In this episode we share the microphone, discussing the trends we’re seeing in the world of impact investing and for-purpose entrepreneurship.
You’ll hear a lot more of my voice in this episode than usual, but hopefully you’ll enjoy hearing a different perspective on my work, my ideas, and how the Good Future podcast has evolved.
I did try to turn the questions back to Cory, to dig into the social enterprise sector in the US and understand the opportunities and challenges he’s seeing to drive positive change, through business and innovation.
Cory has also built the Grow Ensemble website, which is a hub for purpose-led businesses, and a valuable resource for consumers wanting to find companies that balance people, planet and profit.
Listen on Soundcloud
On this episode…
We discussed our experiences as solo-entrepreneurs amid the covid pandemic, and how our businesses have grown.
Cory explained his theory around the growth of for-purpose businesses in the US, and I explained my definition of ESG and how it reflects the growing urge for transparency from companies.
My key takeaway this week…
“In terms of the triple bottom line, people planet and profit. I feel that it needs to shift to where people and planet are actually prioritised, and put in front of profit.”
Good Future’s Good Books
By Derek Rielly
The book on my bedside table is a book about Bob Hawke, it’s called Wednesdays with Bob, he a well known ex Prime Minister of Australia through the 80s. And in massively stark contrast to the painful polarisation of politics at the moment. He was in power for, I think, two, maybe three terms. He was so popular. And it was because of personality in a really positive way. He was he sort of embodied a sort of traditional Aussie values of mate ship. He wasn’t polished, he really understood the working class. He was a union guy from the start.
This book was really powerful. He was probably Australia’s most popular politician, and he looked he led, I think that the policy changes that he drove are still what is making Australia successful and vibrant, to even today in terms of opening up to Asian markets to a lot of deregulation. And yeah, I think a lot of it more on that social democracy side more left leaning, but at the same time, very pragmatic about the importance of trade and opening up and modernising the economy.
I won’t go on but US audience probably won’t be as interested as past Australian Prime Minister. But certainly if there is interest, look at Bob Hawke, because yeah, he was just such a character.
Please note, all book recommendations are directed to Booktopia, a local, Australian online bookseller, and if you choose to buy through that link you also support the podcast as we may receive an affiliate reward. Thanks in advance!
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It’s been a really great journey with the podcast at the centre. And I’ve still got that energy early on. It seems ridiculous now, but I felt like I have I run out of people to speak to and you know, the impact investment sector. And you sort of started for a moment, but then that’s just wearing your own blinkers. And as soon as you stretch it, and you become more ingrained in the industry, you realise how broad it is, and the many different voices, people like yourself who I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, having these great, broader, more philosophical discussions about this field. You know, what a great opportunity.
John, thank you so much for coming back here to the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, our second time chatting here. And I think now first time on your podcast, which I’ll let you introduce here in a second. I’m curious to start, if you wouldn’t mind since the last time we spoke was was early COVID-19. pandemic, I think we spoke in spring of 2020. So so as just about as early as it could be. We’re not in endemic right now. But hopefully, hopefully, late stage pandemic. How’s post COVID? John shaping up right now?
Post COVID. It’s a funny one, isn’t it? Here in Australia, and while we have relaxed, a lot of the restrictions, there’s probably more COVID around than ever. I’ve had it myself recently. And it knocked me round pretty seriously. But yeah, I think as in many places in the world, obviously not in China. There is this view of okay, we’ve got vaccination rates up to a certain level. So we’re going to relax the most stringent restrictions and people are essentially learning to live with it doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We spoke at the beginning of 2020. And and we just didn’t know what to expect you look at the way the stock market reacted, and it was all hell and brimstone. And fortunately, it didn’t turn out to be quite as dire. Thevaccine was pretty miraculous in terms of its production. And we all sort of landed on our feet. Bringing that down to a personal level, like yourself, I work for myself as an independent consultant. And so yeah, there was a lot of uncertainty. In those early days, I lost a couple of clients. So that was pretty tough. But in this world that I work in, which is the world of sustainable investing, and working with investors that are leading in that space, the years prior had been a really positive time of growth of ESG and impact. But there were the doubters that said, it wouldn’t weather a downturn. That it was a fair-weather trend.
But that was all proved wrong. Because essentially this world of ESG and impact is all about understanding the investment risk factors beyond just the traditional financial factors. That’s what a pandemic is all about. That is the outlier, that is the social impacts and the worker impacts health impacts. And so yeah, the field, the sector, it grew if anything, and financial returns were really strong.
