He waka eke noa — we’re all in this together

Earlier this month, I travelled down to Victoria to represent at the BCorp Assembly. We gathered on the beautiful lands of Bunurong country on the tip of the Mornington Peninsular in regional Victoria, B Corps from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (AANZ) convened in person for Assembly 2024, marking the first physical gathering since 2017.

With over 300 attendees representing various sectors and regions, Assembly 2024 showcased the exponential growth of the B Corp movement. From long-time members to newcomers, the event reflected the movement’s expansion and diversity, fostering renewed enthusiasm for collective action.

This event was far from a typical conference. This three-day event aimed to inspire change and courageous action towards a more equitable, sustainable, and regenerative future. A key premise was to have us leave with more questions than answers, and they delivered.

A lot happened over the three days… from small treks to breakout sessions on building community, and along with making new friends, below are some key challenges/thoughts I took away with me (you can dive in here for more details about Assembly 2024).

We kicked off with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony by local Elder Uncle Josh West, sharing his history and connection to the Kulin lands and setting the tone for meaningful discussions and reflections. Then dove straight in, head first — we tackled challenges from ‘woke capitalism’ to whether we should exclude so-called ‘bad actors’ from the movement and the value of 500-year business plans… that simple question changes everything. Right?

I enjoyed the straightforward challenges from Carl Rhodes, Dean of UTS Business School and Author of Woke Capitalism (check it out), as he challenged the role of businesses in civil society. He questioned the role of business in a world where: “companies are avoiding paying tax; there is an increase in precarious employment; inequality is being allowed to persist; and all while businesses share their ‘do-gooding’ ways'” Ouch!

I was particularly inspired by Māori business founder Michelle from AWWA, who shared ancient ways of doing business and the value they can play today. the inspiring discussion centred on the Māori values of manaakitanga (the process of showing respect, generosity and care), whanaungatanga (relationship, kinship and a sense of family connection), and kotahitanga (unity, togetherness, solidarity, collective action). I love these words, they sound cool, yes, but the simple and straight forward meaning behind them. There is no ambiguity about how these values should be sitting at the centre of all business planning, strategies and decision making.

Manaakitanga – the process of showing respect, generosity and care.
Whanaungatanga – relationship, kinship and a sense of family connection.
Kotahitanga – unity, togetherness, solidarity, collective action.

As Assembly 2024 drew to a close, we were reminded of the proverb “Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua” — walking backward into the future with eyes fixed on the past. Encouraged by the spirit of community and collaboration, participants vowed to continue challenging conventions and building a more sustainable and inclusive world together.

A little about B Corps and their growing commitment to changing the face of business… Since 2022, the number of Certified B Corporations has doubled from 4,000 to 8,000+ globally. It now spans 96 countries, 160+ industries, and employs over 750,000 people. The growth throughout Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand has seen similar trends with the number of B Corps more than doubling during these two years with now almost 700 B Corps in our region as of March 2024. We’re proud to be part of the movement and hope our participation inspires a better way of doing business. A more human way.


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