I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek, as I guess many of you. I stumbled this morning on this video of his about courage to lead and it reinforced my belief that, just to start, public companies should be publishing their results in the form of a Triple Bottom Line (3BL): People, Planet and Profit.

Don’t you also sell cigarettes in your stores Mrs. CVS?

Simon reminded me about this fascinating story about CVS, the pharmacist in the US, facing a tough decision to make in the journey of becoming a health company, CVS Health, from a drugstore chain. This transformation was lead by Helena Foulkes, Exec VP at the time. Inc reported about her speech at the Conscious Capitalism Leadership here.

CVS had a vision statement expressed pretty much as “We are to protect the health of our employees and customers”. Repeatedly, in meetings with hospitals and doctors discussing potential partnership, towards the end of these meetings someone would say: “Don’t you also sell cigarettes in your shops?

Imagine the face of CVS’ execs… Foulkes explains that CVS had always sold cigarettes in their drugstores, they made money out of it: $2B to be precise. Making the decision to ban cigarettes from all stores was a tough one to make in light of short term profits but congruent with the mission statement, the hiring and retaining of millennials, attracting HR and Insurance partners but also simply because it was the right thing to do for society’s health!

And so they went ahead in 2014, removing all cigarettes from their stores. Wall Street did welcome the move by slashing the stock, analysts “predicting” dark days for CVS and no change for cigarette consumption. It turned out that cigarette sales didn’t all go somewhere else, despite competitors like Walgreen’s and Rite Aid using all kinds of reasons to “think about it further”, CVS’s courage paid off.

CVS revenue by the end of 2014, in spite of drugstore losses, increased circa 10% with operating profit growing above 4% and CVS stock peaked at all-time high in 2015.  The pride of employees, customer loyalty and advocacy made it happen.

Changing economy foundational values for a better world? 3BL made mandatory?

This amazing story highlights the biggest challenge business leaders are facing today: building organizations making money AND meaningful change at the same time.

“There’s clearly a sense of the need in the business community to modify capitalism in some way, to redefine it, and to re-establish it in the public imagination as a force for good.”

said Alan Murray, the managing editor at Fortune.

Hence my belief to make 3BL mandatory for public companies by the major stock exchange markets as an integral part of the companies quarterly results publication. It would in turn provide all investors with transparent information about what companies real impact is on people, planet and profit. Maybe it would ignite a virtuous circle of investors asking themselves: “At similar prospective financial returns, shouldn’t we invest in the best 3BL possible?”

True information creates education and what leaders are doing inspires. Millennials to start, they are already over 60% of decision makers in Tech, care about companies purpose — that is true purpose not green washing easily spotted. Zeno reports, out of a 2020 research interviewing more than 8,000 people , that consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong Purpose.

What are we waiting for? Let’s have the courage to lead for good!

So what are we waiting for to make Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) core to our businesses? Not just appointing a chief CSR like corporation did appoint CDOs because business leaders didn’t know how to handle digital transformation. The wake up call COVID sent their way was brutal.

Let’s not wait for the brutal wake up call greenhouse gas emission is to send us in a few decades! Let’s genuinely act now upon the biggest challenge mankind faces. This generation — as the last generation to be able to do something about climate change before it’s too late — can address with the means at our disposal: courage to lead for good!

Happy to discuss it with you, feel free to comment and share ideas below.


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