Our Shared Challenges
We live in a complicated world that has repeatedly faced and overcome huge social and environmental challenges. Over the course of history, however, things have tended to get better. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The arc of the Moral Universe Is long, but it bends toward Justice". From voting rights for women to a female prime minister in Australia, from slavery to a black president in the USA. Democracy is the dominant paradigm around the world. Diseases are being cured, child mortality is being improved and the number of people in poverty is reducing. As optimists, we see a bright future. However, this future is dependent on us. The arc of the moral universe moves because of the actions of good people, and we stand on the shoulders of these giants. But even our optimism can’t mask the dark clouds ahead; climate change, slavery, gender equality, environmental destruction, conflict, racism, homelessness, poverty, illness and disenfranchisement. And we must find a way through.
We are not islands and we are not saviors, but we have made a choice to be active in bettering ourselves and the world around us. We do love being unreasonable though, as George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” (and woman – really!). We don’t yet know the limits of our potential, but we are committed to finding out. And we are committed to bringing our friends, family and community along with us. An ancient Jewish proverb states that “"It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it". The world is still out of balance in so many areas. We don’t know if our efforts will be the thing that tips the scales towards justice, but the more people that are trying, the greater the chance that one of us, or maybe even the sum of all of us, will actually change the world.
Every time we reach for our wallets, we make a choice about the world we want to create. Just as politicians respond to the polls, business responds to our everyday investments, and relies on our collective purchasing power to guide it. We’ve been coasting along in the traditional way for a little too long, buying and doing and imposing on our surroundings without much thought. If we want to be sustainable, be happier, and leave this beautiful world to our children in good shape, it's time for a change of direction.
We believe in new way of doing business: one that places social and environmental outcomes as centrally to our being as profit. One that gives people more options to contribute to a better world, whether it be through the magazines they read, the products they use, the investments they make or the home they live in, and doesn't exclude anyone from being able to do their part. We believe that everybody benefits from this model of impact investing, which combines the scalability and impact of business with the altruism of philanthropy. Doing this requires a very important ingredient, one that’s been overlooked but increasingly recognised as a central part of our new, emerging economy: empathy.
Empathy allows us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and experience life through their eyes. It challenges us to look beyond the immediate benefit to me, and consider what’s best for us. It opens us to possibilities that with only profit in mind are out of reach.
When we established Small Giants, we started with a series of questions: How can business be a force for change? Can we create the world we want to live in, rather than accept the status quo? What is the true meaning of success? What kind of workplace will bring out the best in our people? Almost a decade on, we’re still inspired by those questions, which guide the way we work together every day. If you’re around the White House, it won’t be long until you hear words like ‘family,’ and ‘love’ or hear people singing in the kitchen. We’re proud to wear our hearts on our sleeves about the causes we believe in, and show up just as we are. It’s when we’re free to align our values – personal, professional, goals, dreams, the lot – that the good work starts happening. Here’s an idea of what we mean:
People come first. Our business — any business — is about people. Our relationships with our colleagues, customers, suppliers and friends define who we are, so protect those relationships and always put the person first.
Everyone can find passion and meaning in their work and life. All too often people find themselves without direction, doing work they do not enjoy, unsure of why they are doing it. People are better at their jobs, inspire others and sustain an incredible culture when they are living their passion.
No one is an island. We believe that everyone, and everything, on the planet is connected. The idea that no one is an island can be understood in two ways. First, that no action goes without consequence. From the things we consume to the actions we take, every choice we make affects those around us and across the world. Choosing not to take stock of the consequences does not diminish their impact and so we must always remember that we exist in a sensitive human and planetary ecosystem, a local and global community. Second, it reminds us that no success can be solely attributed to one person. We are a team and each one of us owes our success to a series of circumstances and people which lead us to this point.
There is enough for every person’s need, but not for every person’s greed. We believe that humans can live sustainably on this earth. The world is fertile and giving but it cannot sustain humanity's current rate of consumption. The ability to understand what is 'enough' is essential for a sustainable future. It is also an important step in the process of finding purpose in life.
Business can be a force for good. We believe that business is a very powerful tool that should be used to add value to the world. Indeed, that was the original intention. Sadly, too many businesses have lost this noble purpose and have narrowed their objective to adding value to their shareholdres, often at the expense of the world and their other stakeholders. The rights of workers, respect for the environment and responsibility for customers and the community are at least as important as profits for shareholders. B Corporations embody these beliefs at their core. Every business should ask itself: 'is the world better because of me?' If you can't make a profit without adding value to the world, your business model is flawed. If you can't make a profit without destroying lives, you shouldn't be in business.
Finally, we believe in the power of enlightened hospitality. Hospitality is not just about restaurants; it is about showing respect and kindness to the guest, or even to the stranger. The virtue of hospitality is a global concept and expressed in almost all cultures on Earth. If there is one thing Small Giants could be remembered for, we would love it to be our enlightened hospitality: that effort made for everyone who passes through our doors to feel special, cared for and safe.
The Meaning of Life
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” We prefer the Dalai Lama’s take on this: Be Happy and Useful. This simple tagline drives everything we do at Small Giants. It is important to be happy – it would be so sad if we weren’t. Being happy also helps with being a good friend, colleague or stranger. In addition to doing something that makes you happy, it is important that it also adds value to the world. Each of us is driven by different values, so the first step is to explore your own values and ask what a better world looks like to you. Then it is a matter of whether what you do is contributing to that vision or detracting from it. And there are virtually no limits to the creative ways of working towards your vision.
We are forever inspired by this wonderful presentation by Victor Frankl on the power of idealism and the continuing importance of a search for meaning. Imagine what we can accomplish if we assume the best of each other and ourselves.