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Integral Thinking & True Materiality – Part 5/7: Scalability Opportunities Define the Size of Impact

This 7-part series has been first published on Sustainable Brands between late January and early March 2016 as a 6-part series and a follow-up by Bill Baue, co-founder of Convetit and the Sustainability Context Group. It captures the essence of my thinking I was able to gather through the extraordinary work of the Reporting 3.0 Platform, GISR and the ThriveAbility Foundation in 2015. What came out is a structure that I called a ‘new impetus embracing purpose, success and scalability for thriving organizations’. I am reposting the original 6 parts here and add a part #7 with reflections of others. This is part 5/7.

Here in Part 5 of the series, we look at the lower-right third of the new impetus diagram that we introduced in Part 1. We have already built a great basis through the discussion about purpose of the organization, how that links to support a green & inclusive and/or regenerative economy concept (Part 3). We also have more clarity on how organizations calculate success through multi-capital accounting and assess True Future Value potential (Part 4). The tools used don’t have to be perfect already, as long as they are decision-useful and are good enough to prepare decision-making by the relevant bodies. Take, for example, Puma’s first e-p/l or The Crown Estate’s Total Contribution concept as good examples of decision-useful concepts that readily admitted their room to continue maturing.

So this Part will focus on activities needed to scale up a green and inclusive economy from within the organization and externally. And as the below diagram suggests, scalability ties directly into purpose and success.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-08 um 10.38.19

Diagram 8: Integral thinking and true materiality need a renewed focus on scalability and the necessary size of the impacts to be achieved for the green & inclusive economy we desire.

Overcoming the 3-gap problem internally

Internally, the challenge is to create the necessary socio-cultural leadership atmosphere that creates the understanding of the organizational transformation capacity that allows sustainability to be fully embedded, up to the potential ambition level of being a thrivable organization (as per the strategy continuum presented in Part 3, Diagram 4) and as presented through the 3-gap-problem in Diagram 2 in Part 2 of the series and the aligned ThriveAbility Index measurement as laid out in Part 4.

The ThriveAbility Foundation based its approach on a ThriveAbility Journey for organizations on the idea of stratification, recognising that people pass through developmental stages at different rate and that their worldview, values and needs vary considerably depending upon their developmental Center of Gravity i.e. where they are most comfortable and capable. This means that:

  • in our communications and interactions with others, we are most likely to be effective when we meet people where they are at;
  • when designing change and transformation initiatives, surveys of the developmental levels of people in the organisation are essential to map the alignment of individuals with the organisation and each other, as well as the changes proposed;
  • motivating people needs to take a stratified approach, while also identifying where the energy for change is coming from, and where the blockages to change arise*.

Various techniques advance this approach. At the ThriveAbility Foundation, we use CultureView and LeaderView assessments to build the basis for an organizational stratification approach**. This approach stems from more than 40 years of learning about Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory, now also designed to fit the ThriveAbility strategy continuum. The below diagram shows a sample of a Masterclass of executives that was able to learn

  • the various levels of the emergence of human consciousness as it has been mapped by Integral Theory. It is the story of a dynamic interplay of human coping mechanisms that leave behind observable patterns in ‘bio-psycho-cultural-social systems’;
  • how the individual emergence level of the group participants is composed of;
  • how the sum of the individual levels constitute the governance, hierarchy and work processes of the organization;
  • how their present working state differs from their desired working state that allows organizational transformation and the necessary purpose and success discussions and decisions to become focus areas for the organization to prepare for that change.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-08 um 10.40.08

Diagram 9: Building organizational awareness about present and desired work arrangements through a cultural and leadership lens.

The group also learned about their readiness for change, their change patterns and their executive change intelligence, as well as their patterns of thinking, coping mechanisms, perception of organizational priorities and finally an overall cultural fit-factor. If a total change of mindset is necessary, it will need to happen here.

