What’s Love Got to Do With Doing Business?

Most of us don’t think of love as being an important aspect of business. Sustainable change agent Giles Hutchins explains why it is, and how to help your company tap into the power of love.

Giles Hutchins, author, The Nature of BusinessA while back I stumbled across a video on YouTube that struck me as very provocative and very, very important. The video was entitled The Future of Business, and in it the man on the screen mentioned the importance in business of – of all things – love.

When most of us think about business, love is just about the last thing that comes to mind. However, this man was talking about love as something very primary in the shift to a sustainable future, which includes the way we do business.

“This man” was Giles Hutchins, a business change agent who has worked in business for nearly 20 years, formally as management consultant for KPMG and then as global director of sustainability for Atos International. Giles specializes in taking inspiration from nature and applying it to sustainable business transformation. By that he means not just trading conventional technologies for ones that are less destructive, but a true transformation to a new paradigm, one that is inspired by and in harmony with nature.

Giles is also the author of The Nature of Business: Redesign for Resilience, an excellent book which explores how the increasingly unpredictable, interconnected and uncertain nature of business in modern society calls for a more emergent, dynamic approach to organizations and leadership.

Giles was kind enough to agree to speak with me via Skype earlier this month to further explain the importance of love in business.

(You can listen to the full interview here: Interview with Giles Hutchins on love in business)

Giles maintains that the biggest problems we face as a society today cannot be solved through technology alone, because they are not a product of technology.  Rather, he attributes the root cause of our environmental crisis to an “inherent anti-life approach,” which, he says, stems from an illusion of separation.

“We tend to see ourselves as separate from each other and from the world around us. And the way in which we manage our businesses today… is very much rooted in this sense of separation of self from nature.

Snakes and Vultures watercolor painting in progress

“(But) if we look at how reality really works, how nature operates, how organisms live, how each of us thrive and survive in the world, we actually realize that nothing, absolutely nothing is completely separate from anything else.

“And so it’s important, I think, to come with that (more natural kind of) thinking if we’re then going to start dealing with some of these profound challenges that we face today, otherwise we add to the illusion of separation which causes further downstream ramifications… We need to get to the root cause of the challenges that are now facing us…

“Love as deep attunement of our ego self, with our true self; of our conscious mind, with our unconscious imaginable presence; of our soul with the World Soul; of our rational mind with intuitive heart. Love is awakening to the divine presence flowing through every action, every moment, every relationship, every interaction that we undertake.

“So it’s a foundation, an all-pervasive presence flowing through everything, which is fundamental for us to tune into. We’ve lost that deeper sense of Love; re-embodying and re-member that Love helps us see beyond the illusion of separation.”

Illustration: Hands with glowing heart

While love is an abstract concept, its effect is real and very tangible. However, it’s not something that can be mandated into a company’s DNA. Rather, it flows out from individuals within an organization.

“There are many organizations that perhaps people wouldn’t think of (being based on love), which have people in them that are inspired by love, and perhaps those people may only be inspired by love for just 10 or 15 minutes of their day…

“…there are examples of organizations that have a purpose-driven, value-based organization…but I think it’s important to realize that we all are individuals working in organizations and perhaps through our lives we sometimes have moments when we are “in love,” when we’re flowing, we’re deeply attuned, focused on the activity, loving the activity that we’re doing, and therefore what we’re doing is laced with love. (That is what I mean by being) in love, that we are deeply resonating with what we’re doing.

“For instance I could talk to people in a call center and you know, many of them may be disenchanted with what they’re doing, just doing it purely to meet the bills and to pay off debts, yet you can come across someone who clearly is motivated and enjoying what they’re doing, and have a conversation which is quite different – a love-based sharing – and in that moment inspired by love.

“Everything has interrelationships, and our environment clearly has a massive impact of how we are and how we feel.

