“Imagine all the people, living life in peace…. no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.” Those lyrics are surely familiar to you. They are from one of the most successful songs of all time, Imagine, by John Winston Lennon. Lennon, singing of his better world, voiced certainty that he “was not the only one” with this dream. Now, prominent corporate leaders have begun a new firm with the express purpose of making business and industry better global citizens. They have named the firm, Imagine, after the song.
In this episode, Edie Lush and Claudia Romo Edelman discuss Imagine and talk with two of the founders, Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, and Valerie Keller, a well-known CEO whisperer, coach and expert in transformational business leadership. With governments acting too slowly or in many crucial places gridlocked, more focus has fallen on the role of business in curbing climate change and achieving the other Sustainable Development Goals.
Keller and Polman argue that much can be accomplished by creating “collective courageous behavior” by corporations working together to achieve what no one of them might take on alone.
Their first effort is underway in the Fashion industry and they talk about future plans for travel, tourism and, perhaps, even energy. Claudia observes that Imagine, the song, which was written in 1981, seems to call for the Sustainable Development Goals long before they were created in 2015. But Lennon also sang of “no possessions,” which might be a step further down a socialist road than Imagine, the company, envisions. Edie and Claudia discuss Imagine, the company’s place in what they describe as a movement to create a “better capitalism,” not replace it. “What we are really seeing in this world is that many people are dreaming of a better world than we have currently,” Polman says.
Facts and Actions “to help meet the moment…the decisive decade of the 2020s” are from a leading expert in sustainable business, Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR, a not-for-profit which advises companies on sustainability. You can read Cramer’s 2019 CEO letter, “A New Climate for Business”.
Laura MacKenzie, Senior Vice President of our sponsor, Mastercard, describes Mastercard’s work creating digital systems to pay garment workers, predominantly women, around the world. This protects their earnings and increases their access to the formal financial system. “many of the women,” MacKenzie says, “also have ambitions of their own. They would like to own land they would like to start a business. That’s what’s so exciting about this work.”
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