To measure progress toward ThriveAbility across the 3 Gaps, the ThriveAbility Foundation can utilize:

  • CultureView and LeaderView, which assess progress on the Socio-Cultural Leadership Axis;
  • The ThriveAbility Maturity Assessment, which covers about 90 specific criteria and related variables to measure scaling up on the Organizational Transformation Axis;
  • The Multi-Capital Scorecard (MCS), a context-based measurement tool successfully employed at Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Unilever subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, and Procter & Gamble Subsidiary New Chapter to assess progress on closing the Sustainability Axis, as well as the Future Fit Business Benchmark (FFBB), which offers a set of 21 science-based indicators (to be published in spring 2016), employed e.g. at The Body Shop.

Combining all these tools will help to transform Kate Raworth’s 2-dimensional Doughnut, which defines the environmental ceilings and social floors to achieve a safe and just operating space for humankind, into a 3-dimensional change management tool that describes how companies can support the shift from suffering to struggling to thriving by activating innovation pathways. This would build the core roadmap design for an organization that attends to micro-macro connections while creating business benefit and measuring programs and activities in a multi-capital way. Building a connection to the SDGs now also makes more sense as they are seen in a seamless and clearly positioned manner. It would also lead to a strengthened role of governance, best described from moving from an ESG push to a GSE pull (as described in Part 3 already), a change of mindset of governance experts is needed.

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Diagram 10: Designing Innovation Pathways that helps organizations connect a clearer purpose, success definition and scalability potential to their ThriveAbility approaches (Source: ThriveAbility Foundation, based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut).

In addition to these tools, scenario planning and business modeling are important tools, too. Building on Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, the Flourishing Business Model Canvas is a welcome broadening of Osterwalder’s model, but still in an experimentation phase.

While the stratification approach is mainly educational for designing and deciding on strategic priorities, the second main aspect to prepare for scalability is collaboration. While current conventional wisdom embraces Integrated Thinking, the ThriveAbility Foundation advocates the deeper approach of Integral Thinking, which embraces Integral Theory to dig deeper and combine all dimensions of the 3-gap-problem.

It is reassuring to see how organizations that deal with these three gaps at the same time develop the best potential to become thrivable organizations. A shining example is Interface, one of the leading carpet-tile companies, showcasing the success potential of becoming what they call a ‘restorative’ business. Over the last 22 years the company has worked on their ‘Mission Zero’, climbing ‘Mount Sustainability’ and developing business models like ‘NetWorks’ to succeed on an fully embedded Circular Economy approach and Biomimicry strategy by 2020, while building additional social value. ‘NetWorks’, developed with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), stems from that thinking. Other organizations that come to mind that show potential in closing the 3 gaps simultaneously are Kingfisher, The Crown Estate, Natura, Unilever, BT, The Body Shop, Patagonia, with many other organizations still some steps away.

The problem, however, is that for those companies that still need to follow suite 22 years later, the path is way too long. So the work of Reporting 3.0, The ThriveAbility Foundation, and GISR are all essential pieces to get this enlightenment pathway down to 5-10 years, so scaling up successes through education and collaboration is essential.

Overcoming the 3-gap problem externally

Collaboration and education of course also have an external side. Programs could be envisaged for industry associations and specific networks that are playing an important role in issue-specific leverage on many fronts. They can use the same instruments as companies use internally, and can hugely benefit from them. Analyzing many of the existing networks from the 3-gap-problem perspective, most of them deal with one or two axis, hardly anyone pushes for all three. The above portfolio is an offering to learn and fill the blanks through education for such groups and additional stimulation for collaboration.

At this time it is crucial to insist on one specific point that also closes the circle to the discussion around purpose and success definition. We have already discussed the economic system aspect in the earlier Parts, especially around the ‚micro-macro-link’. To put it bluntly again: without a generic change in our economic system boundaries that define costing, pricing and taxing of resources and activities, there won’t be ThriveAbility, let alone sustainability. We will have to rely on the 5-10% of enlightened leaders that will help to make the remaining 90% become brave followers through a changed economic system with a level playing field that will need to demand playing by the changed rules. That means that advocation of existing leaders towards such a change in the economic system boundaries becomes a crucial aspect in scalability to turn our planetary ship around, or even more: it becomes a matter of survival.