“And so if you have a culture that’s very much ‘anti-life’ (highly competitive and carcinogenic) that rubs off on us, it’s very difficult for us to then be inspired by love.

“Yet we create an environment through our own interactions which then contributes to a wider environment which might then inspire team members, which may then go on to inspire other teams in the organization, which then either helps that business unit or the wider culture. That’s a bottom-up approach.

“Vice versa you can have a top-down approach where you have purpose-driven leaders creating space for an environment based on love, recognizing that people are more motivated and more creative if they’re actually coming from love; recognizing the importance of that for organizations in these challenging times.

“And of course it’s a mixture of both. It’s neither top-down nor bottom. Both of those are kind of old ways of looking at things.  We affect the change through the actions and interactions that we do. There are catalysts like leadership and creating a culture that help foster a loving environment.

“Having worked at different levels in organizations and consulted for a variety of different people from people on the shop floor right through to global CEOs, (I’d say that) it often seems everybody has the same challenges and barriers to love.

“Take someone on the shop floor who’s saying, ‘Well yes, but what can I do to change the organization? Well it’s not first-and-foremost about ‘changing the organization’ or ‘the world’, but rather changing what you are doing and how you are being. That person has similar challenges, barriers and fears as a global CEO would have in that regard. And of course both of them have just the same amount of opportunity if they choose. So part of it is an attitude. It’s a way of attending our attention, and our quality of awareness is all part of that.”

As it turns out, some of the world’s largest corporations – including Apple, Yahoo, General Mills, and IBM – are catching on to the benefits of Incorporating mindfulness and other love-centered practices into the workplace.

For example, Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” employee training was described by one participant as “organizational WD-40, a necessary lubricant between driven, ambitious employees and Google’s demanding corporate culture,” who added that “helping employees handle stress and defuse emotion helps everyone work more effectively.”

This and similar voluntary programs have been widely reported to improve focus and productivity, increase employee satisfaction, improve communication, and reduce stress in the workplace.

I asked Giles what he would recommend to enable the switch to a more love-centered business or even to enable one’s employees or coworkers. He replied:

(A lot of organizations are trying) to bring in a greater clarity of awareness and sense of purpose into their organization, which helps people slow down and…sense with how they’re acting and interacting.

And so it’s a sense of presence, whether that is having 10 minutes of silence at the beginning and end of every day, or encouraging people in work-breaks to engage in contemplative practices such as meditation or having meetings walking in the park, or doing some stretches or yoga. Things like that, which help align the mind, body and soul in the workplace which is essentially healthy for the business.

Some of that is at a personal level, encouraging people to be aware of certain things. And by the way this isn’t in any way a kind of propaganda or mainstream sort of education put on people. It’s very much there as an invitation and general awareness for people to take or leave as they wish. Everybody is on their own journey and a part of this is recognizing that.

And at perhaps a more systemic level in the organization is recognizing what kind of leaders that you want in your business. How do you emulate success in the organization? What type of people do you want leading other people? And I think this is about walking your talk. And so leaders who are actually leading from the heart, who are leading with love, are the ones that are going to help emulate a culture like that in the organization.

Listen to the full interview with Giles Hutchins here.

To explore Giles Hutchins’ work further, visit www.thenatureofbusiness.org.

How have you experienced the effect of love in business? How has it made a difference in your organization or in your life?

Social Media: A Support Tool or Menace for Sustainability in Business?

Social Media Butterfly Iliyana Stareva shares research and insights on using social media to promote sustainability and green products and services

Iliyana Stareva, Social Media Butterfly
Social Media Butterfly Iliyana Stareva shares research and insights on using social media to promote sustainability and green products and services

A few months back I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Iliyana Stareva, then a graduate student in management and marketing at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund, Germany, as part of her research for her dissertation, “The Power of Social Media as a Communications Channel for Creating Business Sustainability Value: a Support Tool or Menace?”

As you might guess, Iliyana’s research is an excellent resource for anyone marketing sustainable products or services, as well as any company interested in sharing its sustainability initiatives publicly.

