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The future normal for business philosophy

By Kate Lockyer

Two university professors are paving the way for sustainability in business to be the ‘future normal’ with their new book Future Normal: Eight Questions to Create Businesses Your Children Will Be Proud Of.

Long-time New Farm resident and Professor of Economics at Griffith Business School, Christopher Fleming, and Professor of Sustainability and Strategy Nick Barter work together in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Griffith University.

The MBA has been ranked by research organisation Corporate Knights as #1 in the world for sustainability for the last three years. 

Mr Fleming said 40 years ago, society believed that solving challenges such as climate change and inequality were the responsibility of the government, but we have now realised businesses have to solve these problems.

Mr Barter said he has had the idea of writing a book about sustainable business for 25 years, and when he began working with Mr Fleming, their conversations inspired them to start writing one.

He had written a rough manuscript and he gave it to Mr Fleming to read, who called him immediately to tell him: “We’ve got to turn this into a book”.

The book’s preface reads: “…we would like business leaders to be more ambitious. We would like them to view their businesses not as ends in and of themselves, but as tools that can enable great outcomes for all.”

“History indicates that the now radical has always been a portend to the Future Normal, be it those once radical movements that helped create paid holiday leave, or a forty-hour working week, or health and safety measures in the workplace.”

Mr Fleming said: “A lot of people in senior leadership have teenage kids who are asking them, what is your organisation doing for our generation, or doing to our generation?” 

“You don’t have to sacrifice profits in order to behave better… make money as a byproduct of doing good things,” he said.

Mr Barter said three things underpin the book: “Business thrives when society thrives, businesses are the tools we use to shape our world, and the questions we ask matter.” 

Both men cited childhood experiences on farms and connecting with nature as part of their reason for adopting this sustainable business philosophy.

“One of the biggest influences on me was the images of Earth from space, how they reinforce in you that this is all connected. Humans are not separate to the world, they are the Earth walking around,” Mr Barter said.

Future Normal is due for release on November 15 and there will be a book launch event at Avid Reader bookshop on November 28, visit https://futurenormal.net/ for more.

Photo caption: Christopher Fleming and Nick Barter

GIVEAWAY: “We define a Future Normal business as one that acts meaningfully in its surroundings and purposefully to benefit itself and society.” – Nick Barter and Christopher Fleming.

In 100 words or less, tell us how you would define your ideal Future Normal business, email editorial@village-voice.com.au. The top three entries will receive a signed copy of the book.

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