Big companies can be a force for good—if they ask the right questions
Transformation of big companies is really important if we want to create a system that is fairer, more sustainable and less unequal.
Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and Global Ambassador B Corp movement
Lorna Davis: I think that for all of us who are dreaming of, hoping for, and committed to creating a system that is fairer, more sustainable, less unequal, we all ask ourselves the question of: Where do we fit in? What do we actually do? What do I do versus what do other people do? And I think there’s a lot that governments can do and should do and there’s a lot that not-for-profits can and should do. What I’m very interested in is what I know and what we know, which is big corporate life. And what we know is that big corporates are very powerful. They control an enormous number of resources – human and planetary resources. And so the transformation of big companies is a really important part of the puzzle. It’s not the only thing, but it’s a really important part of the puzzle. So I think that the more that big companies take their responsibility seriously to transform, the better off the entire puzzle is going to be. I think one of the questions that people ask all the time is what can I personally do. And I think if you’re an individual one of the questions that you can ask yourself is: if you’re buying something you can ask “Where did this thing come from, and where is it going to?” I think if you’re a normal, sort of smallish size company one of the questions that you can ask yourself is, “Where am I leaving money on the table?” Because basically anything that is a linear process is probably not as financially efficient as it could be if it were a circular process. But I think that the big question that companies, large companies like Danone and other big multinationals can and should ask themselves is “Where can we collaborate? Where can we pre-compete?” Because there’s a place for competition and always will be. That’s why business as a mechanism is powerful. Competition is an important part of that. But there is also a really important time to collaborate. And I think that the journey that we’re on is kind of an exploration of when to collaborate and when to compete. And I think that this is going to be a really sensitive and interesting conversation in the years ahead because collaboration with governments, NGOs, and other big multinationals is going to be really important in some areas—and, by the way, extremely helpful if we can get legislation that evens up the playing field. And then continuing to compete in areas where we can differentiate and innovate is a really important part of why business is a powerful force, and I think the combination of those two things will help business to be the force for good that we dream it to be. One of the things that I think distinguishes B Corp certification from many of the other certifications is that it’s holistic, but it also allows you to double down in areas that you really want to be exceptional in and just be okay in areas that you’re not choosing to double down on basically. And if you take the subject of workers, for example, the question of how much ownership your workers have of your organization, the question of what percentage of your workers are at or above the living wage; The question of what’s the size of the gap between the most well-paid employee and the least well-paid employee in your organization. These are just some of the questions that you need to answer in the B-Impact Assessment. And what’s interesting for me is that simply being asked those questions causes you to ask yourself what kind of company you are and what kind of company you want to be. So I’ll give you an example: We didn’t even measure the living wage. We didn’t even know what the living wage was. It took us months to work out what our numbers were. We just didn’t track them. And so what happens is (a combination of I think three things) is interesting. A combination of the questions that you have to answer causes the leadership of an organization to rethink the kind of company that it wants to be. Secondly, there is a transparency to the whole process that makes it very difficult to pretend to be something that you’re not. So your scores are public, your ratings are public. And anybody can kind of ask the B-Lab, the not-for-profit whatever questions that they have about your organization. So there’s not much chance for you—there’s no chance, really, for you to hide. And I think what’s interesting about these kinds of metrics is it’s not necessarily an individual metric. It’s a combination of metrics and it’s a combination of ways that you deal with your people and the planet really that makes you a good company or less good company. And if you’ve got poor intent a lot of the metrics out there you can kind of duck and dive. But because this is pretty holistic it’s very difficult to do that and because it’s transparent. And I think the third thing that’s been very interesting for us, and I think it’s true for pretty much everybody on this journey is: because purpose is so important to the more junior and the younger employees in all organizations they get empowered to ask questions about these kinds of things in a way that they don’t necessarily in a traditional company. So what I have found very interesting in Danone is how much, because we made the declaration to become a B Corp, it opens up the question of what we’re trying to be, and it allows people to ask questions about the things that are covered in that assessment that I don’t think that would be asked otherwise. So I think it’s a pretty interesting sort of package of things that leads to generally a good outcome.
- Large companies can and should ask themselves "Where can we collaborate? Where can we pre-compete?"
- Both collaboration and competition can help big business be the force for good.
- B Corp certifications can lead to companies being more purposeful and transparent.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A biologist-reporter investigates his fungal namesake.
The unmatched biologist-reporter Tomasz Sitarz interviews his fungal namesake, maślak sitarz – known in English as the Jersey cow mushroom.