4 tips to become a net positive business from ex-Unilever CEO Paul Polman

Is this world better off because your business is in it? 🌱

This is the key question posed in “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take,” a new book written by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and sustainable business expert Andrew Winston. If it were up to us, this book would be a must-read for all (sustainability) leaders!

Do you have limited time, but are very interested? No worries, we have read the book for you and we’re thrilled to share our insights with you:

What is a net positive business?

With just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, businesses have a critical role to play in mitigating climate change. In a global survey by Edelman, 76% of respondents agreed that CEOs should take the lead on social change, rather than waiting for governments to impose it. A similar percentage said they expect their CEO to speak out on issues like climate change and inequality.

At Limelights, we believe that building a net positive business is the solution. So, what does it mean to be net positive?

A net positive business “improves well-being for everyone it impacts and at all scales – every product, every operation, every country, and for every stakeholder including employees, suppliers, communities, customers, and even future generations and the planet itself.”

👉 In short, a net positive business profits and thrives by solving the world’s problems, not creating them.

Achieving a net positive business: 5 core principles

According to Polman and Winston, in order for businesses to achieve net positivity, they must operate under five core principles. Net positive businesses:

  Take ownership of all impacts and consequences, intended or not.
Operate for the long-term benefit.
3️⃣  Create positive returns for all stakeholders.
4️⃣  Drive shareholder value as a result, not a goal.
5️⃣  Partner with competitors, civil society, and governments to drive transformative, systemic change.

Building a net positive business: Tips on getting started

Here are a few things your company can do to start making the move towards net positivity:

☄️ Help employees find their purpose and connect it to the organization’s mission.
Organizations with a clearly defined purpose and mission are well-equipped to navigate change and disruption. Working with your employees to find their purpose can help to create a greater sense of fulfillment and inspire them to contribute to positive change (and be more productive at the same time). 

📉 Commit to science-based targets.
Targets are considered “science-based” if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. As Polman and Winston explain, science-based targets are “commitments to move at the pace facts and science demand – as a critical bare minimum.”

❄️ Build trust and transparency.
Trust and transparency help to establish credibility – and accountability – in your organization’s change-making efforts. Put more bluntly, being transparent in reporting your goals and progress helps to ensure that net positivity is not just a publicity stunt for your business.

🔆 Nurture a net positive culture.
You can’t build a net positive business without a net positive culture. Polman and Wilson put it best: “A strong net positive culture comes through diversity and inclusion, changing reward systems, bringing new entrepreneurial business and leaders into the company, and challenging cultural norms of intolerance.”

Ready for the challenge?

Achieving net positivity is no easy task. It’s perhaps the greatest challenge of our time! But the cost of inaction is higher than action. 

👉 The good news? Limelights is here to help! Get in touch with us today to start your journey of building a net positive business by helping your colleagues find their purpose. Interested? Don’t hesitate to email Joost for a 30-minute inspiration session.

One solution to all your sustainability challenges.

We believe companies, especially the people within them, are the ones who have the opportunity to draw a positive path forward. Let us show you how.
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