Now, that’s clearly partly due to the general market sentiment that hit a low but then rapidly swerved back up. Obviously, technology companies, which are naturally low carbon did well, that tends to have a weighting in ESG and impact funds. We don’t need to get into that. But yeah, so look, an interesting rollercoaster ride, might business like any other was up and down, but we’re in halfway through 2022. And everything’s looking really good. The awareness of terms like ESG, and impact is stronger than they’ve ever been. And there is now a sort of a push back. And I see that as a natural part of the hype cycle. And in some ways, it shows that we’re making traction, and that those that don’t want change, the incumbents are pushing back stronger than ever. So yeah, I think the fundamentals haven’t changed, and also can good.
How about yourself, the world of social enterprises intrinsically linked? Has much changed for you.
Yeah, I mean, much of the same, and certainly some different components as well. I mean, it seems like the last two plus years have been like a condensed 10 years of history in some sort of way. I don’t know if it’s like some sort of, hyper attentive focus on media and news and happenings around the world, because we’re all at home for that period of time.
But it feels like a whole bunch of things happene, but at the same time, really nothing at all happened in such a short condensed amount of time. So I feel like from the aspect of social enterprise and just broadly sustainable business, I do feel like there’s a lot more hands involved. Just anecdotally speaking for one, there’s companies who weren’t speaking with such messages and communications before the pandemic, who now are, making climate pledges or as well, you can look to the social justice movements in the US.
A lot of companies taking some sort of activist stance during that time, and moving forward to where I feel like the social and environmental consciousness of companies, I don’t know if that’s exactly the right word, awareness, perhaps just that, that these are things that are quite concerning to people is much higher than it was before.
But if we’re speaking to social enterprise social enterprise versus just the broad spectrum, of all business, you know, be it from the Amazons to the small businesses that perhaps are started for a different purpose, I’m noticing that the spectrum of those businesses that are interested in social and environmental impact or consciousness is varying widely from the multinationals to startups and much smaller groups. So, more people are involved. And of course, it’s an exciting thing. You know, as you’re mentioning, similar in the world of finance, with your own man as well, there’s some things that you need to be sceptical about in some of the mainstream messaging and communications.
So the interest is there, surely, and I think likewise, just from folks, younger people who are interested in getting into work that has purpose has meaning, there’s a much greater it seems commitment, or, you know, obligation that it feels younger people have entering and transitioning the workforce, we have this great resignation, there seems to be a much greater pulse of people who want to have work that has purpose, and they’re looking for companies that align with those values.
And I think likewise, that was a trend that was happening, but I do think that COVID kind of put fuel on the fire, some more interests, you know, and likewise, there’s, there’s things to look out for, and things to be wary of. But personally, you know, myself, I feel like it was maybe two of the hardest years I think I’ve ever had in working for myself, I think the level of focus and discipline, you needed to have to continue to kind of like make progress and build this thing, you conceive of your business and was very challenging in a space where you’re, you’re in a kind of Groundhog Day, routine.
I benefit a lot from novelty, as I know, other people do just from, you know, seeing different places and different people and sometimes it felt like, you know, my brain was just kind of complete mush and numb to where it was is very hard to have the feel the inspiration the next day to kind of do what felt like the same thing I did yesterday, the day before and weeks before that.
I think about work a little bit differently. No, I don’t know if you do as is that changed at all for you?
I know working independently, you know, there’s a lot of flexibility that is inherent and implicit in it. But perhaps emerging from COVID in some way do you think about how you approach work and the balance between that with life at all differently or nothing noticeable?
Yeah, I think that certainly be an issue. shift that I made three or four years before the pandemic, when I shifted to working as an independent consultant. I feel like us consultants who who’ve worked for ourselves, pre COVID, we were there already, when everybody was working at home and everyone was talking about, oh, isn’t that difficult to work at a home office, you sleep in the same place that you’re working?
And we’re like, yeah, yeah, we’ve been there. Like, we’ve worked through all of these challenges. And so in some ways, we were the old hands. And I mean, what’s interesting is people say, Oh, you’d be used to working at home. But I always found it really difficult. For those reasons, I’d always try and work in a co-working space, I still really enjoyed having people around me and I needed it for focus, it’s too easy to go and make a cup of tea and do the washing, all those sorts of things. everybody’s aware of that. Now, that’s always been a challenge for me.
In terms of the shift. Yeah, I think that it’s just a continuation of that constant, I guess, personal debate about how to manage work life balance, what does lifestyle mean? What does work mean? What’s my purpose?
