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By David Harder on October, 6, 2017

Why Social Entrepreneurs Own the Future

Not long ago, I spoke to a group of CEOs in Calgary. The city was something of a ghost town. Most of the business executives were in petroleum and natural gas. After the presentation, I pointed out that hanging on for dear life with the petroleum industry was lowering the region’s capacity to change and find a new path. Between Keystone and a slight uptick in the oil market, Calgary is in better shape for now. For those that continue to look at oil as “the future” the returns will fizzle out over time. The Millennials and members of the new IGeneration simply won’t have it.


Just like people in general, the world is filled with CEOs who don’t have the creativity and adaptability to change. But, there is bright spot and it is growing into a Tsunami. The social entrepreneur is bent on proving that doing what is good for the world must also be highly profitable.


One of the world’s most stunning examples of a CEO who is building a new future is Felke Sijbasma of the Dutch company DSM. For many years, DSM was in the bulk chemistry business. When he took over a decade ago, he realized that DSM could just be another “cracker” in the petroleum industry or it could use its powerful talent pool to solve global problems and succeed financially. He also recognized that talent and culture play critical roles in the company’s success. So, he leads the culture. From that perspective, Mr. Sijbasma recognized that meaning and purpose is more important to employees than shareholder value.


Today, DSM is an $8.8billion organization that produces ethanol from farmer’s waste. They bring sustainable practices and products to an industry known for its routine and sometimes egregious pollution to our world. DSM built a division, a category leader, that provides nutrition to poverty-stricken areas of the world. The company’s newest product, Dynseema fiber, one of the company’s recent product launches produces giant nets to clean up the world’s oceans.


The social entrepreneur represents the single most valuable leader in today’s business world. These are the men and women who are proving that solving the world’s problems can only be sustainable if we make the ventures highly profitable. They do not settle or compromise. The social entrepreneur insists on business plans that meet the needs of the world and the shareholders. They don’t order their workers to produce, they engage their workers in the mission. We pay too little attention to them. For example, many people are not aware that Al Gore is now the wealthiest Vice President in the history of the United States. He co-founded Capricorn Group with a partner from Goldman Sachs. For the last ten years, they have funded business ventures that end pollution, produce clean water, develop green power, and bring healthcare to the most desolate spots on earth. Consider how much these ventures will grow as young people take the reigns of world power.


We spend a lot of capital producing negative news. We are far more likely to hear a story about poisoned water or someone getting blown off of a toilet in a fracking town. But, what about the brave women and men who lead businesses that improve our world? I believe that our children will be influenced in a far more positive way by studying our amazing social entrepreneurs and gleaning the lessons they can apply to their own futures.


In my new book, I interviewed Adam Miller, the founder, and CEO of Cornerstone on Demand. When we were finished, the topic of social entrepreneurs came up. Adam is a deeply humble leader. But, I saw this immense pride light up his face. He said, “I guess I am one of those entrepreneurs.” Well, Cornerstone provides learning to over 26million subscribers, they are a category leader, and they are hugely successful.


This is such a very important time to filter what we pay attention to. Rather than looking at organizations that cling to the past, let’s pay attention to those that build a better and more profitable future. Study people like Al Gore, Adam Miller, Felke Sijbasma, and yes, Oprah Winfrey.


I have observed so many of our participants walk in the doors of our programs only to emerge with a business that positively changes the world. I have witnessed participants leave jobs where there is little meaning and join organizations that are making a positive difference in the world. This is such a common occurrence that I believe people thirst for meaning in their relationship towards work. Let us harness that energy.


Calgary! Are you listening? America! Are you paying attention?

We can build a better future. We can make a trunk load of money. We can provide jobs that are meaningful and abundant.

Social entrepreneurs are proving it.

Brought to you by David Harder – Founder & President, Inspired Work, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2017, David Harder – (All Rights Reserved)

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