We saw glimpses of that potential willingness for advocation in the cases of the SDGs and COP21, but we also see specific not-for-profit organizations ready to start for that advocation through their very own purpose, too. Ex’tax, a Dutch NGO, is specifically advocating for the taxation system to change to resource taxation instead of taxation on labour. The True Price Foundation advocates for a better inclusion of external costing in pricing structures. Other initiatives like Trucost, The Natural Capital Coalition, the Science-Based Targets Initiative (and many more), help define other parts of the advocation spectrum and link micro through meso to macro. These initiatives tackle the heart of economic system boundary change, they go further than just the SDGs that don’t imagine a changed economic system.

What to do in the short term?

Let’s imagine once more what a sustainability and/or integrated report could already report on for the scalability part of our new impetus. Innovation roadmaps, transformational change, stratification as laid out in this part of the series will take a while to become customized, fine-tuned and carried out. But here’s what could be reported on in this coming reporting cycle already:

Education (internal and external):

  • How far are the ‘World View’, the ambition level and the related strategy communicated within the organization, and how do education/training programs consider and support this?
  • Are all employees addressed and is this completely integrated in education and training on all levels of the organization?
  • Are there joint educational programs developed for the whole value cycle (in consequence: internally and externally) and does this support joint target-setting and implementation campaigns to achieve sustainability/ThriveAbility in these value cycles?

 Collaboration Capabilities:

  • In how far is the company engaged beyond its associations and interest lobbying? Which networks, cross-industry initiatives to create new sustainable business models for societal value added is the company part of? Do those need to be created still by a group of companies?
  • Do employees have time for societal engagement and are they positively stimulated to help find long-term solutions in order to avoid short-term conflict? Is there slack time to ‘think’ alone, in groups, on all three parts of this new impetus?
  • Is the company aware and busy with true sustainable innovation beyond existing rebound effects, e.g. in creating circular, sharing or collaborative service business models?
  • In which thematic research networks is the company active? Does it take part in award schemes on most sustainable solutions, alone or together with other partners?


  • Is the company perceived as an active player in presenting their ‘World View’ and their potential scenarios around sustainability and/or ThriveAbility?
  • Is the leadership actively engaged in the promotion of a green & inclusive economy and the necessary changes in boundary setting, e.g. internalization of external costs, changes towards a more sustainable tax system, creating of level playing fields in international relations, e.g. trade agreements, international accounting rules, etc.)

With Parts 3, 4 and 5 we have now covered all three parts of the triangle that surround the idea of Integral Thinking and True Materiality. With the instruments in place, the processes to be adapted, and the people lined up towards purpose, success and scalability, the new impetus should create necessary outcomes to become a useful framework for designing a multi-year roadmap. By that, all current initiatives an organization carries out can be put in place, assessed and positioned.

In Part 6 we will look at the envisaged outcomes of the new impetus. It will be the closing Part of this series.

* Thanks go to Dr. Robin Lincoln Wood for crafting the ‚stratification’ definition for the purpose of achieving ThriveAbility.

** Culture View and Leadership View have been developed by 5Deep Ltd. and have been adapted to help closing the 3-gap-problem for ThriveAbility. These are standard instruments in masterclasses and corporate transformation projects for ThriveAbility.


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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Thriveability


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Integral Thinking & True Materiality – Part 3/7: Purpose Defines Connectedness

This 7-part series has been first published on Sustainable Brands between late January and early March 2016 as a 6-part series and a follow-up by Bill Baue, co-founder of Convetit and the Sustainability Context Group. It captures the essence of my thinking I was able to gather through the extraordinary work of the Reporting 3.0 Platform, GISR and the ThriveAbility Foundation in 2015. What came out is a structure that I called a ‘new impetus embracing purpose, success and scalability for thriving organizations’. I am reposting the original 6 parts here and add a part #7 with reflections of others. This is part 3/7.

