Big & Growing - #makepurposework: Why purpose must include sustainability
Two weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting an amazing event at our Munich Shark office – and we enjoyed it immensely!
Big & Growing is the first community-driven New Work Festival in Munich, which brings together experts, talent, and pioneers for decentralised, inclusive, and adaptive discussions on the future of work. Over eight days, 50 invaluable sessions were held and attended by more than 1000 participants, in 12 locations throughout Munich.
Sharkbite takes the stage
Our stage tackled the topics of collaboration and sustainability, and the day was packed with insightful speeches from amazing founders and coaches, as well as innovation and sustainability experts. We had engaging discussions, interactive sessions, and even made time for mindfulness and self-reflection exercises.
In sum, I am more than impressed by the diversity and depth of insights that were shared within one day by so many engaged people. Upon reflection, the day strengthened my belief that sustainability is an important (if not THE most important) part of purpose in the workplace.
Why you should embed sustainability in every purpose discussion
Purpose is one of the central concepts in the context of new work, which is so crucial it was the central hashtag of the Big & Growing conference: #makepurposework.
The idea explores the idea that we, as humans, are not only working for the sake of earning money and to earn a living, but also long for a bigger sense of purpose in what we are doing – basically, finding the WHY behind our daily routines. This might involve a strong sense of belonging and shared values within the company, but can extend to products, services and messages that we convey to the outer world on a daily basis. Maybe the following questions are familiar to you:
Am I adding any value to individuals, our society or even the planet as a whole by promoting the products/services of my company?
Why are we selling and promoting our offerings, apart from earning money?
When thinking about those fundamental questions, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be an essential guideline for the most pressing topics of our times. A quick look at them shows that sustainability is not only linked to climate change, but also includes goals concerning good health, quality education or responsible consumption. Therefore, the SDGs constitute a solid compass on the road towards defining individual and collective purpose.
However, incorporating sustainability as a driver towards purpose within companies requires a mindset shift. We have to adapt decision making structures and implement an additional dimension for it to succeed. In the future, we must consider four dimensions. We must include Impact as a standard metric for decision making in addition to the three traditional metrics.
Impact - are we contributing value to our society and planet?
Desirability - do we solve a problem for our customers?
Feasibility - do we have a working technology? how well is our product working for customers?
Viability - do we earn money with our offerings?
Defining purpose must include taking responsibility
Purpose is not a gift presented on a silver tray - it is not received, it is something you create!
It always starts with the individual contribution, which means to radically question your own motives and actions in the first place. Chances are high, that in most cases those reflections might be quite uncomfortable. You might discover some things you are doing out of convenience, which do not have a positive impact on the world, e.g. like ordering food for lunch wrapped in a lot of plastic instead of preparing it at home and bringing it to work in a reusable container. Of course, as always, the world is not black and white. Some things may be necessary, even if they do have a negative impact, while others can be changed instantly with conscious thought.
One interesting example that we discussed with our audience during the panel talk is professional travel. Undeniably, professional travel (especially long-distance) has a severe impact on the world climate. Still, a lot of people travel for work, as face-to-face meetings are still considered essential in building solid business relations with colleagues, customers or partners. One obvious question is: With the current and upcoming technology, to what extent can we substitute face-to-face-meetings with virtual meetings and can we reach similar levels of quality relationships compared to face-to-face meetings?
Of course, the equation is never that balanced, and the answer is not so simple. In terms of CO2, virtual meetings also have a significant footprint themselves; the increasing needs of computing power is strongly linked to energy consumption and CO2 output.
So, what can you do? What is the best choice?
There is no easy answer. Hence, from my perspective the important thing is to first accept our responsibility in sustainability topics. By actively questioning the potential impacts of our actions and evaluating options we are able to take informed decisions.
One specific suggestion that I liked very much was given by Max Hoffmann on responsible consumption: “Before purchasing or consuming something, honestly ask yourself whether you really NEED it or just WANT it”. Actually, that makes a big difference, as we want a lot of things out of convenience and habit. I am certain that everyone can find things that they could give up easily, without losing too much quality of life, and while still contributing positively.
So, what is the one thing that you can abandon tomorrow in favour of contributing to reaching the SDGs? Share in the comments below!
Together into a better future.