Brand New View – John Davis

Why You Should Become a Force-For-Good

force for good john davis

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John Davis

John Davis

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My work globally has been with leaders and their organizations, helping them identify how to create and sustain value. Part of this work included ongoing research about 5 key behaviors top performing leaders exhibit, which I call the Five Ambassadors. Based on this I have defined a top performing leader as “A person who consistently exceeds expectations, leads by example, and whose behaviors are admirable and worthy of emulation, thereby representing the very best of society.” In parallel with my work on top performing leaders I’ve also written a lot about why it is critical that businesses worldwide become a force-for-good (FFG). By this I mean a force for both economic and social good. Leveraging my top performing leader definition, I describe FFG businesses as organizations that consistently demonstrate genuine care for and involvement in solving society’s biggest problems and whose actions serve as an aspirational model for other organizations. The list of examples is long and growing, and I’ll feature them in future blog posts. A few examples…

  • Patagonia is among the most recognized companies demonstrating the FFG ideal. From their sustainable sourcing to encouraging customers to wear-it-longer rather than buying new to actively repurposing their second-hand apparel, the company has lived the force-for-good ethos.[i]
  • Norrsken, a Swedish organization founded in 2016, has already funded 28 start-ups that focus on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their want to encourage impact unicorns, which are companies that seek to positively impact a billion lives.[ii]
  • Echoing Green supports social entrepreneurs by providing a diverse, global community of businesses, social innovators and investors who can help courageous people fulfil their social entrepreneurial aspirations.[iii] Goldman Sachs announced it is partnering with Echoing Green to focus on “increasing access to capital for early-stage Black women social entrepreneurs…”[iv]
  • Ethic, a social investing firm founded in 2015, aims for making all investing sustainable investing, bridging the gap between sustainability and quantitative finance. They recently announced that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are joining Ethic as impact partners. Since its inception, Ethic has helped organizations transition more than $1 billion in more sustainable investing.[v]

What is exciting about these organizations is their devotion to cause. Profit is not the driver. That does not mean making money isn’t important, as it is. But it is how they make and reinvest their money that separates these organizations from those driven solely by bottom line profitability. ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) is a well-known category of standards that helps investors identify and measure an organization’s social and environmental impact. Valued at more than US$35 trillion,[vi] global ESG investments are growing rapidly, increasing 34% since 2016.[vii] Patagonia, Norrsken, Echoing Green and Ethic exemplify the FFG philosophy of doing well by doing good.

My own interest in FFG is the by-product of 30+ years of work, although I did not start my career with FFG in mind. The FFG dots started connecting from day 1, but I just didn’t know it. My work has always focused on value creation in marketing and sales. In retrospect, that sounds rather desultory. But I loved helping the companies I worked for build their reputations and grow. Over time, my focus sharpened around driving value creation, a more expansive career purpose (as far as I was concerned). I was conscious that the products and services companies made had to have more meaning than just accumulating customers and driving revenues. When I moved into academia as a practitioner faculty (a ‘pracademic’…), I found myself teaching MBAs and company leaders in executive education programs. Perhaps more accurately, they were teaching me. And one of the lessons they helped me learn was that their own aspirations were more than just to make money. They want to make an impact or, as Steve Jobs called it, making a “dent in the universe.”[viii] When I moved to Singapore to join the faculty at Singapore Management University, and my work in the two decades since, I found that company leaders worldwide are eager to have their work and their legacies stand for more than just increasing the share price. Sure, there were and are those who measure their success purely in fiduciary terms, but many more assess how successful they are at positively impacting employees, the reputation their firm has with stakeholders and in the marketplace, and their corresponding concern for genuinely contributing to the communities they serve. Many of them wrestle with how to get employees to live their company values and behave in a way that exemplifies the top performing qualities I mention at the start of this blog, partly because business practice for more than a century has been driven by the profit motive, an outdated model which can hinder the leader’s ESG-focused aspirations. That tension between their ESG aspirations and the pressures of delivering profits based on a century-old business model is what energizes my FFG work today, and it is the subject of my next book, tentatively titled ‘Radical Business’, coming out in 2022.

