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Corporate Giants Start to Care—It’s Great for Business! with Andrew Winston (Episode #122)

It’s easy to look at a daunting challenge –  something so big that you know you can’t possibly finish the job – and then do nothing. It’s easy to just not start at it, somewhere. But our guest today, Andrew Winston, did the opposite. When experience started telling him how important it was that we make a fundamental, global change in how business is done on our planet, he committed to a life of fighting for all our shared futures. He is truly living up to the moniker of “change-maker” and we are honored to share his insights. 

Episode Highlights


About Our Guest:

Andrew Winston is championing a major shift in the way the largest corporations in the world do business, by recommending they ask themselves one simple question,

 “Is the world better off  – in the long term – because our business is in it?”

If the answer is not an unequivocal “yes.” Then he is asking them to question and improve every aspect of how they do business. 

Andrew and his co-author – former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman – have written a book called Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving and the amazing conservation hero Jane Goodall is getting out the word on this book at every opportunity. .

That was enough to make me sit up, pay attention, and then immediately ask Andrew or Paul to share their insights with us. But the book has also been named one of the Best Business Books of the Year and called an “electrifying strategy for business success and unlike any other book you’ve read” by Merck Chairman Ken Frazier.  Sir Richard Branson has called it a “wonderful rallying call”, and “pure heresy” by Arianna Huffington. 

So we know it must be touching a very important chord. 

As Andrew puts it, “there is now a battle for the soul of business.

He writes, 

“All companies now represent one of two models, at different ends of a spectrum. 

One serves a handful of owners and funnels the gains to them. It maximizes shareholder returns and obsesses over cutting costs to raise profits now. It takes limited responsibility for externalities—or spillover impacts on others—of the business. 

The other model sees the purpose of business differently and aspires to thrive, over the long term, by serving all stakeholders. It helps the world tackle the biggest challenges, such as climate change, inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and racial divides. 

When people talk about the difference between shareholder and stakeholder capitalism, they’re describing these two models.”

And here’s the brilliant part: you and I, as consumers, can have a very powerful impact on which model wins the day, in the end. 69% of us now self-identify as “values driven consumers” which means we are spending our money with companies that are focusing on the greater good and their role in it. 

Andrew’s message emphasizes that relationship, pointing out that the tide is turning and companies that want to be doing business a decade from now will have to be working with a model that serves all of us. In fact, this is the reason he is one of the world’s most widely read writers and leading thinkers on sustainable business. 

He and his co-author expand the scope of the word “sustainable” with that key question the book asks the leaders of all businesses: “Is the world better off  – in the long term – because our business is in it.”

In fact, our team at the Goodness Exchange was seeing this wave several years ago. And we became so certain that a new era of consumer driven loyalty is opening (one based on how grateful we are for a business’s role in our lives), that we have been celebrating “The Business of Goodness” and a “Gratitude Economy” for quite some time.

Andrew and Paul’s book takes all that to another level of impact to get excited about.

In it, he tells us story after story about how the answer to that question, coming from the largest corporations in the world, will fundamentally determine our shared future. 

And there is the good news: If the book NET POSITIVE starts rapidly shaping corporate goals and practices, we have a wonderful chance at a bright future. 

Winston has also written cover stories for Harvard Business Review and published hundreds of articles in HBR, MIT Sloan Management Review, and other top publications. 

And his other books on sustainability business strategies have sold over a quarter million copies… they are called Green to Gold and The Big Pivot. It is more than obvious now, that BOTH his books were ahead of their time and that’s something to love about Andrew Winston’s way in the world: He is a visionary who leads with practicality, and an eye on human nature, so he usually gets it right! 

Because of that track record, he has been named to Thinkers50 list of the top management thinkers in the world and his views on strategies toward sustainability have been sought after by many of the world’s leading companies, including 3M,, HP, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Marriott, PepsiCo, and Unilever.

As you will see from our conversation, Andrew is also a respected and dynamic speaker, reaching audiences of thousands at executive meetings around the planet. He received degrees in economics, business, and environmental management from Princeton, Columbia, and Yale, and yet he is one of the most down-to-earth business leaders I have ever spoken to.

Resources Mentioned:

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Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer of Google X, tells us that we can teach machines to work with remarkable Happiness, Love, and Compassion! And here’s why that could be really good news: Mo describes a possible future where Artificial Intelligence can amplify these three impulses a billion times over! In this episode, he shares with us exactly how to get there. 

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Show Notes

(00:00- 04:35) OPENING

(04:36- 21:17)

  • BOOK: Net Positive by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston
  • Unilever
  • Takeover of Unilever
  • GlobeScan
  • The narrative of the world we are living in
  • The stakeholders
  • The better way of doing business
  • It is how we lead more people having enough and everybody having enough
  • The challenge on businesses during the pandemic
  • Medtronic
  • People coming together making things than they’ve ever made
  • One of the amazing things that came out of pandemic for business was how fast we discovered we could move when there is no choice
  • We could move faster than we realized

(21:18- 24:22) BREAK

(24:23- 39:52)

  • Millennials as the young new force
  • Generational shift
  • Sustainability
  • Purpose of business
  • J&J
  • Mining companies
  • Level of thinking that is Net Positive
  • Is the world better off because I’m in it?
  • PODCAST: 10,000 Volunteers Fighting the Waste Created by Fast Fashion with Jessica Schreiber
  • Systemic design problem
  • Greta Thunberg—Gen Z leader on environmental movement
  • TESLA
  • It has to all come together, it’s not just on us
  • Level of business sustainability
  • It is about taking in longer view of cost and benefits

(39:53- 50:02)

  • Are you improving the well being of everybody that you impact?
  • Breaking boundaries
  • Growth
  • Decoupling
  • “The rich must live simply, so the poor can simply live.” – Gandhi
  • How to build connection and meaning and not just stuff. 
  • “Anything we can’t do forever is by definition unsustainable.”

(50:03- 01:00:11)

  • Technology moves
  • AI chatbot
  • The Ray Anderson Story
  • We were taught the economy is everything
  • Paul Hawken
  • BOOK: The Ecology of Commerce

(01:00:12- 01:07:55)

  • I wish people knew the box and the circle
  • We can tell a different story
  • Jane Goodall
  • They need courage to stand up from bullies
  • We can end dire poverty
  • Website: ANDREWWINSTON
  • Website: Net Positive

(01:07:56- 01:08:52) CLOSING

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