By Cláudia Pedra, managing partner of Stone Soup Consulting.
Stone Soup was asked to share a story of interdependence at the B Corp Europe Summer Summit (20-22 June 2017), which we have attended as a certified B Corp. As some of you may know, every company that joins the B Corp movement signs a Declaration of Interdependence. When I reached Cascais, the Declaration was on the table, standing out in its simplicity but also meaning. It certainly inspired my talk.
The story we chose to share was nothing more than a story of how to create a new concept of community and how it is tangled with the story of Stone Soup Consulting. It all started eight years ago, when five people came together to create a company that could be a force for good. When we reflected on our Theory of Change and decided that Stone Soup would help organisations and social entrepreneurs increase their positive social impact through strategic consultancy, we also reflected on the concept of community. We had this crazy idea, that this community could have the founding partners, consultants, clients, commercial partners, but also competitors that sometimes could be partners. We scheduled several presentations to those competitors and spoke of the concept. Although they smiled politely, the majority looked at us as if what we were proposing was too strange even to consider.
About four years after these early presentations, we were challenged by two major foundations in Portugal to collaborate on the creation of a platform that would help social entrepreneurs and organisations to reach long term sustainability. The only condition for this collaboration was that the concept and operation would have to be done by four organisations (two companies and two NGOs - ourselves, Call to Action, IES and TESE). It was a strong opportunity to implement our original idea of community and finally work on an interdependent model with our competitors/partners. One year after the kick off in Portugal, GEOfundos is a success and on a weekly basis this consortium of four partners meets and works together as a team.
As for B Corp, the summit has been great to understand how the movement could help solve complex societal issues, from poverty, to unemployment, to climate change, just to quote a few. It is almost difficult to choose an inspiring story among the many that were shared at the conference. The overall concept of the event was to have inspiring stories that could help B Corps move forward based on best practices. For the sake of giving you a concrete example maybe we can choose Patagonia, as a good example of a sustainable company. Patagonia’s mission statement is: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Since its inception, Patagonia has been as committed to sustainability as to being disruptive. They have designed campaigns encouraging people not to be their own products – to prevent blind consumerism during Black Fridays, they have designed durable clothes and outdoor gear - to avoid the negative impacts of producing more materials, they have been continuously updating their stand on the type of materials they produce – to assure that they are using the most sustainable and less harmful materials to the planet. They have also bravely taken political stands against policies and politics that promote climate change, pollution, unsustainable practices, of which we can quote, as an example, the recent campaigns on Trump.
It has been a very intense and interesting debate on how companies can be activists to solve deep societal problems, be it as a company alone, a group of companies or in conjunction with local and national NGOs. It was food for thought on lobby and advocacy actions and the role of companies. It is also about stepping out of traditional roles that society has bestowed on us.
The whole B Corp community is prepared to work in interdependence to solve such problems. And it was such an experience to feel this in Cascais – the generosity, the honest sharing to be a driving force for good. Good ideas and good solutions. How good it is to be surrounded by such people!