The normalised purpose of business, as delivering value for shareholders, has been radically transformed, hopefully for ever, with the profound recognition of our interconnectedness and the corresponding emergence of mutual aid and service as operating principles.
Business was moving in that direction, with the rise of purpose driven business models such as B Corporations, and circular economics, for example.
Consumers, employees, investors, the environment, society, have increasingly been demanding businesses to be deeply concerned with the needs of the age and to respond meaningfully to those needs. Atlassian (2020) in its Return on Action, prepared by PWC Australia, found that:
69% of employees agreed that business should be just as concerned with their social impact as their financial performance.
They include demands to deliver greater social justice, demands to deliver positive environmental impact and demands to deliver regeneration.
For businesses to be fundamentally “good” by their deeds.
Consumers have also been shifting, and changing habits, buying according to more environmentally friendly, socially just values.
The slowly as she goes Model T Ford (aka capitalism), however, has taken on rocket fuel in the form of empathy, kindness, compassion, cooperation, collaboration, and equity considerations, as well as survival.
The Model T was not structurally built for these values to guide product innovation, cross-company-nation partnerships, KPIs, performance assessment, short term decisions, employee experience.
As the author, Sebastian Buck writes, in his article “The impossible for capitalism is suddenly possible” (published in Fast Company, 20 March, 2020):
“The idea that companies, markets, the capitalist system could ever stop, change course, and focus on what matters seemed absurd just a few weeks ago.”
Like a beer company making sanitiser. Or Zara making scrubs. Or Ford making ventilators. Or Woolworths hiring Qantas Airways employees.