The purpose economy is arriving sooner than you think
The new wave of disruption is coming from companies that help customers and employees be of service to the world
Update: read Part 2 of this series!
The magnitude of our century’s challenges is daunting. Achieving net zero (and then net-negative) carbon, helping our biosphere regain its balance, increasing standards of living for billions of people, all the while responding and adapting to the many crises that are certain to come: these are only some of the critical things that must be done in the coming decades, yet the technological and economical hurdles of achieving them seem impossible to achieve within a traditional capitalist framework, famously optimized for perpetuating its own growth.
This has led to increased calls for more radical intervention from the world’s governments; yet, the persistent difficulty in getting green bills into most legislative agendas indicates that the political world order is, if anything, even more entrenched in its logic of electoral convenience, institutional gridlock, obscure interests and perverse incentives. As Kim Stanley Robinson so dramatically illustrates in The Ministry for the Future, most government action will likely be lagging, not leading.
Yet, I’m confident that humanity can and will tackle these challenges — and that we already know how to do it. I recently participated in the Applied Purpose Initiative’s inaugural roundtable, together with executives from other industry-leading companies. The question of the day: how could we align our companies’ ambitions to do good by society and the environment with the realities of running and operating a profitable publicly-traded business? I came in with low expectations, imagining we would hear a lot of good intentions and few actual solutions. I’m glad to say these expectations were shattered: the amount of conviction and strategic clarity in that meeting confirmed that a sea change is already happening. Many of the world’s largest companies are already playing another game entirely, and are doing so with the same drive to succeed that powers capitalism itself.
The example set by these trailblazers makes it clear: a major shift in corporate activity has started. Within the next few years, trillions of dollars and tens of millions of workers will be put to work in dramatically different ways, providing the resources to reconfigure…