Everyone knows the world is changing fast. Driven by technology and a culture of activism it engenders, old hierarchies and elites are being flattened by new technologies and social networks. Everyone knows everything and can connect with anyone. Whistle blowers, social media campaigns and citizen journalists will get you. Resistance is increasingly futile. The days of controlling the media are receding fast. In a world where ‘people see what you see’ no-one can impose the future. Not for long anyway. The future – your future – can only be negotiated.
But most organisations are keeping their head firmly in the sand – hoping they can ignore the paradigm shift going on all around them – that it will just go away. Or they are just too bewildered by it all.
But some are looking to change to be in-tune with the revolutionary changes going on all around us.
Because of the shift to a networked society, the successful organisations of the future will be open, empathetic and relational. And given that, in an interconnected world, all of us are smarter than any one of us, those organisations that embrace these traits and beliefs will be more resilient, adaptive and creative. And they will attract the most and keep the best.
This process is already beginning in places we might least suspect. Tax, once an issue of secrecy is now being openly debated between the internal and external. How do we build are fairer society if the bodies that move money don’t play by the rules of responsibility both in its behaviour and advice. We need not look further than KPMG who have recently begun an open and public debate on responsible tax and the common good which has started opening up a space for a wide range of voices. Ultimately it is a space KPMG cannot control – and it would be pointless if they tried to. Instead it is a space where everyone holds everyone else to account.
Years of denial and indifference to the environment in circles of corporate and political power have begun to give way to acceptance and involvement. Organisations across the landscape (inspired by Fossil Free) are divesting their money away from the process of harvesting harmful fossil fuel resources. Stamford and Glasgow universities have helped lead the way while pressure mounts on Oxford University, who continue to delay their verdict. (Are they just delaying the inevitable?) The London Assembly has urged Boris Johnson to divest its £4.8b pension fund away from coal, oil and gas companies. Elsewhere continued pressure on charities such as the Bill and Melisa Gates Foundation has stirred further discussion and engagement on the future of our planet.
Why is this pressure being exerted and why is behaviour being changed? Because absence of fairness and social justice, the lack of care of respect and care toward the earth and the air we breath cannot be side-lined indefinitely or swerved with a one off PR gesture.
Once we accept our reciprocal vulnerability to employees, customers, stakeholders, society and the planet – the cornerstone of trust – then we are forced to shift to a world of genuine and Permanent Engagement where we share a journey and face down the great problems of our times – the only way we can – together.
Neal Lawson & Robert Phillips, Partners at Jericho Chambers working on the KPMG Responsible Tax project