In our book Progressive Business Models, we write about the changing role of business in the “Anthropocene” era, the epoch since human life on Earth began to have an impact on the nature of our planet. The severe deterioration of the Earth can be tracked to current patterns of production and consumption, as business activities have come to dominate nearly all the life spheres almost everywhere in the world. Big business has been seen to play a crucial role in ecological degradation and human malfunctioning. Inherent features of today’s business archetypes inhibit enterprises from becoming environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.
The current mainstream paradigm of business has to be changed radically to achieve a sustainable Earth, or at least to advance toward it. This transformation requires the development of new business models which are ecology-oriented, producing values for society at large, not just for selected stakeholders. The essence of progressive business is defined as ecologically sustainable, future respecting and pro-social enterprise. Truly Progressive business aims to serve nature, future generations and society while maintaining its financial profitability and health in an integrated way. We emphasize that Progressive business is not just the “same old, same old” conventional prototype, with CSR tacked on to it for public relations purposes, the pattern in most enterprises today, as advocated in business books.
Our exemplar progressive companies include a variety of industries and countries as follows: Triodos Bank (ethical and sustainable banking, The Netherlands/transnational), Béres Pharmaceuticals (preventive and natural medicine and organic wine making, Hungary), illycafé (artisan coffee production and distribution, Italy/international), DKV Integralia (inclusion of disabled people into society and the workplace, Spain), Sonnentor (organic food, Austria), Armor (printer accessories and cartridge recycling, France), Lumituuli (clean technology, Finland), John Lewis Partnership (co-operative model governance in retailing, UK), Novo Nordisk (human centred pharmaceuticals, Denmark/international), Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (responsible hospitality, Norway/international), and Unilever (consumer goods, UK/Netherlands/global).
In summary, our Progressive business cases show how to achieve meaningful change in the critical humanity-nature nexus. They demonstrate how to become ecologically conscious, future respecting and pro-social agents in the “Anthropocene” where humanity should operate within the limits of the biosphere and contribute to the richness of life on Earth.