We are all working in a new world, with the ongoing pandemic, social injustice, economic inequality, and the climate crisis. Not all of us experience or feel these problems the same way, and some of you may even see these as peripheral to your typical day-to-day work. But whether or not you feel the impact of these different crises, the fact remains that they are affecting and will continue to affect your work and the success of your organizations. To protect your own career and future, understanding how you can become an individual FFG is vital if you don’t want to wake up one day wondering why your company went under or why your job was eliminated because you didn’t make the effort to adapt to the needs of today’s world. What’s the downside to you becoming a FFG? Very little, other than the ‘inconvenience’ of taking the time to invest in yourself to improve your understanding of these issues and making the behavior changes needed to live as a FFG contributor. The upside of becoming a FFG is that you will be part of a global movement of people and organizations that are dedicated to making our lives better and the planet more livable, it will enhance your reputation in a world seeking people who positively impact others meaningfully, and you’ll gain an energizing uplift that will spur your own personal happiness.[ix]


[i] Stanley, Vincent. (2021). How Patagonia Learned to Act on Its Values. Yale Insights. Retrieved from https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/how-patagonia-learned-to-act-on-its-values.

[ii] Norrsken. (2021). Norrsken Our Mission. Retrieved from https://www.norrsken.org/ourmission.

[iii] Echoing Green. (2021). Echoing Green Mission. Retrieved from https://echoinggreen.org/mission/.

[iv] Valdosta Daily Times. (2021). Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women Announces Partnership With Echoing Green to Invest in Black Women Social Entrepreneurs and Accelerate Change. Retrieved from https://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/business/goldman-sachs-one-million-black-women-announces-partnership-with-echoing-green-to-invest-in-black/article_efb8db01-fae9-5b05-8817-89e6e50edc45.html.

[v] Ethic. (2021). Why | What | How | Who. Retrieved from https://www.ethic.com/about-us

[vi] Bradford, Hazel. (2021). Sustainable investment assets hit $35 trillion, 36% of all managed assets. Retrieved from https://www.pionline.com/esg/sustainable-investment-assets-hit-35-trillion-36-all-managed-assets.

[vii] Holder, Michael. (2019). Global sustainable investing assets surged to $30 trillion in 2018. Greenbiz. Retrieved from https://www.greenbiz.com/article/global-sustainable-investing-assets-surged-30-trillion-2018.

[viii] Snell, Jason. (2011). Steve Jobs: Making a dent in the universe. Macworld. Retrieved from https://www.macworld.com/article/214642/steve-jobs-making-a-dent-in-the-universe.html.

[ix] Parker-Pope, Tara. (2020). The Science of Helping Out-During a crisis, the people who cope best are those who help others. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/well/mind/coronavirus-resilience-psychology-anxiety-stress-volunteering.html.

[v] Ethic. (2021). Why | What | How | Who. Retrieved from https://www.ethic.com/about-us

[vi] Bradford, Hazel. (2021). Sustainable investment assets hit $35 trillion, 36% of all managed assets. Retrieved from https://www.pionline.com/esg/sustainable-investment-assets-hit-35-trillion-36-all-managed-assets.

[vii] Holder, Michael. (2019). Global sustainable investing assets surged to $30 trillion in 2018. Greenbiz. Retrieved from https://www.greenbiz.com/article/global-sustainable-investing-assets-surged-30-trillion-2018.

[viii] Snell, Jason. (2011). Steve Jobs: Making a dent in the universe. Macworld. Retrieved from https://www.macworld.com/article/214642/steve-jobs-making-a-dent-in-the-universe.html.

[ix] Parker-Pope, Tara. (2020). The Science of Helping Out-During a crisis, the people who cope best are those who help others. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/well/mind/coronavirus-resilience-psychology-anxiety-stress-volunteering.html.