On her blog, Iliyana graciously invites sharing of her findings. So it is my pleasure to include an excerpt from her post about the project. Here (in Iliyana’s own words) are the main conclusions of her research (I have emphasized certain key ideas and phrases that I think are highly important for green marketers):

  • There is a need for a new business culture based on the ability to feel and show empathy and the ability to change and move away from traditional horizontal and vertical business approaches towards a web, ecosystem and dialogue-based mindset for more innovative and value-driven collaboration. Consequently, there is a requirement to change the currently very dry, technical and preaching-like nature of sustainability communications towards making it more relevant, emotional, fun, provocative and engaging in order to better reach audiences on a larger scale.
  • In this regard, social media can be that new tool because, since it shares the same values as sustainability (community, transparency, authenticity, innovation, creativity and collaboration), combining and aligning the two concepts could have a powerful impact on effectively balancing the triple bottom line. Social media can thus be an asset that companies should capitalise on, as it can provide competitive advantages and allow brands to become pioneers. But, real commitment to social media sustainability communications is nevertheless required. Most importantly, both practices need to be embedded throughout the organisation – only then can they be effective.   
  • Social media allows companies to be creative, authentic, honest and transparent in their sustainability communications approaches and offers them the platforms to attentively listen and directly respond to what customers and other stakeholders are saying. Hence, social media provides tremendous benefits for organisations to increase brand awareness, promote sustainability initiatives and efforts, engage with stakeholders, integrate them into the company processes, facilitate knowledge management, advocate green activities and inspire sustainable lifestyles.
  • As a support tool social media can not only serve as a communications channel, it can go beyond just sharing information to being a collaboration and co-operation tool that can create value and drive real change through storytelling, community building, crowdsourcing, open innovation and co-creation. Thus, social media can be a strong differentiator and a source of transparent and engaging competitive advantage for business sustainability and so help create a sustainable brand.
  • On the other hand, as social media gives everyone a voice and allows for information to spread rapidly like a virus, brands have lost control over the conversation and it becomes a challenge how to deal with stakeholder scrutiny and negativity expressed online. Those, who try to control the conversation in persuasive and manipulative manners or by deleting comments, are put at the risk of a crisis that can seriously damage or even destroy a company’s reputation. Organisations that lack transparency and honesty in their communications are inevitably found out.
  • Not understanding the nature of social media and ignoring its transparency requirement by, for example, choosing practices such as greenwashing is a main reason for inducing the menacing role social media can play. But because on social media nothing stays hidden brands are required to ‘walk the talk’, aligning content with context.
  • The benefits of social media outweigh the risks for most organisations; those who fail to understand the new social landscape will be endangered of having their business disrupted by social technologies.

(If you have read my white paper on FTC compliance, you might recognize many of the key concepts echoed in Iliyana’s findings.)

Iliyana ends with a profound thought: that it is the responsibility of businesses to be leaders in the shift towards a more sustainable world.

To enhance the present and preserve the future companies must play their role in educating society… Education, though, starts with communication – if society is not made aware of the issues and their extents, then solving them is not possible. As Galileo once said, “you cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself” – people cannot be forced or driven to agree or act in the way others want; people need to be gently and friendly led, inspired and engaged to change their minds. This is where the potential of social media lies because it is first and for most about people and relationships.

This is an especially important point.  With all the risk of greenwashing it can be tempting to steer clear of addressing sustainability, but ultimately it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep it top of mind publicly as well as when planning one’s own corporate sustainability initiatives.

One last gift from Iliyana (who, by the way, received an A+ on her dissertation and is now the Social Media Account Manager at Brandzeichen Markenberatung und Kommunikation GmbH in Duesseldorf – congratulations, Iliyana!): this awesome Best Practice Guide infographic you can use to help your company stay on the good side of social media:

 Sustainability Social Media Best Practice Infographic


GoDaddy’s (hidden) sustainability initiatives

Here’s an update on my correspondence with GoDaddy. (My apologies to them for tardiness; I’ve been involved in moving the household from Wisconsin to Illinois.)

