Launching the B Team: How can we catalyse a new way of doing business?

Members of Business Fights Poverty are invited to an online event to celebrate the launch of the B Team - a collective of some of the world’s leading figures in business, including Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz.

The B Team believes that global business is at a crossroads. Leaders around the world need to come together to act. The conventional wisdom of only competing and consuming to maximise financial profit and shareholder value is no longer an option. The time has come to catalyse a new way of doing business; motivated by people, planet and profit, vs. profit alone.

Watch the recording of the Team B Launch Event and share your comments below.

We look forward to hearing your ideas, including how to advance the Challenges the B Team will be announcing. We also look forward to receiving your suggestions for how The B Team can amplify the work you are already doing and engage with you in the future. Please post your comments in the discussion below. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter via the #planb.

The discussion should include how the 50% world population(women) that has been neglected will be included in social, economic and political leadership. This will create equality which will reduce poverty, improve security and produce peaceful environment .

is there a list of links indexing local chapters or practice networks that can be joined up with as bteam develops-it sounded exciting in branson's book of 15 months ago; i understand south africa is one hot space to interact with branson and open education with his school of entrepreneurship being founded there; are there plans of a MOOC of bteam to share actions with millions of youth simultaneously

;iif one lives in washington dc how can one do something - for example branson climate war-room is dc-based - does it have a bteam collaboration stream?

In redefining the purpose of business, a new 'Charter' might include this statement:

"Business produces goods and services that 'do no harm' to humans or the planet."

If this seems simple and unrealistic, remember that developed countries today are spending unsustainable sums on healthcare and on regulation of polluting or potentially harmful business practices. But as we learn more about the connections between chronic disease and what we do in daily life, patient-consumers will become the marketplace force that requires business to 'do no harm'.

Said another way: when we humans learn to place health at the center of our activities, the marketplace becomes significantly more self-regulating and business can indeed redefine its purpose as serving people and the planet while also making profit.

Welcome to this online event to mark the launch of Richard Branson's B Team.

Members of the Business Fights Poverty have been at the frontier of harnessing business for social impact. Check out these numerous examples in our new Knowledge Zones and Regional Hubs.

Please share your stories, comments and thoughts in this forum.

It's good to see this launch. It should create expectations and agenda which enable inclusive business and sustainable business to flourish.

My question is how the team can balance the right level of ambition with realism? The plan needs to be truly ambitious to be inspirational and catalyse a step-change. Otherwise it's just another plan. But when we over hype what business can do, and suggest it is a solution to all the problems, then it simply leaves the plan open to criticism - not only from entrenched cynics but from legitimate critics who will check whether stated aims are achievable and achieved.

I have found recently in inclusive business (business that engages the base of the pyramid) that we have moved to a new stage. Hype is over. Results are watched and awaited. Critics are finding their angles to question and challenge. All very normal. But some of the early critics are pointing out that inclusive business has limitations - it cannot reach the poorest, it cannot solve poverty, it does not stop bad business. Well of course it can't. If we were more realistic about its limitations as well as its potential, we would build more consensus. But dwelling on limitations is not very inspirational and motivational is it?

Very good points Caroline! For those of us who have been working on inclusive business for some years, I'd like to think that we left the high-level slogans (both pro- and anti-business) far behind - in favour of a focus on more practical, "how-to" challenges.

The B Team presents a hugely important opportunity to energise and inspire this whole space, with high-profile leaders reinforcing and celebrating the growing army of pioneers out there harnessing business for social impact, notably the members of Business Fights Poverty and the Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business.

One risk I see is that in suggesting a whole new approach to business is needed, we ignore the important role that business plays simply by doing business (creating jobs, innovating around products and services and contributing tax revenues), as well as the extensive shift that many businesses have made in the last 5 to 10 years in understanding and enhancing their social, economic and environmental impact (a shift that has also in very large part been driven by the same army of pioneers I mention above).

As usual I would like to see attention paid to women owned business - how do they fit into the global supplies chains for instance. How can women access cheap financing to scale their business? How can women woners of small enterprises be part of the this type of conversation

I couldn't agree more! This plan should have an "ecosystem" approach and look at the competitive advantages that business may bring but also to the other actors (governments, NGOs, etc.) that will need to support this process in order to promote real inclusion and help uplift those who don't have natural access to formal markets and businesses...

I agree with you Zahid and everyone that this is a very timely intervention. The message and the intentions are absolutely spot on.

Two immediate thoughts – which build on Caroline’s very insightful point around realism. And the need for step-change. Not everything can or will happen in one or two – or even three - business planning cycles – so the reality is to work with business to see what practical year-on-year solutions can be found to all the challenges raised by the B Team.

My first thought is around how to use the few to move the many to deliver change. The Plan B Team members are fantastic role models. They appear the most often on forums and in different guises. They are the most vocal. Not surprisingly they get the most air time. They are, however, the Few. We could argue that on a bell curve of business leaders, they are at one extreme – the positive end. They are the ‘early adopters’. The challenge is reaching the main part of the leadership bell curve and the ‘early’ and ‘late majority’.

My second thought is about the risk of generalities – in particular around the terms “business” and “business leaders”. It implies all leaders are one genotype and all business sectors one big homogeneous species sharing the same attributes and features and capable of evolving at the same time and same pace. That is not the reality.

‘Business’ is a very heterogeneous species – differentiated by sectors, markets, cultures, life cycles, heritages and its stakeholders. Each sector and company is very different. We have companies that have been around for over hundred years, others who are few years old. There are some very long established sectors, others relatively new. We have very different types of organizational cultures and leadership styles. We have different sizes and models of companies. Some companies operate in very liberal regulatory and political environments; others do not. And so on.

Whilst it is important to debate upstream about the overall role of business in society and about the paramountcy of responsible behavior, it is equally important to acknowledge the variety we see downstream in different sectors, companies and in business leaders in the way they individually and collectively respond to change. It is a fact that evolution is happening at a different pace and even in different directions. A realistic approach to change has to recognize this. Any new Charter will have to respect and recognise the diversity that exists in business and avoid the pitfalls that come with one-size-fits-all thinking.

So my questions are around the ‘how’:

How will the Few (Plan B team) work with the Many to deliver the new business paradigms? .

Is there any research done which shows how business leaders influence each other – which could be used here? If you like, what kinds of ‘transmission’ (viral) mechanisms can be put in place to reach the majority?

What kinds of peer-to-peer and sector -to-sector connections need to be put into place to leverage the diversity that exists in the business world? Is there any merit in taking a differentiated approach – akin to market or customer segmentation - to help business manage change realistically?

Great insights, Surinder! Makes me think that we need to build an ecosystem around these leaders - both global networks of professionals, like Business Fights Poverty, and expert organisations, like yours, that can guide and support specific action.