Have you heard of Ray Anderson (who sadly recently passed away) and his company Interface? No? Really not? Well, they make carpet. And do you know what they have in common with Nike and Walmart? They made a complete turn around of their way of operation. In stead of plundering the earth and societies to make a profit, they have decided to make a start with creating thick value. Maybe not fully, yet, but they’re in the progress of creating a new look on business. A new look on the system business is operating in, even. And that system is capitalism.
In the capitalist system, as shaped by companies like Ford some 100 years ago, companies are seeking profit by driving down and externalising costs. Some of the symptoms of this way of operating are pollution, resource exhaustion, low wages and mass lay-offs. In the name of making profits, costs are shifted to society. Costs of cleaning up polluted land, air, and water. Costs of unemployment. By driving down costs, companies are actually creating a deep debt to society. Of course, there are ways of mitigating this. Adversary unions, accounting legislation, corporate social responsibility (CSR)programs, to name a few. These are all signs of evolution of the capitalist system.
In his book The New Capitalist Manifesto, Umair Haque is the first to point out and explain the emerging new look on capitalism, as practiced by companies like Interface. No longer are these frontrunners looking at generating deep dept. They are now trying to create thick value, by keeping in mind five foundational categories of stakeholders: people, communities, society, the natural world and future generations. Not always completely or perfectly, yet, but these companies are changing fundamentally the way they look at value creation.
Reading The New Capitalist Manifesto will open your eyes. And if you are following the developments in the CSR field, or in the area of sustainability, you recognise the evolution going on and where it will take us next. Mr Haque brilliantly brings together elements that form a new way of doing business, and shows that it is nothing to be afraid of, but a natural evolution. By doing so, he also inspires to take action. Evolution, of course, also means that those that cannot adapt to the new environment, will eventually become extinct. And if you think about it, it might be time to say farewell to business principles that were introduced some 100 years ago. We have evolved. It’s time to adapt to our new environment, and the first step is to get Mr Haque’s book and read it.