In Part One of this series, Diagram 1 showed an overview of the three main areas of the proposed change need for integral thinking and true materiality; Part Two explained why we need this new impetus. Part Three now tackles the upper section of the triangle – the need for chrystalizing purpose to better show connectness to the problems that need to be solved in interrelated ways.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-08 um 10.37.37Diagram 3: Integral thinking and true materiality need a renewed focus on the purpose of the organization and connectedness to the economy we want to live in.

It has been interesting to see how the discussion about ‚the purpose’ of an organization or an economy has moved into the forefront in the last 1-2 years. The 2015 numbers of the Global Footprint Network (GFN) or from UNDESA on population, consumerism and the environment [insert link] are just telling one striking story: as a species, we humans are on a slow death path.

The fact that the ‚human’ role in sustainability now gets back into the focus simply shows that it dawns on us that we forgot to take people on board of the sustainability journey, in companies as well as in private circumstances. Sustainability is not exciting for the majority of human beings. We see constant shoulderclapping about reports in which we are told how much less bad a reporting entity became, without any ‚North Star’ that could tell us what is ‚minimally good enough’, or what would lead to an envisioned future beyond just having a ‚zero negative impact’; this was sucked up by our frugality of installing sustainability departments that took care of policies, management systems, reporting and assurance. The ‚three gap problem’ as discussed in Part Two of this series led to a reduced understanding of sustainability in which essential aspects of sustainability like ‚people, planet and prosperity’ became ‚people, planet and profit’ and intergenerational equity fell by the wayside.

In consequence, Sustainability Context still remains the most neglected Content Principle of any GRI-based sustainability report. Seldom does a reader understand the ‚world view’ of a company, its leadership advocation to change the economic system towards serving a green & inclusive economy, and how the product & service spectrum offered makes a positive contribution (instead of less negative impact), alone or in collaboration / co-creation with others.

It is amazing to see how disconnected sustainability or integrated reports are with ‚the whole’ which we are contributing to (or not). Reporters typically claim it’s too complex to envision a different economic model, exploring a new level playing field in which market mechanisms can automatically work towards an aimed-at state of being regenerative and inclusive. Isn’t that what scenario analysis was invented for?

We developed our current economic model as one set of conventions, and it is up to us to change that for the better. Haven’t we already decided to aim for a green & inclusive economy at Rio+20 in 2012? So where are we with that? There are indeed some positive prompters here:

  • There is a whole set of macro datasets that show the ‚global pulse’ of our continued negative pathway, which means a better understanding of the interconnectedness of our doing and its effects on the planet is more and more possible. Various IT networks, data providers and technology firms work on making ‚the whole’ visible, up to artificial intelligence (AI) approaches (see a variety of these in the Reporting 3.0 2015 conference report, The main issue here is to translate that into data clusters that corporations can use for their ‚micro-macro’ impact interpretation.
  • A variety of companies and development organizations work with the idea of Creating Shared Value (CSV) as proposed and vividly defended by Porter and Kramer for years. While definitely a good learning approach, CSV doesn’t yet prove to be able to either move the concept beyond the ‚feelgood’ areas of collaboration and co-creation; the nasty issues aren’t really solvable since they need new ‚rules of the game’, a normative approach to global change. And secondly, CSV aims at optimizing within an existent frame of economic system boundaries. We won’t get to a sustainable or regenerative economy without also tackling those economic system boundaries to create new level playing fields in which industries can transform. Porter and Kramer, it seems, remain in the 1990s thinking of enlarging competitive advantage with creating (extra) shared value.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals are an interim step towards learning to understand thresholds in a context-based sense, leading to less-bad impact, probably a planet of ‚Zeronauts’ (to stress John Elkington’s brilliant book from 2012). The translation to apply and measure contributions in the corporate world, in local and regional circumstances as well as globally, is still to be developed. A plethora of initiatives are underway to find out, and hopefully it will be a training area to explore the possibility of thriveable, gross positive impact as the greatest innovation boost ever. Each company needs to define where they stay in the continuum that the ThriveAbility Foundation has offered, see the following diagram:

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-10 um 11.13.50Diagram 4: The strategy continuum to assess a company’s position in a world that needs to leapfrog from surviving to thriving (Source: A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility, page 18).

