Marc Benioff And Yvon Chouinard: Two Capitalists Who Want To Change Capitalism For The Better
Two highly relevant figures, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, and Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, have recently discussed two factors that will influence the future: economic and environmental sustainability, which in turn are linked through technology and innovation.
In a New York Times op-ed entitled “We need a new capitalism”, Benioff discusses the Business Roundtable’s recent redefinition of the function of companies, which overturns Milton Friedman’s thesis that their only purpose is to increase shareholder value and that the market will take care of everything else. As Benioff points out, the current model is now unsustainable and is creating mounting inequality, is obsessed with permanent surveillance and in the final analysis is endangering life on the planet. Benioff argues that companies do not have to choose between making a profit and doing the right thing, and that CEOs missing this point will have a hard time keeping their jobs: doing well and doing good should both be compatible, and a new sustainable capitalism must be financed through new tax schemes that put a greater burden on companies and wealth like his own, a thesis previously stated by other names frequently featured in the Forbes World’s Billionaires list.
Meanwhile, Yvon Chouinard, says in an in-depth interview with Fast Company that technology must be applied to all production processes to optimize them, decarbonize them and cause the least amount of harm possible; from agriculture and energy to construction or manufacturing, if we are to overcome the climate emergency. He argues convincingly that we cannot just accept our fate (“What’s the alternative, just sitting on my ass?”), and that there are many things we can all do, starting with kicking out a Trump administration he seems certain will not renew its term, and reassessing our priorities as a society.
Reinventing capitalism to make it more sustainable is not a choice; it’s a necessity. And to do it, we need initiatives at all levels: governments have to lead, establish priorities and provide adequate resources to reduce emissions. At the same time, we need to intensely lobby our governments to stay on track, while at the local level, city halls must play their part. Technologies such as machine learning and analytics must be at the service of sustainable development goals, including sharing their advances to enable the collective development of solutions to meet the life and death challenge we face.
There is still a lot to do. Changing something that has worked so well before is not easy, but clearly the same old rules no longer apply. Read Marc Benioff and Yvon Chouinard, founders of two companies that are clearly trying to change those rules, and do it with an open mind, with the idea that everything, virtually everything we do, all our priorities, can and must be realigned.