And I think that’s only gotten stronger. And I think I have to keep remembering when I have the hard times whether, or not that’s when I have not enough work, or the very real problem of having too much work, which happens, it’s always at one end of the extreme one end of the spectrum, that I have to sort of take a moment, take a breath and be like, wow, I work for myself, I make my own hours, I’m working in a field that I’m passionate about that I spent years researching, you know, with no pay, I just because I really enjoy it and wanted to know all about it, I get to ask some of the smartest people in the world questions about the field in my own podcast. And, yeah, I’m sort of at the cutting edge of this new field. And day to day, there are challenges, it can be difficult pros and cons. But when I zoom out, and I look at where I’ve got to, it’s really exciting to have that control. And yeah, I think I’m naturally a generalist, and I now embrace that, as not being a problem, I was always like, I need a specialisation.
But now I’ve embraced, being a generalist is a bit of a superpower in terms of being able to look at so many different areas of the world, take the macro view, and the micro view and be able to process all of that and return. And I think that’s a value to my clients rather than being a sort of a drawback, big organisations investment firms, because I’ve got lots of specialists, right, and they’re all in their section, they’ve got their desk, they’ve got their role when they do it. But the external consultant comes in. And their role is to have a perception of the world and understand the market, but then also to ask lots of smart questions and get a feel for the organisation and give them a perspective on themselves that you can’t do. You can’t read the label when you’re in the jar.
So yeah, embracing all of those elements that are unique to me and channeling them to bring value. So has it changed? I think, yeah, I just think that reflection is all there. And look, I think what’s so interesting beginning of 2020, we were talking about this new world, people were saying, well, we no longer ever shake hands. And I will always like I think you guys are overselling it, you’re shaking hands is so intrinsic to humanity. Of course, we’re going to hug each other.
The basics of human connection, are not going to be blown up with an infection or virus. So yeah, and here we are lives pretty much back to normal. People wearing masks people shaking hands, I think it’s great that we’re more aware of hygiene people aren’t going to work when they’re sick. I think that’s a really great outcome, that if you’ve got a cold, you stay home or you wear a mask, and people are really aware of that. So that’s great washing hands. Yeah, it’s an interesting place.
Well, and so when we first spoke, John, your podcasts the good future podcast, I think you’re in maybe the teens or the 20s, in your episodes, and I just caught you’re up in the 80s. You might be nearing episode 100 sometime soon. And so I’m interested to know, has the purpose of the Good Future podcast changed for you with time? Have you noticed it and in some way? Or is your approach to it different than maybe it was a couple years ago?
I’m always interested to is more people have flooded into the podcast base. They’re certainly not many people stick around for years and years and years. So I’m really I’m really curious, do you as to how have you felt about sustaining, has your energy level with it varied? Where are you at with a good future podcast and how has that changed?
Yeah, that’s another great topic to reflect on. And I’ve got more energy than ever. I fell into the podcast world with very little expectations. I knew that the topics I wanted to talk about weren’t being talked about there was a gap there and I felt that I could ask questions, but I didn’t really know what I would get out of it or where it would lead.
But I think The key benefit that I’ve taken personally, is a really valuable personal development in terms of active listening and being able to ask questions. And for a consultant that’s so valuable. That’s all you do. You have meetings and your job, essentially, is to ask questions, and to tease out what are the problems in these organisations, and you’ve got to deep below the answers that are verbalised and really understand and have questions that dig deeper. That’s the same with a podcast.
And so I’ve really embraced that. I think I’m scared to listen to some of those early episodes, because I’m sure I’ll cringe at how bad the audio is, and my own stumbling on questions and all those sorts of bits and pieces. But the paradox is that when you start early on, you don’t want a big audience, because you’re probably terrible. So it all works well, that when you start out, you don’t have a big audience. Everybody learns together and you grow.
I’m approaching number 100. I’ve got a, you know, a big and growing, committed audience now, that’s growing every week, more and more people reaching out from, you know, sort of concentric circles stretching around the world. And that’s really exciting. And I think my podcast and my own understanding of the field of sustainable investing, has grown together. I think my timing was excellent. In some ways, I was very lucky to both in terms of the themes and the field, as much as you say about the world of podcasting, which exploded in 2020, when everybody was at home and wanted to share their opinions and their gripes with the world.
So yeah, it’s been a really powerful personal development piece. And it’s interesting how I started because I discovered this world of impact investing and brought together my interests from development, economics, international development. And when I was working in finance, impact investing was a real lightbulb moment. It was like, oh wow, I can bring together these two parts of my world. And I thought that’s a perfect thematic for a podcast.