  • Kate Raworth’s ‚Doughnut’ model, showing environmental ceilings and social floors, has given us a 2-dimensional picture of interconnectedness, but only good enough to get us from suffering to struggling – it misses the ‚operating system’ to create real thriving. This model needs adaptation to become 3-dimensional, adding the component of human transformation to accelerate positive change. This is what the ThriveAbility Foundation recommends to get us from stage 1-3 of the above diagram to stages 4 and 5, and in consequence appeals to a change from an ‚ESG Push’ towards a ‚GSE Pull’, addressing authority, decision-making and accountability in one stringent approach. This needs leadership in ways that until now only a Ray Anderson (Interface), Paul Polman (Unilever), Sir Ian Cheshire (ex-Kingfisher) and some other corporate leaders have shown. Only through this advocacy will we get to economic system boundaries change addressing the ‚macro-micro change area’, mainly though the combined integration of external effects into cost accounting, translation into pricing mechanisms, and counterbalancing those effects by a drastically changed tax and subsidies regime on a global scale. The work of Trucost, the True Price Foundation, Ex’tax and others in this area are therefore essential to get this masterplan done over time, together.

So, imagine a sustainability and/or integrated report that showcases a reporting organization’s contribution through a chapter on purpose and connectedness. What would a reader expect to see answered? The below are examples of what I personally would find substantial in that area.

On Contextualization:

  • Does the company have a ‘World View’ and a long(er)-term idea of positioning in the continuum from ‘Compliance’ to ‘Thriving’ when it comes to impacts and outcomes across the multiple capitals? Where does it want to be in the future?
  • Is there one strategy, or does the company have a separate sustainability strategy (which should be avoided, as it signals sustainability as a side issue)?
  • Is the corporate strategy based on affecting the root causes of global non-sustainability, or is the strategy just based on curing symptoms of non-sustainability (like the majority of companies do at this moment)?
  • Are there various scenarios in which the company is testing its possibilities to impact and gets addional insight into its long-term positioning?

On Leadership:

  • Is the socio-cultural leadership gap addressed (part of the three-gap problem)?
  • Are company leaders assessing the transformation blockages in the sustainability gap (also part of the three-gap problem)?
  • How is sustainability visible in the organizational hierarchy? Is sustainability integrated in strategy and governance so that the sustainability team could veto non-sustainable corporate decisions?
  • To what extent is the leadership group aware about a responsibility for sustainability above and beyond the legal construct of the organization?
  • What does the company contribute to asks or campaigns to change the unsustainable boundaries of our current economic system, e.g. trade barriers, unsustainable subsidies, political lobbying, testing new ‘level playing fields’ through the combination of true costing, true pricing, true taxation?

On Ambition Level:

  • What’s the company’s view on growth? How does it differentiate sustainable from non-sustainable growth?
  • How does the company define its ambition level and how are short-term targets derived from succeeding its long-term ambition level (e.g. through back-casting)?
  • How are all employees included in defining the purpose and connectedness of the corporate strategy to sustainability?
  • How does the company differentiate efficiency gains, productivity gains and their respective rebound effects vis-à-vis the need for sustainable innovation?

It is these questions that build the ‚glue’ and segway into the vision of performance beyond just doing the minimum needed. It would add to the idea that current approaches don’t add up altogether and that technology alone won’t cut anything without the humans on board. This is tough work in hierarchical structures and even tougher in multinational companies. But it honestly the only way we can deliver. It is time for new conventions.

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Posted by on March 10, 2016 in Thriveability


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