Written by Malhar Shah, BSC Associate and Jenkins MBA Student
In a majority of boardrooms and our MBA classrooms, we are taught that the purpose of a business is to maximize profits for its shareholders. Anything otherwise would be considered a violation of their oath as a business. I would argue that being sustainable and mission driven is good for business. Today’s generation wants to build a relationship with the businesses that is beyond a single transaction. Being mission driven helps businesses build relationships with their customers which makes it absolutely possible to be a profitable business while being purpose driven. I had a chance to meet many such businesses at the MO Summit organized by Big Path Capital in Austin, TX while representing the NC State Poole College of Management, the Business Sustainability Collaborative and my own startup, microWatt Energy.
Big Path Capital is a Certified B Corp and is known as the Impact Investing’s Investment Bank. Its MO(mentum) Summit is an annual conference that brings together a group of top CEOs, business leaders, and investors who are focused on bringing positive-impact through the power of their businesses and capital. With this year’s theme, Bold Paths. Bigger Future the focus was on a bigger future – the one of inclusion, stakeholder primacy, and balance with the natural world, according to Michael Whelchel, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Big Path Capital. He went on to say, “As the leaders of mission-driven companies, our companies are agents of this bigger future and by engaging with other leaders around us we might collectively leverage capitalism’s engine to create a bigger future and prosperity for all”.
The MO Summit was a 3-day conference packed with two keynote sessions, eight intimate CEO Workshop sessions, and eleven breakout panels. The CEO Workshops included sessions on how to build brands and movements, perspectives on impact investment risks, and methods of raising impact capital. The keynotes featured, Andrei Cherny, the Co-Founder at Aspiration and David Bronner, the CEO at Dr. Bronner’s. Aspiration, a financial institution for individuals and businesses is a Certified B Corp and according to Cherny, they’re a bank for climate conscious customers. They recognize that their core was a community of climate conscious customers and if they wanted to earn their business, they had to build trust with them. The only way that was possible was by aligning the company’s values with that of their customer’s personal values along with their financial values. He also believes that we are in the early stages of the largest and fastest transformation of human behavior and that is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs who can help drive that change and to make a positive impact. By doing so, he thinks that there is enormous enterprise value that is to be created.
The conference ended with a panel on Bold Path: Braiding Public, Private, and Philanthropic To Build a Bigger Future, which included Dr. Henry McKoy, Director at the Office of State & Community Energy Programs at the US Department of Energy, Angela Williams, the CEO at United Way Worldwide and Ian Harris from BlocPower. Building brands and movements require that you have clarity on purpose, according to Gagan Levy of We Are Guru. By being authentic in telling the story about who you are, helps you align your values with that of your stakeholders, including customer’s and lead into building a successful brand. An impact company cannot be successful simply by being an impact company. You must understand how the decisions that you are making affect your stakeholders not only in the long term, but also in the short term. As an impact company, you create value for everyone around but you must also ensure financial viability for the company, your customers, investors and all other stakeholders to bear this new vision of conscious capitalism to work in the long run.