At that stage, I was the one asking questions, because I felt that I was naive, maybe not naive, but curious, had lots of questions. And I think that came through. And now two, three years later, I’m being asked those questions by younger people and being invited to speak at conferences and those sorts of things. So it’s been a really great journey with the podcast at the centre. And I’ve still got that energy early on.
It seems ridiculous now. But I felt like I have I run out of people to speak to in, you know, the investment sector. And you sort of started for a moment, but then that’s just wearing your own blinkers. And as soon as you stretch it, and you become more ingrained in the industry, you realise how broad it is, and the many different voices, people like yourself who I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, having these great, broader, more philosophical discussions about this field, you know, what a great opportunity. So yeah, onward.
I think you have a higher output than me. You’ve got great systems to get it done. But has it changed from the I guess, always inevitable, naivety at the start to having a great track record?
Yeah, share a similar sentiment. I mean, it started with an interest in a particular field and thought that podcasting would be a really good mechanism to gain some familiarity with it both with the people and the subject matter in and just start to understand what conversations are actually important, and worth having in the context of sustainable business and social enterprise. And so yeah, that was mainly the object from the very beginning, but it has shifted, I feel like multiple times now I think we’re publishing Episode 225, or something this week, at least it while we’re recording here.
You know, I’ve thought about where the podcast kind of fits in, like, I need to mentally place it somewhere, it feels like I have that kind of obsession of like, how does it fit in the concept of what, you know, my business is me as an entrepreneur, where’s the podcast fit for me.
And ultimately, where it’s the vault like I thought about it as to some business development engine or whatever, you know, especially in the context of consulting, and doing less consulting now than I was, and what what has kind of felt to make the most sense for me, ultimately, is that the podcast is really a research mechanism for everything else for me.
So I feel like the podcast the conversations that I have on it, the people I connect with, are now ultimately fueling the writing that I do on the backside of it, and what sort of fodder and things that I sit with for articles, ideas, and otherwise, and so it’s I’m writing right now, an update for our newsletter, a better world weekly newsletter in the shift in this kind of actually being something of an announcement, a new project, what we’re calling the Learn Ensemble project, but really this is to put together a resource library for the Who, What, Why, where and how of building a better world.
And so I see these different conversations with folks like yourself who have the variable expertise from the world of impact investing to conversations I had last week in regenerative agriculture. You know, I’m trying to get all these little subsets of questions answered now at this point, and kind of like start to piece those together. And what I imagine is some kind of conceptual library.
It’s shaped so much for me and the business that I have now. And as well, the community that I’ve developed, I think maybe the very first person that I interviewed, her name is Adrian Shandra Huff. She’s from Bodie, Surf Yoga, a surfing yoga resort, a certified B Corp in in Costa Rica. And her co-founders, too, they’ve been some of my best friends ever since that point.
She was generous enough to be the first guests that I interviewed who wasn’t a family member or friend. So you know, they made some really meaningful connections from it. And now I’m really interested in to, you know, like you, after gaining what I felt is maybe one some confidence in the fact that I had some subject matter expertise, you know, but likewise, the subject matter expertise, to really dive deep into the material and the substance of it, and hopefully start to develop or reflect some new and interesting, or original thoughts as it pertains to the world of social enterprise and sustainable business. And definitely some thoughts that that won’t be new and interesting, you know, I’m counting on that as well in that process. But, you know, that’s how it goes. There’s some wins, and there’s some losses, but I’ve really enjoyed how it shaped. Ebbs and flows and the energy levels, I think, that’s also been matched with the arrival of my wife and his first son, too.
So that had a big, you know, kind of hit my energy level. So it’s hard to tell if that was the podcast, or my baby boy, but you know, we’re gonna do,
John Treadgold 21:49
Congratulations. That’s great to hear. Mom and Bob are healthy, great to hear, but look so interesting, that idea of the coalescing of ideas. And people may, if someone came to this fresh, they may say, you talking about, you know, you’ve got a surf yoga entrepreneur, and this guy’s talking about sustainable finance, that these are so vastly different watch the linkage.
But to me, that linkage is so natural, those things that are clearly it’s that underlying philosophy of, I don’t want to say, I’ve pulled away from saying a lifestyle business, because he wants a career that doesn’t factor in their lifestyle. I think that that’s never really a positive option. But finding balance in life and in all things, and yoga, surfing and business, what a great way to combine combined things.
