Posted in: thought leadership

30th August 2017

Purpose-Driven CEOs: Steady Leaders in Turbulent Times

By Jochen Zeitz, Co-Founder/Executive Chair, The B Team

We are living through turbulent times. Geopolitical upheaval, driven by a lack of trust and a continued backlash against “establishment” institutions—businesses, governments, the media and even civil society—continues to surge. One might expect this to result in business leaders ducking for cover to ride out the storm, and to preserve short-term interests.In the past two years, however, we have seen an upsurge in business leaders staking bold and sometimes highly risky leadership positions on issues ranging from immigration and refugees to climate change. Business is increasingly finding its voice as a force for morality, for evidence-based decision making and common decency.

We are seeing business leaders fill leadership vacuums in new ways, and insert themselves into highly volatile political debates.

In a recent New York Times piece, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and board member at PepsiCo, stated: “In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business. These CEOs have taken the risk to speak truth to power.”In the same column, B Team Leader and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reflected, “When I went to business school, you didn’t see anything like this. Nobody talked about taking a stand or adopting a cause.”

That is starting to change. From a time when many businesses sought to deflect attempts to regulate their operations for the public good, we've reached an era where companies are often well ahead of governments in changing their business models to limit their impacts on the environment. Where leaders used to run away from the political fray, we now see CEOs stepping up as some of the most influential, credible progressive voices on critical social issues.

It's significant momentum. But it’s not enough. We haven’t yet made this the new norm for all business leaders. The work of The B Team—and the voices of its leaders—is more salient than ever. We continue to push our ambitious agenda forward. Our work to grow this movement in 2017 includes:

  • Launch of The B Team Africa, which will advance our mission while responding to the specific challenges and opportunities of markets throughout the continent.
  • Developing and launching a new website, Open Ownership, the first public, open data, global database of company ownership information, providing public access to information on who owns 1.9 million companies in 24 countries.
  • Taking a strong public stand encouraging the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Change agreement, and collaborated with leading climate advocacy groups at the forefront of the "We Are Still In" campaign.
  • Welcoming Christiana Figueres, the internationally recognized leader on global climate change who helped secure the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, as a new B Team leader.
  • Speaking out against hate and bigotry in the United States

As we move into the last quarter of 2017, The B Team will continue to take bold leadership stands, and to push businesses to be a true force for good, for our planet, and for society.