After a career in manufacturing businesses, Mark initiated the RSA Tomorrow’s Company inquiry into ‘the role of business in a changing world’. The resulting report, published in 1995 led to the creation of Tomorrow’s Company as an independent, business-led think tank. It also laid the foundations the redefinition of the directors’ duties in the 2006 Companies Act. In recent years he has concentrated on the issue of board and investor responsibilities for stewardship, co-authoring a report with the Institute for Family Business on Family Business Stewardship. Today he speaks to Blue & Green.
In 140 characters or less – what is Tomorrow’s Company?
A London-based, internationally influential think tank working with leaders and policymakers in business and investment to inspire and enable companies to be a force for good.
What was the driver for creating Tomorrow’s Company- what gap did it fill?
I worked in UK manufacturing for 15 years and sensed a dissatisfaction inside and outside companies about the role of business. The business philosopher Charles Handy then persuaded me to work at the RSA, where, inspired by a lecture he gave asking ‘What is a Company For?’ we started to bring CEOs and chairmen together to answer his question.
There was so much interest that we then created a business-led inquiry into Tomorrow’s company – the role of business in a changing world. The conclusions of the inquiry were that companies needed to focus on a clear purpose and strong relationships if they wanted to generate value. This directly influenced the change in directors duties in the UK’s new 2006 Companies Act. It was the CEOs involved in that inquiry who then urged me to create an organisation that would carry forward the agenda.
We have always put purpose, values and relationships at the heart of our vision of successful business. Tomorrow’s Company stays close enough to business to make its conclusions practical but aspirational enough to challenge and stretch businesses and investment institutions to adapt and change. It bridges the visionary and the practical.
Who is it primarily for?
Four key audiences: 1) Business leaders – Chairmen, CEOS, Directors, 2) Institutional investors – pension funds, fund managers Asset managers, 3) Policymakers and regulators and 4) Business educators.
What difference does Tomorrow’s Company want it to make?
Tomorrow’s Company aims to inspire and enable companies to be a force for good, both by working with individual companies on their journey and by working with investors, advisors, policymakers regulators and educators to influence the way companies are led, governed and stewarded.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
Economic orthodoxy and mistaken assumptions that tell us that people are only motivated by money and that the price of a share tells you what you need to know about a business.
Ironically the critics of capitalism and many commentators too often mirror and reinforce this dogma. Instead of working with all the human beings in business and investment who want to find better ways forward they stand outside the system and condemn it. They are wrong. There are millions of people working in business and thousands of good businesses which do have a purpose beyond profit and a focus on relationships. Every one of us is a saver who has a stake in the investment system and the challenge is to give our human concerns more voice.
(I talk about all this in my book Living Tomorrow’s Company – rediscovering the Human Purposes of Business which was first published in India in 2013.)
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
For 20 years we have worked with generation after generation of business leaders who share our belief in the human purposes of business. They have helped us develop an integrated and systemic approach to business success in which clear purpose and strong values lay the foundations for robust culture, productive relationships and a focus on long term success. We work with them in very practically focused forums where like-minded people from very different companies learn from each other and develop an agenda for action which others can follow.
We are also helped by the growing body of research that demonstrates that this approach is the best way to create long term profitability and value for investors. Again I cover this in my book and we will also cover it in the forthcoming report of our Futures Project early in 2016.
And there is a growing Tomorrow’s Company community of individual supporters, business advisors and alumni who are ambassadors for our work.
You’ve been with Tomorrow’s Company since inception in 1995, what’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in company behaviour over that period?
To start with the negative, and to focus on the UK, my answer would be to point to the preoccupation within the system with delivering cash returns to shareholders at the expense of investment in the business. Our current research (to be published early next year) is concluding that the UK has one of the lowest levels of investment in fixed assets amongst the OECD, and this is falling.
This is partly because the UK has made the greatest transition away from manufacturing towards the lower capital intensive service sector. Therefore more worrying is that the UK also has the lowest level of expenditure on R&D amongst major economies and this is falling. In the UK politicians talk of moving from manufacturing to a knowledge economy, however the evidence shows we are under-investing in both.
Furthermore, companies are now net savers in our economy. Companies came into existence to act as conduits for investment, to take money from individuals and the government to carry out investment. This has now reversed; companies in aggregate are net savers in our economy, lending money to consumers and the government to buy the goods and services the company’s provide.
There is a strong connection between this company behaviour, and the irrational economic dogmas I was talking about earlier. Individual clients and beneficiaries are told that they are best served by this ‘asset sweating’ approach to shareholder value. The evidence of the last two decades is that quite apart from its inhuman impacts, quarterly capitalism has actually served investors badly.
Is company action today commensurate with the massive economic, social and environmental challenges we face?
The best examples of company action are those where companies have collaborated and worked with civil society organisations and governments to tackle problems together. Marine Stewardship Council, EITI, action on Palm Oil. Or in a different way the Carbon Disclosure Project.
And the best businesses do have extraordinary capacity to innovate – look at something like M- Pesa in Africa.
But these admirable innovations are dwarfed by the scale of challenge we face within what we call the triple context of environmental, socio-political and economic systems.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Tomorrow’s Company?
Visit our website www.tomorrowscompany.com or follow us or me on Twitter.
How international is your influence?
I am finding that these ideas have spread strongly round the world. In particular We have strong relationships with a number of companies in India, and a strong partnership with Stewardship Asia, based in Singapore. In 2007 we published Tomorrow’s Global Company – challenges and choices. That’s a vision of the role of the global company in a changing world. It preceded michael porter’s work on Shared Value and actually offers a much deeper and more business-led analysis of the opportunities and threats faced by global companies.
A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon
Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.
There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.
1. The Rise Of Smart Windows
When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.
If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.
2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs
If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.
Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.
3. Low-E Windows Taking Over
It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.
They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.
4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges
Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.
The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.
5. Improving Our Current LEDs
Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.
That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.
Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too
Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.
ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244
IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”
IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.
Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.
Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.
Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:
“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.
We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.
There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.
We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”
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