Sometimes shared value comes dressed up in a gorilla suit

[“Does the world have to wait for our extinction?” –Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Inc (1934 – 2011) ]

Doing business within the limits of the environment will be the new reality for organizations, as clearly emphasized in all blog posts in Creative Sustainability Marketing. This will mean adjusting, changing or even creating new business models from scratch. But why is this taking so long? Has the constant hype of sustainability numbed companies down to continuing with business as usual? Did someone forget to clean the window with the view onto the shared value-paved path to business success?

Sometimes, we just cannot see what we don’t expect to see –such as gorillas in the middle of basketball games. A famous experiment conducted by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons aims to showcase our failure to notice “a fully-visible but unexpected entity when focusing attention on something else”. In this test dubbed the “Invisible Gorilla”, subjects were given a task to watch a video of people playing basketball and count the amount of passes one of the teams made. In the middle of the game, a gorilla walks past the players. Surprisingly, the majority of the subjects fail to notice the gorilla.  How is that they missed something thumping its chest right in front of their faces?

The conclusion of the test is that missing something so prominent depends not on the “limits of the eye, but on the limits of the mind”. Despite the inflated campaigning for triple bottom lines, progress in this field from the private sector seems to be as slow as the facial hair growth of teenage boys.

Creating wealth whilst staying within environmental limits is not only the right way to do business, but can potentially offer a competitive advantage (and one day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, also become the actual status quo): today’s consumer actually thinks twice about where their banana or microwave comes from, not just if the price is right.

Translation: business can’t afford to ignore the impacts these buying practices have, for example, on producers. So weirdly enough, to maximise profit in the long-term, organizations needs genuinely to value more than just maximising profit.

[“If anybody can – everybody can”Ray Anderson]

In the end, sustainability marketing is still marketing -it’s just highlighting another benefit. Nonetheless, companies’ sustainability marketing can play a role in giving us that extra nudge and creating an environment that will make it easier for us to choose what is best for ourselves, for our society and for the little orb we prance around on.


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