Back in the ’90s, during my eco-warrior phase, many of us were preoccupied with minimising our ecological footprint. The game was to leave as little impact on the earth as possible – reduce your consumption, waste and energy usage and try to leave the world as you found it.
These are still pressing and important goals, but, as I listened to the speakers at Meaning 2016, it became increasingly clear, in business terms at least, that we should all be aspiring to leave the biggest footprint possible. A whopping great size 12 tread mark of positivity that results in everything being just ever so slightly rosier now that you have left the room.
This is not easy. Although we could all probably make a good, long list of everything that is wrong with the world, doing something about it is a different thing. We live in a society that still bestows and recognises worth and achievement through financial markers and looking beyond these and the daily demands of feeding cash into the machine is a real challenge for any business.
The Meaning Conference is a place for people who are looking to push hard at the edges of accepted models and it is both exciting and reassuring to see so many businesses and business leaders taking time out to join a sell-out crowd in exploring what might just be possible.
However, the real privilege of attending yesterday’s conference was in being inspired by people who are already stamping around in their big positive shoes. People like Paul Green Jr, who described self-management principles at his tomato processing company, Morning Star. And Oliver Maxwell, who told us about the impact his urban honey company Bybi is having for refugee communities in Copenhagen.
So maybe now is the time to set some new goals. Whilst accepting that strong financial planning is at the core of any healthy business, we need to stop thinking just in terms of turnover and cash flow and find new ways to talk about what defines success.
Go to meaningconference.co.uk for more on all of the conference’s wonderful contributors and what they said.
By Tony Felstead