Godaddy’s Office of the CEO replied in a timely manner to my questioning about their position on sustainability, and it appears that they have implemented a number of sustainability practices. Here, in its entirety, is their response to my inquiry about sustainability in their company:

Dear Anne,

Thank you for contacting GoDaddy.com.  Your correspondence has been directed to the Office of the CEO.

GoDaddy.com is committed to the promotion of a healthy environment and we are working to make a difference through a variety of initiatives within our company.  These involve our employees, our customers and our facilities planning.

1.What effort has Go Daddy made to ‘go green’?

Currently, GoDaddy utilizes power from the two main power suppliers in Arizona, APS and SRP. However we do not have separate renewable energy at our facilities.  You will be able to find specific details about the renewable energy sources exercised by our energy providers on the following websites:

SRP- https://www.srpnet.com/Default.aspx
APS- http://www.aps.com/aps_services/apsservices.html
APS Green Choice- http://www.aps.com/main/green/choice/default.html

Additionally, Go Daddy has made several efforts with our hosting and data centers to ‘go green.’  We focus on finding and using the most power-efficient computer equipment wherever possible.  Go Daddy monitors the market for new products with improved efficiencies and continue to review powering our data center with alternative energy.  Another effort includes Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) for large motors, chilled water air handler units or A/C units and for our water chillers which use a cooling tower (using less power than air cooled condensers).  A VFD is a device that slows the motor down to the required speed for equipment.  The new Customer Care Center and development areas have been done with low energy lights and offices with motion sensors to shut off lights automatically.  We will also be placing a lot of those devices in the current buildings as we remodel.  Additionally, we use the heat produced from our datacenters for the climate control of the office space in the same building.  We also recycle communications cabling, computer equipment and packaging.  Other ways Go Daddy contributes to environmental efforts include: air conditioning air filters made from recycled material, energy efficient fluorescent lamps, new purchases of diesel generators that fall under the new EPA guidelines including purchasing low sulfur grade diesel for the generators.  When possible, we purchase high efficiency electric motors.

2. How is Go Daddy encouraging an eco-friendly environment?

Go Daddy provides employees with many benefits to encourage eco-friendly actions.  We promote employees involvement in the Maricopa County Trip Reduction program (TRP).  Go Daddy provides information materials about getting involved in TRP and in participating we offer employees complimentary bus passes, quarterly contests and preferred parking for Alternate Mode Users.  We also provide recycling containers for plastic and aluminum cans.

Finally, as Mr. Parsons is a member of our board, your correspondence will be shared with him. While we have no ability to govern his behavior while on vacation, Mr. Parsons has shared his thoughts regarding his trip to Zimbabwe on his personal Vlog at BobParsons.me should you wish you review them.

Go Daddy’s new CEO, Warren Adelman, previously served as our President and COO and remains committed to ensuring that we offer the highest level of customer service and the most innovative products in the industry.

We hope this information will be of assistance to you in making any final determination about your relationship with GoDaddy.com.

Sincerest Regards,

The Office of the CEO

While I’m still not impressed by the elephant thing, I’m very glad to know that Godaddy is making some effort to be responsible. I especially like the way Godaddy is getting employees involved in greener transportation. This indicates that someone at the company is pushing for some degree of sustainability as part of the corporate culture.

I wonder, though, why Godaddy is so silent about their green accomplishments?

I’m not suggesting that they should go blabbing all over social media about how green they are. Clearly, it’s not part of their branding. Doing so would compromise their integrity and would most likely backfire.

However, I’m not just some lone kooky earth freak. Sustainability is a major issue for a lot of people, many of whom are Godaddy’s customers or potential customers. Wouldn’t it be to the company’s advantage to put out a little quiet communication about their activities for those of us who think it’s important?

