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29th January 2021

The B Team Brief: January 2021

The B Team Brief is our monthly digest of what we're doing, discussing and reading on the path toward an inclusive economy. Sign up to receive each month's edition in your inbox.

A Note From Halla Tómasdóttir

The past year tested leaders everywhere and while we believe this year will mark the beginning of an important reset in the world, 2021 is going to test us as well. At the beginning of this month, we all witnessed the violent and tragic consequences of years of divisive rhetoric, a void of decency and a lack of accountability in the United States. We know we have not arrived at this moment by accident.

While many business leaders are speaking up and taking action in light of the recent insurrection, we will not heal and move forward with meaning unless we reset the private sector’s relationship with politics. The majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, are looking to CEOs to help uphold democracy. That means they must ensure it runs on the will of the people, not the power of the dollar.

A new administration in the U.S., one that uplifts the importance of unity, models gender-balanced and inclusive leadership and values global collaboration such as the Paris Agreement-, is welcome. But we know there is much work to be done. The task at hand is great—and it is not just limited to one country.

We’ve seen the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines gain traction this month and, with that, the sharp inequalities in where they’re being distributed. If we are to deliver a safe, secure and prosperous future for everyone, we need global solidarity and meaningful commitment to the interdependence of the health of people, our planet and our economies.

At the same time, we’re seeing companies commit to a common framework for measuring what matters. They’re recognizing that success is no longer solely defined by profit, it must be informed by environmental, social and governance factors. Embracing a new model of leadership, one that is holistic and takes into account the full impact a business has on all of its stakeholders, is the true test of leadership this coming decade.

Let’s reset leadership around this imperative— restoring trust, rebuilding our social contract and delivering a just and inclusive transition toward shared prosperity on a healthy planet.

What We’re Doing

It’s official: the United States is back in the Paris Agreement. While this is a significant step forward, we know it’s still not enough. More than 15 B Team Leaders—from Ajay Banga to Mary Robinson—joined 153 global leaders in calling on President Biden to be the climate leader this decisive decade demands.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to responsible corporate tax practice. Each company’s journey will look different. Here’s how both Anglo American and Shell have used our Responsible Tax Principles as a blueprint for progress—building trust among all stakeholders and raising the bar on tax reporting and strategy.

What We’re Discussing

"Reactive and piecemeal solutions won’t cut it. We need to fundamentally rethink the way businesses operate in Washington." While democracy has prevailed in the U.S., it’s clear that no leader can afford to take it for granted—that includes CEOs. As the country moves forward, B Team Chair, Paul Polman, lays out the three key actions CEOs must take to help uphold U.S. democracy and reset their relationship with Washington.

"No one in the world can be safe until everyone is safe." COVID-19 vaccine distribution must be fair and equitable. B Team Leader, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stresses the importance of global solidarity in vaccine access—for high-income countries that means increasing funding for distribution through the ACT Accelerator, providing logistics support and sharing excess doses.

"With the opportunity to achieve 1.5 degrees under threat, we must keep the door to participation wide open." The scale of the climate crisis calls for action from every sector of society. B Team Leader Christiana Figueres joins BP CEO Bernard Looney to urge radical collaboration to keep the promise of the Paris Agreement and deliver a future where all people and our planet can thrive.

Company Spotlight: This Month in 10x Bolder Leadership

Companies can, and must, help build an equitable and inclusive society beyond their four walls. Unilever took a significant step in this direction this month—committing to ensure every worker in its supply chain, which includes 65,000 direct suppliers and over 1.5 million farmers, earns at least a living wage by 2030. In addition, the company pledged to spend $2.4 billion annually by 2025 with suppliers owned and managed by individuals from marginalized communities—up from $363 million currently.

Unilever’s move demonstrates the far-reaching influence business has on the path to an inclusive economy and to a future where everyone can live in dignity. It’s also one that’s urgently needed, as CEO, Alan Jope, emphasized: "The past year has undoubtedly widened the social divide, and decisive and collective action is needed to build a society that helps to improve livelihoods, embraces diversity, nurtures talent and offers opportunities for everyone."

What We’re Reading

Has a year of converging crises further burst the bubble of public trust in institutions? Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer finds that while the world is facing a misinformation epidemic, the largest portion of public trust has been placed in business.

What are the biggest risks global leaders need to take into consideration in 2021? The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Risks Report highlights the importance of leaders waking up to long-term risks—mainly around our growing climate crisis and environmental degradation.

Corporate America’s taken action following this month’s insurrection in the U.S., but what do Americans actually want to see companies do? JUST Capital’s latest polling sees a majority of respondents—both Republicans and Democrats—wanting to see business transform its relationship with politics.

We need measurable changes in the ways companies account. It cannot be elective. It has to be a must. We need actions and decisions now."

Allianz CEO, Oliver Bäte, addresses the need for companies to mandate measuring what matters to accelerate the shift toward a net-zero economy.