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Authors: Olga Koretskaya, Gus Grosenbaugh

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For the past several decades, the primary question for many businesses has been: “How much money can we make?”. It is still largely assumed that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits for shareholders, as that wealth should trickle down to benefit all. While the formal economy has never been larger, the unprecedented scale of environmental degradation and inequality it has created today makes us question business-as-usual and to look for alternatives.

In fact, all around the world, people are rejecting the status-quo of self-interest. In the midst of the global pandemic, more than ever, we see purposeful work towards building an economy that delivers environmental and social wellbeing.

  • With the election of Joe Biden, the US appears primed to re-enter the Paris Agreement.
  • New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget makes health a key, driving metric in economic decision making.
  • The ‘rights of nature’ are being recognised by national and local laws, predominantly in the countries of the Global South: Ecuador, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Mexico, Uganda, and Colombia.

While public awareness and government policies are crucial in supporting Wellbeing Business, it is companies – both large and small – that will be the engine behind the transition. The good news is: many of them already exist, and we know how to recognise them.

Here are eight key principles that define a Wellbeing Business.

  1. Redefining the vision. Primarily driven by the desire to create products and services that satisfy the needs of society, while staying in harmony with nature. 
  2. Ensuring transparency. Proactive in disclosing data about their environmental, social, and economic performance.
  3. Internalising externalities. Aware of the ‘negative externalities’ or negative environmental and social impacts they produce, and strive to reduce them.
  4. Having a long-term mindset. Make decisions that benefit the company and all important stakeholders including society and nature. This implies, for example careful consideration of resource use, and investment in employees and the communities within which companies operate.
  5. Making people an asset. Prioritise the dignifying of work and empowering of diverse voices within the company.
  6. Localising production. Become much more embedded in the community and ecosystems by striving to localise energy sources, financial sources, as well as distribution.      
  7. Switching to circular production. Design business processes to coexist with environmental and social systems.
  8. Embracing diversity. Acknowledge and embrace diversity in values, ownership structure, finance as key to a resilient business environment.

On 18 December we hosted a webinar to discuss this paper. You can watch the recording here:

Also, do check out the WEAll Business Guide as a nice pair to this work.

Last January, we launched ‘The Business of Wellbeing: a Guide to the Alternatives to Business as Usual’. It aimed to answer questions such as, “What exactly is a wellbeing economy and how can we put it into practice?”and, “What are the options and what is the path that makes sense in each particular business context?”  

Examples of Wellbeing Economy businesses outlined in this guide include:

Riversimple

A car manufacturer founded to ‘pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport’. Its business model aims to completely rethink the automobile sector, from open-source design to a circular economy approach to car use. The founders redefine ownership by including key decision-makers in their governance structure, not only investors but also the Environment, Customers, Communities, Staff, Investors and Commercial Partners. The Board’s duty is to balance and protect the benefit streams of all six stakeholder groups, rather than maximising the value of one.

Futuro Forestal

Futuro Forestal has become one of Latin America’s largest and premier providers of tropical hardwood, and worked on the reforestation of over 9000 hectares, the creation of 4,500 hectares of private reserves. Together with a number of local and international stakeholders and investors, Futuro Forestal developed the ‘generation forest’, a combination of the dynamics of natural forests and reforestation which absorbs carbon dioxide and ensuring biodiversity and recovers soils and water sources. It also helps to create income earning opportunities for locals. 

Throughout the year, we have used this guide to drive some of our engagement with our network. For instance, we hosted two events that presented the guide and discussed practical strategies that businesses could use to transition to a ‘Wellbeing Economy Business’. 

Currently, our Organisational Lead, Michael, is working with WEAll Scotland to deliver a training programme for Scottish businesses based on the guide. The first iteration of this training is concluding soon. We imagine this work will continue in other countries and hope to be able to adapt the training for their specific contexts. 

The guide outlines seven dimensions for ‘The Business of Wellbeing’, that Wellbeing Economic businesses embody: 

In addition to the celebration of the Business guide’s one-year anniversary and the work on Wellbeing Economy businesses it has helped move ahead, WEAll is also hosting a panel discussion on December 18th on the topic of the state of Wellbeing Economic businesses in the world today. 

The panelists are: 

Olga Koretskaya and Gus Grosenbaugh, the authors of an upcoming WEAll briefing paper called “Business in the Wellbeing Economy”. We will share the publication before the event.

Bonnie Clark is the CEO of This is Remarkable. She has hundreds of case studies of businesses in Scotland who have undertaken the initiative to become a wellbeing business. 

Michael Weatherhead is Organisational Lead and WEAll and spearheaded the publication of the WEAll Business Guide last year. 

If you’re interested in joining, please register for the event here.

Our friends at Cities CAN B have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of five Extreme Collaboration guidebooks, sharing their rich experiences with a view to helping businesses and communities everywhere build back better after the pandemic.

Message from Cities CAN B:

“When we imagine  the end of this global quarantine, we are flooded with dreams of us emerging on the other side more empathetic, sustainable and supportive, connected with our interdependence and with the urge to care for our planet and our society.

Our experience, over the past 10 years, in building different collaborative ecosystems in multiple countries has shown us  how collaborating with those we see as “our peers” is easy but  this becomes increasingly difficult with those who are more distant to us – “the others”. If our goal is to be radically collaborative and accelerate the process of change in our communities, we must learn to transform ourselves.

It is for this reason we have embarked on the great adventure to initiate a global movement called CITIES CAN B, in which we strive to attract entire communities  (people, institutions and companies) to collaborate with each other, to take charge of the 17 Great Challenges of Humanity as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

It is this goal of collaborating with everyone, no matter how distant we might feel to them, that we call “Extreme Collaboration”.

These five notebooks are the notes on everything we have learned  to date on “Extreme Collaboration” in CITIES CAN B, including sister projects in which we have participated, supported or simply admired.

We are hopeful these notes will be useful for citizens, mayors or foundations, who are mobilizing the changes these great challenges of humanity require. Additionally, these notes are designed for those entrepreneurs or large corporations that are committed to leading the changes the market and society are beginning to demand.

We are going to need help to finish them, translate them and print them!

And, to ensure anyone who needs them has access to them, the digital version of these notebooks will be distributed, free of charge, with a Creative Commons license in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

In the first notebook, we address why we believe it is better to work on these issues at the city-scale, while the remaining 4 focus on strategies we have developed to mobilize all participants to collaborate with each other, thus accelerating  the changes our society and our planet.

We set a fundraising goal to finish the books, translate and print them, but we want to triple that goal in order to expand the CITIES CAN B Global movement.

CITIES CAN B is a global movement co-led by Sistema B and Gulliver with the support of the BMW Foundation and B Lab Europe.

 Brief summary of CITIES CAN B:

In August 2015, Rio+B (RIO CAN B) the first city of the movement was officially launched, in November 2017, Santiago+B (STGO CAN B) and Mendoza+B (MZA CAN B) joined the movement, making it international. In August 2019 Cities CAN B launched a global call for proposals for new cities to join the movement, 14 cities from 10 countries sent proposals, demonstrating the potentiality of expansion of the project. At the end of 2019 an international executive committee selected the four most qualified proposals.

As of 2020 the project became global, with the four new selected cities now under development: Asunción+B (Paraguay), Edinburgh CAN B (Scotland), Córdoba+B (Argentina), and Barcelona+B (Spain). We hope more and more people and organizations around the world participate collaboratively in their local sustainable development, we count on your support to make it happen. We need to recognize personal and collective responsibility about our interdependence.