Rooted in our interdependence: a whole new way of thinking
Best For The World Environment honouree, Living Alive, shares tools and practices to help businesses engage with the critical ecological challenges of our times
By Elle Adams, co-founder of Living Alive
Best For The World honourees are recognised for achieving a verified score in the top 10 percent of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment. Best For The World Environment honourees have scored in the top 10th percentile of the Environment section of the B Impact Assessment.
Last month, 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunburg walked the walk on climate action with such integrity that she undertook a two-week zero-carbon voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver her message in person at the forthcoming U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York. In one of Greta’s speeches earlier this year at a European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, she urged leaders to “#unitebehindthescience” of the IPCC reports and remarked that “once you have done your homework, you will realise that we need a whole new way of thinking”.
B Corporation certification offers “a whole new way of thinking” about business. Visionary 20th century inventor and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller said that “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”. And by creating the B Impact Assessment and B Corp certification process, as far as business is concerned, the founders of B Lab have begun to do just that.
In celebration of Living Alive’s recent achievement as a 2019 Best For The World Environment Honouree, we were asked to reflect on the environmental practices our business upholds that helped us earn such a high score in this impact area — and found that answering this request helped to highlight a meaningful example of this “new way of thinking” about business in our changing world.
In our most recent B Impact Assessment, the 34.8 points scored in the Environment section are made up of two clearly differentiated areas; in the Environmental Operations section we score 14 points for tangible, practical actions like implementing an office environmental policy and the percentage of renewable energy we use; and then the majority 20.8 points were earned for our ‘Environmental Education & Information’ Impact Business Model.
Whilst the Operational points demonstrate important practical actions that we can all take, it’s the more intangible points allocated for our Impact Business Model — “services that promote awareness about important environmental issues” — which call for further contemplation, and required a rigorous documentation and interview process with our assigned B Lab certification analyst to determine.
At Living Alive, we offer experiences designed to catalyse the shifts in awareness, values and behaviours needed to create long-term wellbeing for both people and the planet. We believe that this “whole new way of thinking” Greta refers to — this shift in cultural worldview required for life on Earth to thrive into the 21st century — will come not only from a practical, or you could say, operational understanding of the challenges we face, but from people also being compelled on a deeper level into taking positive action, by experiencing a felt sense of their interdependence with the natural world.
Living Alive’s experience-led approach means that we often take our work with leaders and business teams outside, fully immersed in the wild landscapes of both the Scottish Highlands, where we’re based, and further afield in the French Pyrenees. We’ve found that the biggest shifts in perspective fittingly arise beneath vast, awe-inspiring dark starry skies, and that insights and connections come naturally when sharing food and meaningful conversations around the campfire. In the face of converging crises, it may sound counter-intuitive, but taking time offline and away from distractions immersed in nature, offers vital and often transformative opportunities for reflection on leadership direction, nurturing organisational culture, and embedding the shifts towards more regenerative values that we need to leverage in order to address the global challenges at hand.
Here in Scotland, we’ve been working to weave these values into the fabric of the business ecosystem in collaboration with the team at Scotland CAN B, the initiative to build a nationwide culture of business as a force for good as a catalyst for place-based systemic change. Over a dynamic first year of the project, one of the key things the programme has validated is that whilst having the framework of a rigorous and time-tested tool like the B Impact Assessment forms an all-important credible foundation for comprehensively measuring and managing impact towards our national ambition, it isn’t enough on it’s own. We’ve found that if we wish to assist Scottish business leaders in considering their social and environmental impact, with the aim to engage them in transforming it, the process requires support earlier on in their ‘Impact Journey’ to undertake deeper introspection into the worldview, mindset and values which underlie their choice of business model in the first place.
When we consider environmental impact from the core foundation of the business model in this way, it makes it painfully clear how obsolete bolt-on CSR policies and siloed sustainability departments really are. Not only do we see the indisputable business case and growing mainstream signals of support for adopting stakeholder capitalism and embedding a mindset of environmental responsibility throughout all core structures and strategies of our businesses, but we are beginning to acknowledge the inherent benefits of embracing a more radical shift in deeper held values — welcoming the evolution of a whole new breed of business which “aspires to do no harm and benefit all,’’ founded on “the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations” (revolutionary soundbites drawn from the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence, to which now 3000 B Corps have signed their commitment and made themselves legally accountable.)
So, as Greta says, go and “do your homework”, get behind the science, set science based targets, help your business to declare a Climate Emergency and then act like you mean it by joining our youth striking on the streets, work on bringing forward your net zero commitment and adopt more circular and regenerative business practices which help us to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet.
But I would add one more thing to this list of worthy and urgently necessary actions: go outside, make the space to invest time with the natural world. Cultivate that more intangible, but vitally important felt sense of interdependence with life on this planet that we all call home; you will be a better business leader for it. For if we wish to navigate the turbulent and extraordinary times ahead with integrity, and to think about our business choices in a new way which benefits all for the long term; our actions and leadership will need to be deeply rooted in a sense of interdependence with, and love for, all life on Earth.
Best For The World: Environment honourees are taking bold action to preserve our most precious resources. With planet-friendly practices and environmental initiatives, these companies consider the impact of their everyday footprint, including energy usage, materials, facilities, supply chain, and more.
A first step for businesses interested in measuring their social and environmental impact is by using the free B Impact Assessment tool. Any company wishing to certify as a B Corp has its performance assessed by B Lab across all dimensions of its business. These companies are on a journey of continuous improvement to ensure business leverages its power to be a positive force in the world.
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