May 19, 2017 | Written by: John Palfreyman
I recently had the honor of joining a panel at the Responsible Business Forum at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School sponsored by the Mars Catalyst organization. The conference brought companies together to share their experience of tackling key challenges in their ecosystems to generate financial, social, and environmental value at scale. These business practices are the core of the term ‘mutuality.’ My participation in the excellent, vibrant conference inspired me to write this blog post!
Mutuality – What?
As they strive for short term profits are large corporates destroying trust that citizens have in them? Are they focusing on markets and money at the cost of morality? Mutuality is all about restoring this trust by focusing on the Friedman Doctrine of “making as much money as possible whilst conforming to the basic rules of society”.
Mutuality takes us way beyond “corporate social responsibility” by cementing in measures of an organisation’s usage of people (human capital, social capital) and planet (environmental, natural) resources alongside traditional financial measures.
But non-financial stuff is hard to measure, and there is no agreed approach or standards – hence the conference to debate mutuality measures for business that can be applied at scale.
There were some excellent examples of mutuality in action at the conference. Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer explained how their “Plan A” includes saving £750M over 10 years by certifying their suppliers as bronze, silver or gold on sustainability. Louise Koch from Dell explained how they are tackling the 50 ton per year computer waste problem with a recycling program open to all brands of computer. Martin Radvan’s explanation of how Mars have been embracing mutuality and sharing the results of their endeavours since 1937 was truly inspiring and gives great hope for the future.
Blockchain – How?
“Yes, but what’s mutuality got to do with blockchain?” you may well ask! Blockchain is a trusted distributed ledger with shared business processes. It can be used to track the movement of many asset types (tangible and intangible) across a business network. The use of blockchain gives clarity of who’s done what, and when transactions (change of asset ownership) are validated by selected business network participants to engender trust. This results in one view of truth, shared across the business network.
Let’s apply our blockchain use case tests to the mutuality use case:
I conclude that:
- Blockchain would add considerable value to organisations wishing to embrace mutuality
- TRUST is the common element and net benefit from the application of blockchain to this business challenge
And the Future?
There are similarities between blockchain and economics of mutuality. Both are emerging (blockchain = technology, mutuality = business) with some excellent early proof points and much promise.
Whilst there are some interesting blockchain use cases around carbon trading (e.g. Carbon Emission Reduction – China) the use of distributed ledger technology to underpin “mainstream” mutuality in business is still an exciting prospect for the future.
TRUST makes these prospects even more exciting. To have robust, transparent mutuality measures would go a long way to building an individual’s trust in the large corporate.
More about Blockchain?
These blog posts talk about different aspects of blockchain for business
- Boiling Down Business Blockchain
- Blockchain Smart Contracts
- Blockchain Privacy Services
- Consensus for Business Blockchain
- What blockchain IS NOT
and these cover some cross industry use cases:
- Supply Chain Management
- Asset Management
- Blockchain for Asset Registration
Comments and discussion VERY welcome!