How the next generation of business leaders could redefine the role of corporate culture
In response to this, Upstream 21 has set an important precedent by establishing a new kind of corporate charter. The charter clearly defines the responsibilities of a company to multiple stakeholders and imposes an accountability structure that considers the impacts of its business actions on all of its constituents.
The example of Upstream 21 suggests that there is an opportunity to optimize the genuine wealth or well-being of communities and the environment through clearly spelled out responsibilities.
In 2009, Harvard business students seized such an opportunity with a proposal for a declaration of a professional code of conduct for business professionals, similar to the Hippocratic Oath for doctors. Their proposed oath for business is: “to do no harm to the people and planet through their business operations” and ultimately be held to account for their actions as a licence to operate. They argued that a Hippocratic Oath for business would explicitly define management obligations towards society and the "diligent application of knowledge" through a specific set of norms. This is my vision of the future of business, which I see many new business students embracing: business and enterprise that is committed to financial sustainability, yet with a heart and passion for contributing to the overall health of the environment and the communities in which they operate.
Fortunately, more and more businesses are voluntarily moving in this direction, including Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Co-operators Group and Vancity Credit Union. Even corporate behemoths like Walmart are beginning to explore new ways of operating on the basis of financial, social and environmental sustainability principles. In Walmart’s case, it has recently released a sustainability scorecard measuring environmental performance in four key areas: greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water use, natural resources, and responsible and ethical production.
Yet what is particularly exciting is the emergence of new business alliances throughout Canada and the U.S. calling for a new corporate modus operandi. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is a network of local businesses working together to help create vibrant, resilient and flourishing local economies where environmental economic and social well-being is the ultimate objective. From Halifax to Vancouver, BALLE is helping to redefine business and competition.