The road to net positive!

Plea for a net positive business community

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The theme of Purpose Day XL 2023 is “The Road To Net Positive.” So, not merely less bad, nor just climate neutral, but aiming for net positivity. This means giving more than taking in every aspect. The concept originates from the ideas of Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever, who considered it his mission to transform Unilever into a company that contributes more to the world than it consumes, all while improving its financial performance. The underlying principle is this: a global company like Unilever can only thrive in a world that is also thriving.

In practice, it means that you make all your stakeholders equally important and that you create a positive impact for all stakeholders. In addition to the shareholder, just as much attention is paid to the interests of employees, customers and suppliers. But stakeholders who are usually not at the table, such as the planet and society, also have a full voice in decision-making. For example, decisions that contribute to depleting the earth, plastic soup, growing social inequality and global warming are likely to turn out differently.

Flourishing in a world that also flourishes

This is more ambitious than carbon neutral, and it may seem more complicated. However, it is our experience that people get more energy from pursuing positive goals than from neutralizing negative effects. It is more meaningful and triggers more creativity. After all, as Einstein said, the level of thinking that created the problem is a different level of thinking than where the solution lies. Where reduction or net zero tries to make the problem less serious, the question remains whether anything has been fundamentally solved. The higher we set the bar for ourselves, the more likely we are to come up with something great.

Net positive offers that solution. In addition to creative solutions, it requires a fundamentally new way of thinking. Otto Scharmer calls it the transition from ‘ego’ to ‘eco system’ in his book Theory U. It involves redefining your right to exist, which expresses the value of your company for the entire ecosystem of which you are part. It is high time that we create net positive companies, that enable net positive industries, that initiate a net positive economy, so that we can live in a net positive world.

Net positive is not only about taking new creative paths, but also about understanding how transition works. Is it even possible, you might ask yourself. This doubt about sepsis is part of the initial phase of transition. When you experience doubt, you want to look for certainty. Whatever position you take at the early stage of this transition, you are by definition right. If you do nothing, nothing will happen, and you will prove to yourself that it cannot be done. If you get started, you increase the chance of development, and the evidence grows that it is possible. So the question isn’t whether you are right, but rather, what kind of right do you want to be?

It all starts with believing that it is possible and setting ourselves the goal of inventing a company that is actually able to serve all stakeholders. As long as we do not look for that ultimate business model, the chance that we will come up with it, and therefore create it, is nil. So are you in? Are you committed, along with us, to discovering profitable solutions for all stakeholders across all aspects of your business operations?? On Purpose Day you get the vision, tools and connections to realize your highest ambitions.

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