But then in impact investing is recognising that our ecosystems have a certain absorptive capacity, and we’re pushing beyond that. And then it simply can’t go on that we need to find balance, otherwise, we’re going to kill ourselves and destroy our world. And so that, to me, seems really natural. And that if you’re an impact investor, that you’re most often someone who’s worked in traditional finance, and you’ve got a seat it in financial services. And you probably see that things aren’t quite right, you’ve seen that things are going to change. And from my own processes that certainly, you know, the anecdotal evidence that I’ve got, because (23:16) So many of my guests have said, I was working away, I was, you know, making wealthy people richer, and didn’t feel that it was sustainable in terms of the business or in terms of that environmental sustainability concept. And that they had a lightbulb moment. And they felt that I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and ditch this business, I want to use the power of Finance to make positive change. And then you look at social enterprise. And I think people have had the same revelation, you look at the way, people who have no understanding of finances that are saying, Hang on, I’ve got a pension fund, Hang on, I’ve got a bank account. I want to direct that towards companies and businesses that share my values, and that aren’t exploiting the world.
So yeah, I see a real coalescing of these ideas coming together, everybody drawing towards a central idea, and we don’t have to call it sustainability or social impact or have sort of a central ideal, that maybe it’s balance in all things. You’ve got to try and find that that central source of truth, I think, to stay sane and to have a you know, stay on board with a mission. I work as much on the financial strategy as the communications and storytelling side of things for impact investors. And I think that having a mission, while it is marketing jargon, and people can get frustrated with it. I think the mission to me is a really central pivot point. And it’s what I always look for in an organisation and there are good ones and there are bad ones but a good one isn’t the tagline isn’t the marketing tagline. It’s something a little bit deeper underneath. And it’s something that no matter how the ebbs and flows and the pivots of an organisation In the strategies change, the mission stays solid. It’s that often the distance north star that you’re driving towards, and then every morning you get up and you like, that’s why I’m doing it. And I like the term mission. I think that’s powerful mission led organisations I like it. I think everybody has the mission, but it’s really unearthing it. Coming back to that the podcast skill set of asking questions and digging down, you know, the five why’s, why do you want to do that? Why and you get dig deeper and deeper. And then finally, you have this sort of lightbulb moment of aha, that’s right, that’s really, that really captures everything that we’re doing. And all of those other things are just features of our product. They’re not really the mission.
So yeah, I think that’s a powerful piece. And I also like the word coalescing, I think that sums it up everybody sort of coming together with a some sort of message that we can’t quite hear, but we’re all drawing towards something. So yeah, I think that’s powerful.
Well, and I’m with you on that, I think that living sustainably, socially and environmentally, as we’re coming to gain a greater understanding of what that means, specifically, I don’t think that that can be just such a tactical and mechanical switch and change, I think that it is inevitably something much deeper to where it doesn’t have to be based off of, I think real societal lifestyle changes from what it is that we value, and what sort of different constraints that, you know, we take very seriously in the context of business or you know, impact investment, whatever it might be, you know, at least what I’m starting to see where the spectrum starts to vary.
There’s a term coined long ago about the triple bottom line, people planet and profit. And, you know, I’m starting to feel like that that doesn’t exactly go far enough. In that context. For me, it feels like those are still exactly on the same line, people planet and profit alongside each other, where I feel that it needs to go as to where people on planet are actually prioritised, and put in front of profit, in that the constraints are set to be a bit different, you know, if we’re evaluating, or our considerations are mining for the planet, and the people that live on it in the same context is profit, then I think that we’re not exactly getting to the change to where we need to go. It’s progress. undoubtably, I certainly see it as progress. But I think, you know, as you mentioned, some of those folks that you host on your podcast, you know, they see using the world of finance, to effect positive change, it’s like the outcome is, shouldn’t necessarily be returned, although that is a byproduct of that system that exists, the outcome should in fact, be positive change, you know, or in many cases, in a lot of businesses, it should be doing less harm, which is kind of a tear of where we need to get to, as opposed to like seeking to do positive change.
Even the most renowned companies like Patagonia, I’m wearing a Patagonia hat here, right now. And even Patagonia is not perfectly sustainable, they don’t have complete transparency just yet. A percentage of their line is Fairtrade certified, verifiably. But still, one of the renowned examples of a socially environmentally responsible business still has a ways to go. I’m still a fan of Patagonia and appreciate their transparency and everything. I just think that there’s there’s a slight differential there, too, where it’s like if we do in fact value the planet or natural ecosystems, and as well, the people that live on it, we need to make decisions that prioritise positive outcomes for them, even if that can come in conflict with what would seem to be the financial returns.
Is that making some sense at all, at least from how I’m taking it?
