17 August 2020
Author: Georgina Johnson
Yet, until companies recognise other approaches to success, they will continue to operate as though we have infinite physical energy and material resources. Extreme economic growth and activity will continue to inform the culture of tone-deaf businesses. The company of the future, however, will actively and sufficiently de-centre itself, in favour of a community-led model.
To realise this, there must be a redefinition of aspirations and a conscious-driven business landscape, with brands opting out of performance and taking steps towards de-growth. Here are some of the ways to engage with this concept:
1. Refuse to practise, build or affirm culture through the lens of old business models and KPIs
2. Examine, consider and adapt the concept of de-growth at scale as a mode of transition for your business
3. Make wellbeing and psychological safety king across the culture of the business
While the sustainability of more empathetic business models continues to be debated, interesting solutions are already arising from future thinkers. One response is the community or neighbourhood model, with structures, concepts and practises that radically shift the business paradigm into a place where people come before the performance.
This new priority and investment should encompass a brand’s employees, audiences and the communities they serve. One way in which this is successful is through the creation of open-source networks that democratise information and upheave ideas around competition. Brands already reimagining the politics of business through collective solution-seeking include Phoebe English, who in 2019 created the Fashion on Earth WhatsApp group, which facilitated an exchange of ideas between a growing number of designers for sustainable fashion production alternatives.
In 2020, global sports brand Nike is indulging in this ideology with Circular Design, its own open-source platform foregrounding the fact that ‘a more sustainable world is a collective effort’. In doing so – and by working with staff and students from Central Saint Martins among others – Nike exemplifies how brands can integrate and scale-up community-oriented thinking.
While these concepts can flourish within advanced economies, the point is not to advance social imbalance and ecological devastation but to work towards reorganising and redistributing growth voluntarily, creating a regeneration economy. Moving out of the inter-Covid period, the business of the future will have to interrogate the structures embedded within it and the outmoded forces and ideologies driving it forward, subscribing to a new, community-focused manifesto of de-growth.
Georgina Johnson is an artist, curator and social thinker and is the founder of creative ecosystem The Laundry arts. Her first book, The Slow Grind: Finding Our Way Back to Creative Balance is published this year.
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