Professor Steven MacGregor is a social innovator who has been teaching, researching and publishing about unorthodox topics such as personal sustainability and sustainable leadership. About a decade ago, he founded of The Leadership Academy of Barcelona of which he is the CEO, and for more than 15 years, he has been contending that companies should not only be money making machines. We are happy to feature Professor MacGregor as one of our Changemakers!

Part of the LAB team in Barcelona

When was the LAB founded?

The LAB was founded in 2007, when I was directing a research project on CSR and teaching on executive education programs at IESE Business School. The project was one of the first European funded efforts with a specific focus on CSR and innovation, while my teaching focused on the health and wellbeing of executives, which I viewed as personal sustainability. I felt my take on sustainability, as an aggregate of both these areas, was unique enough to take the plunge and start a company. The defining thought for me at the time was that sustainable companies couldn’t be built on people who weren’t sustainable themselves. Essentially, it’s about bringing a more human approach to business.

What does sustainable leadership stand for and why did The LAB start to develop projects and training in this area of expertise?

Most of what we’ve done in the past 10 years has been centered on the health, well-being and performance of people at work. We’ve had aspects including mindfulness, fitness, nutrition, and sleep coaching in our programs during that time. Of course, we need to manage and lead ourselves better before we can lead others. We train people to be inspiring, energetic and engaging leaders who get the best out of their people. I think that many have forgotten the simple fact that leadership is about others. Considering our basic human needs is an effective way of doing that.

Can you present some of societyLAB’s current projects?

Most of our engagements tend to come in the healthLAB and designLAB. Societal issues are integrated within these projects, for example in areas such as talent management, client experience and workspace design; but scaling up societyLAB is a big objective this year. Our idea is to focus on the area of societal wellbeing. One specific idea that we’re pursuing is using behaviour change tools to nudge peoples’ behaviour in areas such as alcohol consumption.

Steven MacGregor

What are your goals for 2018?

Using more sophisticated behaviour change tools is something we’ve been looking at for several years. These tools represent cutting-edge machine learning and algorithm development and will allow us greater insight into what works in the classroom and how we can better design our work and home environments to be happier and healthier. We make the case for wellbeing at work to be a more strategic concern. More generally, we simply want to keep having an impact on peoples’ lives.

Do you believe companies are now convinced that CSR can make both social impact and profits? How do you evaluate the current state of corporate involvement with environmental and social issues?

Most of the leading companies are now convinced yes, though they may not call it CSR. There is a deeper awareness of the contract that business has with society. How that manifests itself changes from company to company. In general, organizations are realizing the key role they play in peoples’ lives; and by engaging with them more closely – be they employees, customers or the wider community -, they know they will add value to the business in the long term and protect themselves (as much as possible) from the dangers of disruption.

Horyou is the social network for social good. What is the role of the internet and social media in influencing our companies to be more sustainable and socially conscious?

Transparency and talent. Companies can no longer get away with fancy words that are not matched by deeds. The younger generation is automatically attuned to social good in a way probably never seen before and they will hold enterprises accountable to a new way of doing business, if not directly, then certainly with how they choose to spend their talents. Even the biggest and brightest companies can no longer count on brand prestige or history to attract the best talent. People want to invest their time in something bigger than themselves.

Changemakers is an Horyou initiative which aims to highlight remarkable people & projects related to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this article, we shed a light over #SDG8 – Decent work and economic growth.

Executives from all backgrounds were testing new gadgets
Executives from all backgrounds were testing new gadgets

Every summer, hundreds of business leaders from all over the world gather in Lausanne for a 5-day marathon of learning and inspiration. The center stage is IMD, a world top-ranked business school. The so-called Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program aims to reach their needs and concerns based on studies and researches from professors and partner companies about businesses and global markets.

This year, disruption and innovation were the keywords for most participants of OWP, which tool place in the last week of June. Facing a scenario where alternative business models are booming and new technologies are discovered daily, most executives are very concerned about their companies’ outcome. “Executives are familiar with the acronym VUCA that stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous scenarios. What we are experiencing now is a layer above it. Our business environment is now APIE: Adversarial, Polarised, Irrational and Explosive”, says professor Tawfiq Jelassi, who gave the lecture “Leadership in High Turbulence Environment” to the executives.

Professor Jelassi has a remarkable experience both as a businessman and professor, but he became globally well-known in 2014, after taking over the Ministry of High Education in Tunisia, only a few years after the Arab Spring, when the country was still facing a highly unstable political and social situation. In his lectures to the IMD executives, he asserts that the post Arab Spring scenario and the current environment of business disruption are more connected that may first appear. He explains that technological innovations and new processes, human resources models and corporate philosophies are changing the very heart of many businesses globally in a even seen pace. It is, indeed, a revolution.

Professor Tawfiq Jelassi
Professor Tawfiq Jelassi

“We all have to develop ability to disrupt ourselves before somebody else does”, said Des Ferris, Managing Director of Kerring Fruits, an Irish fruit company, a participant of OWP. During the 5-day program, executives from all backgrounds were testing drones, 3d printing machines, virtual reality equipment and other brand new gadgets from the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, based on IMD Campus. According to the president of IMD, Dominique Turpin, the objective was to give the business leaders the idea of what technologies can do for them – and also against them.

The main lesson for executives that are trying to understand and also lead their businesses in such a challenging situation is to develop a daring leadership. “You need to challenge yourself because we are in a business environment characterized by many high level changes, so the question to ask as a business executive or leader is: the world is changing. How about us? How about our company? They should have the courageous leadership to do things that are hard to do”, says professor Jelassi. Such leadership, according to him, requires also to trust and to give autonomy to teams, making them feel part of the community, creating a sense of belonging and solidarity.