Oh, definitely. I think I think that that is the undercurrent of this world of managing those different metrics. And for so long, you know, we have 200 300 years of modern accounting. And it’s always been neat and tidy. I mean, it’s been, it’s had lots of ups and downs, and it’s adapted a lot. But essentially, it whittled down to risk versus return, it whittled down to this dollar figure, profit number, it’s clean, really easy to measure success, you know, percentage gains up this year. Good. Right. But that was useful. But I think that the other factors that matter that you’ve talked about the planet, the people, these factors, I think we all know, they’re important, but they’re just very difficult to measure. And so I think that, that that’s what’s changing, that we’re now almost being forced, but we do have different technological systems that are helping with that impact measurement.
But if I’m discussing these issues with people that aren’t, haven’t really been through that sort of philosophical discussion, like, What are you talking about? You know, finances, finance, you want to make money isn’t that obvious? And if you simply overlay it by saying, doesn’t matter what your values are, it doesn’t matter if you feel like you’re an environmentalist. All that really matters is that when you’re investing you want as much data as possible. When you’re reviewing a business. You want to know more about it than less. I think that’s pretty hard. had to argue with. And so now we’ve got all of this financial data. But we’ve also got data about waste and efficiency about how workers are being treated about diversity. Look at biology. And it’s pretty clear that for a species to flourish, you need diversity of genetic diversity rights, the same in an organisation with different views. You want to target different customers.
So from that base level, I think more data is better. And we’re getting that more than ever. We’ve now slowly with the new ISSB standards following for the European, the EU taxonomy in terms of mandating financial reporting, beyond just financial factors reporting, climate impacts, reporting diversity, nature based biodiversity assessments, I think, yes, there are going to be problems. Yes, there are going to be organisations that greenwash and say, We’re doing all of these things. That’s great. But the metrics now becoming more stringent, more reliable. And yeah, it doesn’t matter what your view is that we’ve now got a broader set of metrics. I think that’s really powerful.
Yeah, and I appreciate that. And I think that that’s a convincing point of view, I guess the areas we’re most interested in that I think we can measure, perhaps it’s the difficulty in transparency. And you know, what, what people kind of defer to the complexity of like, the global supply chain, before, for instance.
This example that I always put my head is a company, let’s put it you know, in the fashion industry, for one where there’s, there’s much of this very rampant labor abuse, but everyone who works within that supply chain, ideally should be paid a verifiable living wage, you know, depending on the context, you know, in living wages is relative to the locality that they’re inhabiting. But there’s a lot of other things that become more difficult to measure for me, but that feels to me like a very strong, and I think that the reason why we can’t measure it is because, you know, what we’re leaning to is this, you know, silhouetted global supply chain, that’s become far too complex and difficult to keep track of.
But I do think that that kind of plays to many of those, those larger companies benefits, but that’s the thing for me that that feels very clear. And in the context of, you know, the different set of constraints people in planning over it, you know, I feel like there should be, at some level, we should agree societally, essentially, that if a business cannot pay people a verifiable living wage, to operate in, perhaps make their product and get their product to shelves, it doesn’t seem to me worthwhile, that that business exists, or it should be a different level, you know, of constraints to where we should agree that that’s not okay.
At some point, it seems like we need to ask, what level of exploitation are we okay with? It’s like, well, we can’t verifiably pay everyone a living wage, it’s just too difficult, it’s going to cost too much to find out to track whatever it is, at some point, isn’t that where we should see that? It’s not worth that business existing? Or? I mean, I don’t know, I guess it’s a progression.
That’s a bit of a pipe dream. But that’s where I feel like there’s, you know, a hard distinction, because if we’re okay, with that uncertainty, I feel like we’re likewise okay with some level of like, exploitation for the sake of that business, or just business, you know, in general surviving.
That’s a huge topic. And that does swing the breadth of what brought me into impact investing, which was the international development side and understanding the varied benefits from globalisation and the way our world is changing. And then overlaying finance and understanding that is the lever for change. But look, you know, what is a living wage? I mean, even that is a huge question. Because obviously, so many different economies with very different standards of life and different types of work, different social safety net, and governments having different levels of impact.
And then even if we look at the developed world and developing markets, even the US is different because of the diversity. It’s so broad in terms of, there’s no real national minimum wage. And there’s so much debate about that, and lots changing. And I think that idea of I mean, it’s a it’s almost a, I think it’s a really valuable provocation, and to not make assumptions about, oh, look, there’s always going to be a working class and businesses need, it’s positive for business to have low wages, these oversimplifications.
