News | 23rd November 2020

Building a movement: why WHEB Asset Management is becoming a Future-Fit Pioneer

By Seb Beloe

For anyone who has yet to watch Derek Sivers’ TED talk on ‘how to start a movement’, I highly recommend it. A lone dancer at a music festival dances on a hill, seemingly oblivious to the sardonic glances of fellow festival goers. Before long though, the lone dancer has become a leader at the heart of a whirling mass of ecstatic dancers. As Mr. Sivers points out in his presentation, ‘a leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.’

I don’t know whether the Future-Fit Foundation or the Future-Fit Pioneers network will be ridiculed. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were. The network is highly ambitious, seeking nothing less than the complete transformation of the way businesses operate. So yes, the ambition behind the Future-Fit Pioneers group is absurdly grand.

But it is also apparent that there is little alternative. The accelerating destruction of the biosphere on which we all depend, and an increasingly fractious and divided polity clearly point to business as usual being fundamentally broken. We need to ‘reset capitalism’ as the Financial Times has put it. If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has served to underline the importance of this ‘reset’.

At the core of the Future-Fit philosophy is the recognition that sustainability is fundamentally the property of a system and not of an individual business. The destination of ‘sustainable development’ requires the whole global economy to change, not just individual businesses. Future-Fit Pioneers are committed to becoming businesses that deliver their core purpose in a way that does not cause any harm to the planet or society. We will also assist other businesses on their own journey, ‘acting as a guide and rallying call for all businesses to join this movement’.

This commitment stretches way beyond incremental improvements in our environmental and social performance. As Pioneers, we will be using the Future-Fit Business Benchmark to guide our business decision-making. Along with other like-minded businesses and investors, we hope to demonstrate how business can be a force for good in transforming our entire economic system. As part of this commitment, we will also be using the Benchmark to assess our performance and report annually on our progress.

At our launch on the 17th November 2020, the Pioneer network members included just 21 companies across 14 sectors. We are confident though that this number will grow. Over the next few years, we aim to become a real movement for change. We are convinced that, in time, those companies that have not committed to being part of a sustainable future will be the ones that will be derided.

This article was originally published on the WHEB website:

Seb Beloe Partner and Head of Research at WHEB Asset Management

Seb has twenty-five years of working at the nexus of business, investment and sustainability.