Co-creating A Networked ‘Sistema B’

A Conversation Between Pedro Tarak & Daniel Wahl

On July 16th, 2020 I had a deeply insightful conversation with Pedro Tarak, who shared with me at the very beginning: “I always work in networks and through collaboration.”

Pedro starts with sharing his own story, starting from his “essence”, describing himself as “an entrepreneur by nature”. It started over 50 years ago when as a teenager he helped found a peer-to-peer network that enabled privileged teenagers to share access to music with less privileged kids. ‘Music for Youth’ is still running and had Daniel Barenboim conducting and playing at its 50th anniversary!

The series of dictatorships in his home country of Argentina meant personal loss and grief for Pedro, loosing one of his closest university friends shortly after they graduated from law school together. Pedro shares a centrally formative experience in his life: being with a good friend during the night before he was “disappeared” when he offered him shelter in his parents home. The integrity with which the friend refused to be helped out of the country and chose to stay “consistent with what you think the world should be” — standing up for his values and rights in the face of oppression, torture and death touched Pedro deeply.

For Pedro this “essential conversation” influenced his whole life since the, leading him to follow his inner call to “integrate the Earth into everything else”. As a lawyer he went on to study environmental law and policy abroad and returned to Argentina when democracy was restored to co-found the ‘Environment and Natural Resources Foundation’.

In those days his work was focussed on enabling democracy building through the “three principles of access: access to justice, access to decision making, and access to information.” Pedro and his collaborators worked on this in the context of environmental law advising and lobbying various Latin American countries to enshrine this in their constitutions. Pedro worked for three years on the preparation of the Earth Summit in Rio and networked many alliances across Latin America into collaboration in preparation for Rio ´92. This lead him to work with the Brundtland Commission and Maurice Strong, who was the person in charge of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Through meeting Stephen Schmidt-Heiny, a Swiss philanthropist and founder of the AVINA Foundation, Pedro started working on enabling and connecting leadership “from any field” across Latin America. The founding purpose of AVINA was to identify leadership in all aspects of life and then connect them to each other to learn from one another and collaborate with one another.

We briefly talk about the fascinating and somewhat tragic story of Stephen Schmidt-Heiny and his life long work to undo some of the damage that asbestos caused in the world. It was his own whistleblowing on the family company that later became a legal problem for him after years of his own campaigning finally led to the banning of asbestos. He is forced to stay in Switzerland to avoid prosecution elsewhere.

Pedro shared how he helped to spread the idea of ‘triple impact value creation’ as a platform to integrate sustainability in its social, economic, environmental, political, and cultural dimensions.

(min 32) We then move on to talking about Pedro’s work with the B Corp movement and the creation of many aspects of the ‘Sistema B’. Pedro shared how he had an ‘aha-moment’ listening to Johann Rockström in 2009 talking about ‘planetary boundaries’ when he realised the scale and the urgency of the challenges we are faced with.

(min 37) Pedro shares about his longterm work with Guayaki Hierba Mate and his friendship with Alex Pryor helped him to experience the journey of one company that is deeply trying to have a regenerative impact. This experience led him to search for other examples of such companies in other Latin American countries.

Maria Emilia Correa in Chile had tracked the development of social impact companies and they started to explore the possibility of creating a new network of these new types of for-purpose companies, when Pedro found out about the B Corp movement in the USA and immediately connected deeply with the founders of B Lab — Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy.

“We needed something that invited everybody to a safe space” to have a conversation about systemic transformation. The B system has grown into a decentralized diverse network, starting with B Corps and spreading into B Lawyers, B Cities, B Politicians.

“Understanding the B has to do with integrated value creation, accountability & transparency about the way you produce value, and how you go beyond the share-holder value to all groupings and all stake[/rights]-holders.”

Pedro shares in more detail how the Sistema B approach starts with the B Corps but goes much beyond it. All over Latin America small and large companies are exploring ‘el camino + B’ (the B path) and this conversation does not exclude giant companies that currently would no be able to certify as B Corps but engages that in the conversation of what it would take to transform themselves. Slowly — with examples like Danone — there are now also examples of large corporations doing this quite successfully.

We also talk about the problem of publicly listed companies being too guided by maximizing shareholder value and how the more agile non listed companies like Lush, Guayaki, Dr. Bonner, and even Patagonia can be much more pioneering but are still caught in the difficult situation of aiming to be regenerative within the playing field of a market place that is rigged by degenerative rules and incentives.

(min 57) We explore how the questions that companies have to ask themselves in order to explore becoming a B Corps and the ‘B Impact Assessment Tool’ are one entry point to the path of ‘living the questions together’ and how such a catalog of questions is — in Bucky Fuller’s terms — “a tool the use of which will change the way they think”.

Perdo stresses the importance of “systemic pragmatism” and how the Socratic approach of this tool — starting with questions — can be useful as a management tool, and impact assessment tool, a certification tool, and even a policy-making tool.

Source

The six main pillars of ‘Sistema B’ are:

  • B Corp Community,
  • Large market players (big companies, governments in their market roles, large consumer organizations),
  • Academics and other forms of ‘knowledge creators’ and ‘communities of practice’,
  • Wider civil society and the many movements that stem out from that,
  • Investment world,
  • Governments in their role as regulators and policymakers

The approach that is common in Latin America is too start with the first and then work out from there.

Pedro shares his passion for working with and investing in the work of Guayaki and how much gratification and joy he gets from seeing the massive impact this successful company has had in the growing communities of the Atlantic Rainforest, to the ex-convicts they employ in their final delivery through a fleet of electric vehicle, to many other benefits created all along their product and value chain.

He also briefly mentions the rapidly growing ‘Cities can B’ approach that has inspired city focussed movements in Rio de Janeiro, Edinburgh, and Barcelona.

Towards the end, I ask Pedro about the ‘enabling constraints’ and ‘core values’ that ensure that all these different ‘B’ approaches are still basically aligned. Pedro — as a lawyer — speaks about the importance of M.o.U.s and contracts but also emphasizes that there is a much more sophisticated design needed to help the rapid growth of the ‘B’ approach. There are people exploring ‘B Journalists’ and ‘B Educators’ and all of them share a living systems perspective and are ready to learn by doing what it means to take an evolutionary approach to heal the Earth and her people for the benefit of all life.

Here is the video of our conversation:

Some links to organizations and people mentioned:

Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.

Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures

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