And if you’ve challenged that, and say, on the one hand, actually paying your workers more is great, because the lowest paid people if they have an increase in their wage, they’re the ones that are going to spend that money and where are they going to spend it, they’re going to spend it locally. So that’s going to be a broad macro economic benefit. While if those dollars go into the hands of the wealthy, they tend to save it, it doesn’t get cycled through the economy as much. So that’s one layer. And the second layer being an in terms of that provocation of changing the way people think. If your business model can’t sustain paying your staff a living wage, perhaps your business model is the problem not I guess rules about setting minimum wages and those sorts of things.
But coming back to the practicalities, and you know you and I sitting here but these are such Massive macro issues. You know, we don’t have much control locally, let alone offshore, we do have the power of making decisions. And I think that’s the shift we’ve seen where it’s clearly a benefit to the product and to the story you can tell and to your reputation, if you are explicit about, we made the decision to pay our workers, happy workers better product, customers now are more aware to that not everybody, some people are just like, they just look at the tag that just want to cheat. And they walk out of the shop, and they don’t think about it that’s changing. And I think that’s, that’s what is driving this change. And as I said, it shouldn’t be a crutch, that these are big problems, we can’t control it, when you make a decision to buy something. That’s the power. And if everybody utilised that if everybody did a little bit of reading, you got a supercomputer in your pocket, do a minutes research and understand where the product comes from.
If there’s no information about where it comes from, then you can be pretty sure that it’s not great, and the companies like Patagonia, but there’s a whole range of them now, nipping at Patagonia’s heels. And I think that’s great. That’s a Race to the Top rather than a race to the bottom.
And I think that’s what you’re leading with and telling the stories of which is really powerful. And then hopefully, I come from the other direction in terms of the investors in the capital and how we can steer investment capital to those companies that are being more transparent, and drive that change from different directions.
John, what stories are you most excited to dive into here in the near future with the good future podcast for the world of ESG, and sustainable finance? What threads are you most interested in pulling on right now?
Yeah, I’ll look, great question. It’s so exciting. I’ve got so many directions, always got a very long list. But just jumping straight to the top of that list. I’ll start with the very dry and boring, and that is impact measurement, something that we always talk about. We’ve touched on it today. But there is we’re in a moment right now, where lots of different frameworks are all coming together. And harmonising. So that’s something that is always an ongoing conversation. But we are seeing a bit of a moment here, which is quite exciting.
But then to the more tangible. And what I think more interesting is the recognition of the value of biodiversity and nature based assessments and transparency. And so yeah, there’s a real focus on trying to value biodiversity and recognising that it’s so vital to maintain and when we talk about carbon emissions, and we talk about living wages, and we’ve got lots of these metrics and sectors that are important, and that we’re leading towards, but I think biodiversity is one that we take for granted. And if you if you start doing the reading, it just gets so depressing of the extinction rates. I mean, even even the food we eat is becoming less diverse. And we’re just losing these wild spaces. Were more plastic in the oceans. And so yeah, to me, that’s a really exciting movement that I think everybody recognises that the problems with carbon emissions, and there’s lots of great measurement and not subject discussion. So now, let’s try and leverage all of those lessons and research and understand the value of biodiversity. Look, I think naturally, we all understand it. But we live in a in a capitalist system ruled by economics. And so in some ways, we need to use those metrics and speak that language. And, as always need to make sure we’re not just putting $1 value on things so they can be exploited more, we need to recognise their values so they can be conserved and saved. So that’s where I’m headed. How about yourself?
