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Investment Strategies
#971

To Optimize Global Culture

video

In our last couple +1s, we opened up The Economist and chatted about the rise of purpose-driven businesses in general and Public Benefit Corporations in particular.

We’re going to continue our high-level chat on business for a moment longer.

Why?

Well… It’s important. (Hah!)

Side note: In addition to writing Flow and Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book called Good Business. I HIGHLY recommend it.

It’s basically all about creating organizations that help individuals flourish.

One of the Big Ideas that jumped out and tattooed itself on my brain when I read that book 15 (!) years ago is the fact that you can look at who is most powerfully influencing a culture at any given time in history by looking at who had the highest buildings in town.

Roughly speaking, WAY back in the day, you had religious institutions running the show. Look around town and what did you see towering over everything (and everyone) else? Churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, etc.

Fast-forward a bit and what do you get? Castles. State capitals. Political institutions.

Hold the historical fast-forward button down to Today and what buildings tower over those religious and political institutions? Skyscrapers filled with corporate headquarters.

What’s that mean? It points to the fact that BUSINESSES are driving our cultures at an unprecedented rate.

Which makes “Good Business” that much more important.

So…

As I straighten the tie I’m not wearing, let’s get back to the discussion about Public Benefit Corporations and businesses committed to doing the right thing.

The skeptical among us may think that all this talk about serving multiple stakeholders is just warm and fuzzy nonsense that erodes shareholder value.

And, well…

You’d be wrong.

John Mackey arm wrestled Milton Friedman on the subject 15 years ago and the data is becoming more and more clear and compelling: Purpose-driven businesses committed to serving multiple stakeholders via conscious leadership consistently outperform less purpose-driven/consciously-led businesses.

Which is one of the reasons why The Economist points out the fact that investments made along “Environmental, social and governance” (or what’s known as “ESG”) criteria have SKYROCKETED over the last two years.

I’ll let them make the point (full article here): “Environmental, social and governance (esg) criteria have come to play a role in more and more decisions about how to allocate financial investment. The assets managed under such criteria in Europe, America, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand rose from $22.9trn in 2016 to $30.7trn at the start of 2018, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. According to Colin Mayer at the University of Oxford, whose recent book “Prosperity” is an attack on the concept of shareholder primacy, esg has shot yet further up investors’ agendas since. Some of the world’s biggest asset managers, such as BlackRock, an indexation giant, are strongly in favour of this turn in events. The firm’s boss, Larry Fink, has repeatedly backed the notion that corporations should pursue a purpose as well as, or beyond, simple profits.

Practically speaking, what’s that mean for us?

Well, one more time!!!

Let’s celebrate the fact that a lot of brilliant, purpose-driven, passionate humans are working hard to use business as a force for good.

And… Let’s join the party!!

Specifically, for Today’s purposes, you may want to consider checking out mutual funds committed to investing in companies whose values are aligned with ours.

Obviously, do your research and this isn’t investment advice, etc., etc., etc., but you may want to check out my friend Katherine Collins and her Putnam funds. (Learn more here.)

(NOTE: I’m VERY (!!!) (!!!) (!!!) biased as Katherine is a dear friend and cherished mentor and we’re blessed to have her as an investor in Optimize but… I challenge you to find another woman on the planet who runs mutual funds AND graduated from Harvard Divinity School. 🤓)

I repeat: Here’s to creating purpose-driven enterprises while voting with every dollar we spend (and invest!) as we go forward with hope, using business as a force for good.

P.S. I’m deeply honored that Katherine has this to say about Optimize:

There are a lot of ideas that have potential to improve the quality of our lives. There are a lot of ideas that have potential to be terrific businesses. There are a lot of ideas backed by visionary, capable leaders. But it is a rare and wonderful thing to find all three at once. Optimize is the trifecta!

Living up to those words deeply inspires me on my heroic quest as we strive to help people Optimize their lives so we can change the world. One person at a time. Together. Starting with you and me.