After creating a trust community, the last and perhaps the most difficult challenge for businesses is to foster innovation – by creating an environment where failures are allowed and where at least part of the team is not focused on the day to day operation. “Businesses need to have a team where people are thinking about the future, not about how to reach quarterly results”, says Jelassi. Call it an innovation center or a laboratory, this is exactly the structure that the Tunisian government put in place during the one-year temporary mandate after the Arab Spring, managing to start the reforms people were protesting for years to have while the bureaucracy was working on daily tasks in a different building.

The lesson after one year of innovation, reforms, dialogue with a long term dissatisfied society and political pressure? “Survival should never be taken for granted, you need to work hard to achieve it. In a crisis time, leadership is about making hard choices, doing the unexpected, and sometimes the seemingly impossible”.

Written by Vivian Soares

ryanscott_profile-2Ryan Scott is the CEO and Founder at Causecast, the leading cause integration company. The platform offers workforce matching donations, volunteering including dollars for doers, disaster response, and custom campaigns. He is the Founder of The Impact and Educational Sections of the Huffington Post. Ryan Scott has served as Board Member of the Taproot Foundation. He has been a game platform developer. Ryan also holds a patent from the NetCreations, Inc., a company he co-founded. — by Elena Tarassenko

Can you please speak about the need you see present for improved employee engagement in volunteer work and corporate social responsibility?

The world’s leading companies in 2015 understand the need for employee volunteer programs and the majority offer some sort of opportunities for their employees to give back. Engaging one’s employees in community impact isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s an essential part of today’s bottom line. But it’s not enough to simply offer a program and assume that your employees will gratefully line up to get involved. Too many companies don’t put forth the effort to foster employee engagement in their programs, and the result is that participation rates are typically low. This is a lost opportunity with many ripples of consequences. Corporate volunteerism presents a powerful opportunity to transform the relationship that companies have with their communities, employees and stakeholders, and it’s vital that companies treat this part of their business with the same degree of care and thought as the rest of their operations.

Explain the new pro-social model for capitalists and why this theory is important.

In the past, creating economic value was purely the domain of corporations while social value creation was left to nonprofits, and never the twain shall meet. But what we’ve found is when corporations and nonprofits work together – combining a company’s unique ability to leverage capital with a nonprofit’s talents in working on social problems – we have something new, and we call it shared value. The magic of shared value is scale. We can finally get solutions at the scale that is required to actually solve those problems. I believe that by leveraging the power of capitalism in the service of causes and stretching the skills of your employees, we will see a historic shift to a world where, ultimately, businesses will compete with each other not only to make the most profit, but to do the most good. That’s the world we’re working toward.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 2.11.45 PM How does your platform succeed in engaging employees’ corporations?

I think that only when companies demonstrate economic incentive to creating social value will we be able to reach the scale we need to solve our problems, and I’m honored to be a part of helping enable companies to craft and execute these programs. The economic incentive will not come without seeing real impact – within communities and within the companies themselves, and impact won’t happen without robust engagement. At Causecast, we believe that engagement in volunteering and giving comes from a social, mobile and interactive experience. That’s why we designed our platform to foster a real-time connection between employees and their peers, their community and the company. Everything is designed to be easy, highly secure, automated and engaging, making involvement so seamless, trusted and fun that employees want more. Ultimately, the volunteer experience needs to feel rewarding for employees, administrators and nonprofits – that’s how you build on positive experiences to create a corporate culture of giving back.

If you could summarize what corporations have to gain from using a platform such as Causecast in a few phrases, what would they be?

For innovative growth companies, Causecast provides giving and volunteering technology solutions to reach the highest levels of employee engagement and social impact. In contrast to the sluggish, forms-based, top-down administrator focus that has historically dominated employee giving and volunteering mindset, our unique technology and one-on-one support model enables companies to build high-impact employee-led programs that are globally meaningful, locally relevant, and easy to manage – for a far lower total cost of ownership than traditional solutions.

Where do you believe senior executives have the most impact in terms of promoting social impact and investment within corporations?

The more that senior leaders can point to the bottom line benefits of corporate social responsibility, the more investment they’ll see their companies making in these areas. What we’ve started to see happen is more and more of our clients realize they want to invest in our system for recruiting and retention purposes, not just for PR. Recruiting and retention are the real business needs they can measure and something all businesses are struggling with right now. Ultimately, because of financial incentives, retaining top-level employees who are involved with the company’s corporate social responsibility programs will increase giving and the impact they’re going to have on the world. It’s also very important that senior executives demonstrate their leadership and commitment to their philanthropy initiatives by participating in them alongside their employees.

Causecast's team volunteer day for Enrich LA in May 2015.
Causecast’s team volunteer day for Enrich LA in May 2015.

What do you see as the connection between working on boards of nonprofits and the Causecast initiative?

Board service offers unique advantages as a form of volunteering that should influence anyone interested in their personal and professional growth as well as their ability to make a difference. No matter what your professional field or expertise, everyone should step up to the experience of serving on a nonprofit board for its untold positive benefits. That’s why one project I’m particularly enthusiastic about is giving all of our clients’ employees the opportunity to get involved with nonprofit board service, which is typically an opportunity exclusive to VPs and executives. There’s an organization that we’re working with for this project called CariClub.

What about Horyou’s Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF) is most interesting to you?

I’m very excited to see what strategic collaborations and powerful ideas emerge from SIGEF 2015, particularly within the “Technological Evolution for Social Good” theme. I’ve made that my life’s work, first as the co-founder of NetCreations, which paved the way for opt-in email marketing, and now as the CEO and founder of Causecast. It’s not easy to pull off an event like this on a global scale, but I think the world is in desperate need of it. I’m looking forward to the meaningful change that will inevitably result from this exciting social experiment.

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