhaps never about finding the perfect “approach” to change corporations as a faceless leviathan. It is about moving the hearts and minds of its people, and to empower them to become changemakers from within. No matter what the macroeconomic outlook may be and what outcomes the impact strategies may yield, it is perhaps most rewarding to know that our collaborative efforts are planting new seeds of change into the real hearts of business, its people. Strengthened by renewed confidence and experience, these seeds will sprout and grow whenever opportunities arise — and no pandemic shall put that to rest.