A journalist asked me yesterday “What are social entrepreneurs doing at Davos?” “What’s your interaction with these big bosses?” I went into my spiel explaining that we’ve been developing these amazing eco-village projects and sustainable products and services and we’ve learned how it can be done cost effectively. These approaches reduce risk and add value, future proofing businesses. We want to share our experience to encourage others and maybe meet some new partners.

He looked pretty sceptical. He said “It’s really great what you’re doing and what Klaus Schwab is saying about the Great Transformation and getting businesses here talking. But from what I heard them say today, don’t you think most of them just don’t get it”.

As I reflected on some of the sessions I had been to, I had to admit he had a point. In one session I felt that some participants were on my wavelength, but we had misunderstandings with others who did not seem to understand the points we were trying to make. Despite this, the good thing was we were having a dialogue which was making all of us think.

What makes companies embark on this transformational journey? I’m sure there are academic papers about it, but in my experience it’s all about people and leadership of people in a position to make decisions. It seems to be about a moment or a process when a business leader realises the importance of the issues and decides they must take action. After that, once a business leader “gets it” you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. If a leader has courage and commitment she or he can bring the board, the shareholders and the rest of the organisation along with them.

Because social entrepreneurs also take a can-do, business approach, these transformational leaders seem to turn to us as allies and partners to help with the creative process and level of innovation needed. We have a great partnership for example with home improvement retailer Kingfisher PLC and their UK company B&Q. It’s fantastic to see innovations we develop together being implemented and the plaudits they are receiving. Kingfisher CEO Ian Cheshire is here this week contributing to Davos.

So if you are a leader, in business or government, who has seen the light and is ready to embark on this transformation, seek out the company of social entrepreneurs in your sector. It might just give you an edge!

 

 

Editors Note
Sue Riddlestone, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, BioRegional Development Group, United Kingdom; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Europe, 2011