What do you think?

Rethinking GoDaddy

Ever have one of those wake-up moments? When you suddenly realize that your actions aren’t in line with your values?  I did today.

Well, to be perfectly truthful, it wasn’t so sudden. I’ve suspected for quite some time that the hosting company I’ve been using, GoDaddy, isn’t exactly earth-friendly. But I’ve always had such great service from them that I’ve turned it into a personal blind spot.

Then a couple of days ago I joined The Hub by LOHAS. It’s an online sustainable business network that encourages socially and environmentally conscious businesses to connect and do business with each other. In order to join you have to take a pledge to support like minded business. I signed, and then got to thinking…

Am I really doing all I can do to shop my conscience?

So I went online and tried to find any evidence that GoDaddy was taking any steps towards sustainability. I found nothing on their website. (In fact, if you go to GoDaddy’s blog and type “sustainable” or “sustainability” into the search box, you’ll get a notice that says, “Sorry, but you’re looking for something that isn’t here.”)

Then I did a search and all I could find that seemed remotely related to environmental issues was Bob Parsons, the CEO of GoDaddy, killing a “rogue” elephant in Zimbabwe. (See the video, along with a few good suggestions for effective, alternative ways to deal with problem elephants other than blowing their brains out, here.)

So, it seems the time has come to start looking for other options.

But, like I said, GoDaddy has been very good to me and I don’t think it’s fair to just up and take my business elsewhere without communicating why or giving the company a chance to redeem itself. How much better if they actually do start to change due to consumer demand! So I composed a letter to GoDaddy through their support page. It went like this:

Dear GoDaddy,

I’m contacting you because like an increasing number of consumers, I am deeply committed to protecting the environment and prefer to do business with companies who share my concern.

I’ve been meaning for some time to check up on your sustainability record and finally took the time to do so today. I found….nada. Well, actually, if you count the elephant incident, worse than nada.

I provide professional services to green companies, and my website provides the first impression most of my clients have of me. While I LOVE your customer service and enjoy your pricing, I have grave reservations about continuing to host with you unless and until you start taking the issue of sustainability seriously.

Please wake up to the fact that this is the 21st century and we can’t ignore our impact on the planet anymore.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and no one expects you to suddenly be perfect. I’ve appreciated your wonderful service over the past few years and would prefer to keep doing business with you. However I will need to start seeing some kind of dialogue about and action towards sustainability on your part, or I will feel forced to take my business elsewhere, and encourage others to do the same.

Thank you,

Anne Michelsen

I’m told it can take up to two days before receiving a response. I really hope they’re open to dialogue, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I’m going to start researching other hosting and domain options. Any suggestions?

How to Overcome Green Business’s Biggest Marketing Challenge

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself. People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding. And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself.  People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding.  And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

That’s why it’s a good idea to come up with simple reasons to buy our products. Statements like “it saves you money,”  “it tastes better,” and “it’s the healthy choice for your kids” give people clear reasons to buy that benefit them personally in ways that are easy to understand.

So should we steer clear of environmental messaging for fear of confusing our prospects?

In most cases, emphatically NO! The environment is becoming an increasingly important concern, especially for certain segments of the population.  We certainly do want to talk about environmental benefits.  For one thing, concern for the environment can often tip a consumer’s decision in favor of your product.  But more importantly, keeping the environment top-of-mind benefits the planet and society as a whole by shifting society’s preferences towards more sustainable options.

That’s why consumer education is such a crucial part of Green marketing.  Take every chance you get to engage people and gently help them understand the complex issues our world is facing, as well as the role your product or service plays in protecting it.

But don’t be pedantic or overbearing.  The trick is to break it down into digestible chunks.  Over the next few days I’ll share some  guidelines for creating environmental messages that will both inform and engage your customers.  Stay tuned!