Exciting? Well, for us, right now, there’s really kind of three three pillars that we’re honing in on, especially as I feel like maybe in contrast to a little bit while you speak to a lot of folks from a lot of various organisations, different positions. You know, we’re in different industries in sectors regenerative agriculture, I mean, next week, we’re talking local, like, municipality solar power, just a lot of realms that, you know, we’re speaking with people whose career in in work is impact, a lot of overlap, but maybe somewhat of a broader scope in that way. And so I look for the parallels in the ways in which people are approaching the work of building a better world. And I think the first one that I’m most excited about is actually looking to craft so like work with these folks to extract and craft what what is the vision for that? I think there’s a lot of ways that we can move forward. I think there’s definitely a lot of problems that we’re working to run away from. But I think that likewise, it’s not often talked about what inspiring a vision that we could craft to have, you know, people feel very energised, motivated and inspired to work towards I think it’s often with what happens with with the new cycle, you know, we can certainly dwell on the negative and the cynicism as opposed to to look for you know what, what worth saving what’s worth working towards? I think that’s an important component. The second there is really trying to dig deep into the ways in which, you know, I like to call it kind of creating or inspiring off, because I just think that there’s, there’s so many ways in which the the planet and the people that live on it already are just so incredible. You know, I think that the deeper that you dive into whatever it might be the sub sections of regenerative agriculture, you know, just talking about soil health or talking about marine protected areas and looking to reforest in Grow throbs of mangroves, it’s like, there’s just so many ways, if you really hone in on these very specific things that might be climate solutions, or social solutions, that I’m just endlessly blown away, that’s something that I really like to dig for with our podcast are things you know, and the people who are working with them. And within various sectors have just like, you know, like, I have this feeling of like, Oh, I just got to share that with a friend. It’s kind of like how I think about it, like, I have to tell somebody about that. Usually, it’s my wife after I, you know, stop recording on the podcast, but you won’t believe what I just heard. And I think the last component for us is how that all connects to more meaning and purpose in life and work, you know, because like I said, earlier, I feel like, you know, living more sustainably, socially, environmentally is not just you know, about switching things very tactically, mechanically, I genuinely think that it’s a different way of being. And I think, you know, I make the case and argue that it’s a healthier way of being, you know, and I’m sure that that you agree with that in a lot of ways, just, you know, the the big word that’s become thrown around quite a bit his balance, you know, in the context of life and work and like that word can go for a while in the context of sustainability, both as it relates to this social environmental element. So those are the three threads that I’m pulling on right now, and quite excited to do so.
Well, that’s it. And to me, what comes through is how lucky we are in this modern world, that we’re just individuals. We don’t have mainstream news organisations behind us. But yet, we can reach out to people that we wouldn’t otherwise know. Ask them questions to have these conversations and share the story. globally. I think that’s just such an amazing opportunity gets me excited every day, I wouldn’t have had contact with you without it. So that’s great. And I can absorb all of your positive energy, which is awesome. So yeah, hope people absorb some of that. I enjoy listening to our podcasts. And yeah, there’s no barriers. Everyone can do it. But yeah, engage in an enjoyable
I dig it, John. Well, as always, it’s a pleasure to chat and get reconnected. Let’s see one thing before we tidy up there, since I see a full bookshelf behind you. You told me it wasn’t full recently. But that’s changed. But hit me with a book recommendation. Maybe something you’ve been reading recently. That’s impacted you?
Yeah, well, look, it was a lonely site, it was empty. Because I moved out. So it was all in boxes. I’m always surrounded by lots of books. Let me have a look. I ask my own guests that question. And here I am struggling. But alright, I’ll recommend as I do with, my guests often stumble, and they want some profound new book about, you know, the cutting edge world of ESG or something.
But know what’s on my bedside table is a book about Bob Hawke, who’s a well known ex Prime Minister of Australia through the 80s. And in massively stark contrast to the painful polarisation of politics at the moment. He was in power for, I think, two, maybe three terms. He was so popular. And it was because of personality in a really positive way. He was he sort of embodied a sort of traditional Ozzie values of mate ship. He wasn’t polished, right? He was he was really, you know, understood the working class. I mean, he was a union guy from the start. But anyway, this book was really powerful. Bob Hawke is now I think, in his 80s, he’s getting old, but he’s still definitely with it. And the author was originally a surf journalist. So I think that’s how as the two things came together, and he got this amazing access to steel, probably Australia’s most popular politician, and he looked he led, I think that the policy changes that he drove are still what is making Australia successful and vibrant, to even today in terms of opening up to Asian markets to a lot of deregulation. And yeah, I think a lot of it more on that social democracy side more left leaning, but at the same time, very pragmatic about the importance of trade and opening up and modernising the economy. Anyway, I won’t go on but US audience probably won’t be as interested as past Australian Prime Minister. But certainly if there is interest, look at Bob Hawke, because yeah, he’s just such a character, a real American, and yet quite staggering that he did. So Well, but yeah, great guy. Good Book.
Good recommendation. I dig it. Awesome. Well, John, we’ll sign off here. I’d love to know what are the best links for folks to keep up with you and good future where you want listeners of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast to head
for sure. We’ll look jump onto my website, www.John treadgold.com. And you’ll find all the podcast episodes there with descriptions and links. That’s the best place to go. And there’s lots of bits and pieces there. You can cruise around to my articles and my thinking, and we’re also on Instagram, good future podcast. And I think in terms of that broader financial approach of ESG and impact. I’m most active on LinkedIn. So always happy to follow people there. And yeah, come along and have a chat. Ask me any questions.