Frankfurt, Oxford, Cape Town and London! What do they have in common? It’s a great question and we welcome all answers! Honestly! However, for us at EG, they represented the locations of our second multi-location event, bringing together groups of entrepreneurs in conversation with Professor Colin Mayer; sharing a passion for putting purpose at the heart of their endeavours! These locations also shared something else in common… Zoom; so that everyone could see each other and indeed hear each other, whether that was the intention or not…and I fear the ‘or not’ added a certain frisson to the evening… well certainly for me! Why didn’t I remember to mute when I was supposed to?
Still tech glitches apart, it was an evening of immense energy and insight. We at eg are so passionate about social purpose going hand in hand with business believing that this must be the new way ahead. But in fact, we were a little put out to learn that on the contrary this is far from new, and, if anything, we are the ones being reactionary, almost stone age (ok perhaps late bronze age)! As Professor Mayer expounded, 2,000 years ago when businesses started, they were established to provide a public function and perform public services. Indeed, for most of the 2,000-year history of commercial enterprises, businesses have combined commercial objectives with public purpose. It’s only been in the last 60 years or so, that business has lost sight of this, believing that the purpose of business is just to make profits.
This has given us food for thought, and certainly helped spark an interesting debate as someone asked have we lost the community focus of business. As we talked about the past, we had a few young entrepreneurs in our midst, reminding us about the focus on the future. For, if during the last 60 years business has been modelled on the Milton Friedman doctrine that business is just about increasing profits, here in the room was cause for optimism, as these young entrepreneurs all saw business as having social purpose at its core; it’s very DNA.
So, a big thank you to everyone who participated in our event in Frankfurt, Oxford, Cape Town and London and a bigger thank you to Professor Colin Mayer, who succinctly summed it up by saying ‘business is about producing profitable solutions for the problems of people and our planet’.