The new movement, Plan B, coming in the direction of Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz should be watched closely in South Africa. No country needs a Plan B more than the southern tip of the African continent.
Working under a global non-profit title “The B team” Zeitz and Branson announced yesterday a team of global leaders with a promise of working towards a new way of doing business. A new way of doing business that prioritises people and planet alongside profit which they call “Plan B”.
It is not clear how serious this initiative must be taken given the fact that such noises have been around forever to little effect. More often than not such noises, like the ‘good corporate governance craze’ tend to become a clever ploy by private capital to push back regulatory vigilance.
What is clear is that a Plan B is needed. The crisis engulfing global economies which has left Europe teetering on the brink of total collapse points to this need. The South African situation screams for a Plan B. The violent labour protest across the economy but mainly within the mining sector is pointing to a fundamental pitfall. No sane person should ignore the voices around the new Julius Malema platform, Economic Freedom Fighters. Perhaps the situation was best captured by SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus in a speech presented last week. Marcus said the South African economy was facing challenges of crisis proportions. “There is clear recognition that South Africa faces significant challenges; what is required is decisive leadership from all role players that consistently demonstrates a coordinated plan of action to address them”.
A research note released by Vunani Securities this week may be useful. It says “The effect of labour market problems on South Africa’s (SA) real economy and the related impact of financial market dynamics on both of the preceding are reaching an inflection point. Symptoms of this include rapid increases in the frequency and severity of labour protests across the country”. Looking at last recent wage increase demands at far above inflation the Vunani note introduce the concept of a “peace dividend”. This is a discourse worth watching closely and can be linked to some of the talk surrounding the Plan B movement.
It directly links with the words uttered by one of the B Team members Arianna Huffington. She said “The evolution of business leadership away from a focus on short-term profits is
essential for the future generation of leaders”.
Added Huffington “We need a “Plan B” for the way business is managed, starting with leadership more committed to well-being, wisdom and sustainable business success. The only way to enjoy a long term healthy bottom line is with a workplace that supports the well-being of employees”.
Branson said “We are working with government agencies, the social sector, and business leaders to help get on top of some of the world’s seemingly intractable challenges. We are keen to listen, learn and share with others to build businesses that do what’s right for people and the planet.”
“Business is integral to society, but it has also created most of the negative environmental challenges of this century,” Zeitz.
“The B Team will help to catalyse a shift away from the existing short-term, unsustainable mindset, towards the long-term interest of people, the planet and the wider economy.
Another prominent B Team member Mo Ibrahim said “Positive market incentives operating in the public interest are too few and far between, and are also up against a seemingly never-ending expansion of perverse incentives and lobbying. There are models that can help change this and we will work to create new incentives in dialogue with businesses, the social sector and governments.”
The B Team statement said the initiative will address three initial Challenges: “The Future of Leadership”, “The Future Bottom Line” and “The Future of Incentives” to help focus business away from short term gain and to balance the long term benefits for our people and our planet.
“The Future of Leadership” Challenge will seek to accelerate a new kind of inclusive
leadership underpinned by a moral compass of being fair, honest, positive and creative. This is founded on cooperation and will be aimed at generating long-term value for society, the economy and the environment.
The “Future Bottom Line” Challenge seeks to accelerate a move away from singleminded
financial “short-termism”, towards a focus on the long term, and will aim to expand corporate accountability beyond financial gains to include negative and positive contributions to the economy, environment and society.
In driving forward the “Future of Incentives” Challenge, The B Team said it will work with
partners to develop new corporate and employee incentive structures and to identify and map both positive and harmful subsidies. This will help to shift market and business behavior towards incentives that maximize social, environmental and economic benefit.
The leaders joining The B Team founders Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz are:
Shari Arison, Owner, Arison Group
Kathy Calvin, President and CEO, United Nations Foundation
Arianna Huffington, Chair, President & Editor In Chief, The Huffington Post
Mo Ibrahim, Founder, Celtel
Guilherme Leal, Founder & Co-Chairman, Natura
Strive Masiyiwa, Founder & Chairman, Econet Wireless
François-Henri Pinault, CEO & Chairman, Kering
Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group
Professor Muhammad Yunus, Chairman, Yunus Centre
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Deputy Chair, The Elders (Honorary Leader)
Mary Robinson, Secretary, The Elders and President, Mary Robinson Foundation
– Climate Justice (Honorary Leader)
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Marcus said the South African economy was facing challenges of crisis proportions. “There is clear recognition that South Africa faces significant challenges; what is required is decisive leadership from all role players that consistently demonstrates a coordinated plan of action to address them”.