You’re missing the point!

Greed and lack of ethics is blinding us to the need for #ReputationWithPurpose

At this risk of offending the few who ‘get it’ I will stand by my provocative heading… South Africans are missing the point! Everyone is moaning about the rotten politicians, the broken economy, the legacy of apartheid and shouting for the need for radical economic transformation. Oh the unfairness of it all!

Sorry to break the news, but we have far bigger issues… unless business SA (all the way from start ups to behemoths) wakes up, quickly, to the fact that what we actually need is a sustainability revolution, there will be nothing left to fight over. There will be no pie to impose BB-BEE on. No pie to tax for grants or free education. No pie to feed anyone!

In case you haven’t noticed the world as we know it is falling apart. Brexit / Trump / Zupta. SAP / McKinsey / KPMG. Even Uber! In just 15 years more than half of the Fortune 500 companies no longer exist, but it’s not about digital disruption, although that is an enabler. It’s because they were structurally unfit to survive in a changing world.

In their ‘must read’ paper Breakthrough Business Models: Exponentially More Social, Lean, Integrated And Circular, developed with the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, Volans’ Chairman, John Elkington summarises it perfectly (emphasis my own):

Too many business leaders still claim to have “embedded” the sustainability agenda, when at best they have taken on board elements of the closely linked Corporate Social Responsibility and Shared Value agendas. All good, as far as they go, but with system change now on the agenda they do not go nearly far enough. But if capitalism is to survive and thrive, today’s extraordinary must become tomorrow’s ordinary.

One key question: How quickly will this happen? Quicker than most of us imagine. Why? Because the sustainability agenda is beginning to push into the commercial mainstream. But, even more importantly, an old economic order is now coming apart at the seams, with a new one struggling to be born.

The old approach of simply signing sustainable business charters or producing annual sustainability reports is a baseline activity, the entry tickets to playing by the new rules. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a more radical agenda than most business leaders yet realize. They imply a shift from incremental to exponential mindsets and ambitions; from our current focus on the negative impacts of economic activity to the deliberate generation of positive impacts; and from the business case for action to a reconsideration of business models that ensures industries are fit for tomorrow’s very different market and geopolitical realities.

In South Africa we have barely even scratched the surface. Only 75 organisations have signed up to the UN Global Compact, of which most are NGOs, municipalities and SMEs. Only 37 are ‘proper’ companies! Not a single South African CEO is part of the Leadership of The B Team. In fact, they are being put to shame by the great African Leaders like Dr Mo Ibrahim, who was one of its founders, Strive Masiyiwa and Bob Collymore. There are only 5 certified South African B Corps, none of which a major listed companies.  We desperately need #ReputationWithPurpose!

And it’s not just about tree hugging. Over and over again the business case for REAL sustainability has been proved. All over the world, companies with PURPOSE reap the rewards. So why only a handful here?

You have to wonder why?! My somewhat jaundiced opinion is that it’s because South Africans are so preoccupied with money – either you have it and you’re clutching onto it for your life or you don’t have it and that’s all you want – and quite clearly, it’s because we are too stupid and / or naïve to think that these global issues pertain to us.

So my prediction is that we will see countless other reputational disasters linked to lack of ethics, disregard for human rights, abuse of the environment, etc… all of which are driven by greed.

Sad but true 🙁


If you’re ready to start thinking about what you need to do, let’s have a chat and I’ll take you through my #ReputationWithPurpose model

More from Jessica Whitcutt Fagan

Who you are is more important than what you do

The simple truth that who you are is more important than what...
Read More