In November last year, Malcolm Lazenby and I had the privilege of travelling to Frutillar, Chile to join more than 700 people from over 20 countries at was described as the ‘largest and most ambitious constellation of events’ in the history of the B Corp movement: Encuentro+B.
To be in the space with so many people who are connected to each other through ‘using their business as a force for good’ was not only inspiring but also heart-warming. We were continually reminded why we belong to this movement by the generosity of spirit, the curiosity and genuine interest in each other and our organisations, and the humility as people shared amazing stories of what is being achieved.
Along with many other highlights, one of the important milestones of Encuentro+B was the presentation of an open letter to governments of the G20 nations, a meeting of which was taking place that same month in Argentina to discuss the global economy. In this letter, a group of business leaders, purpose-driven entrepreneurs and impact investors came together to summon G20 countries to help build an economic system that is useful to people and the planet.
However, even with all of this, some of our greatest learning and inspiration came from an organisation that is not yet a ‘B Corp’. The company is called Mainstream Renewable Power and it became clear to us that their purpose, principles and practices come from the same context, and that they are truly leading by example in their actions and work. Let me share that story.
Mainstream are installing renewable energy generation all over the world, including some very large projects in Chile. That is noteworthy on its own, however the way they are going about their projects, and in particular the way they are partnering with indigenous peoples, is truly impressive.
To be really honest, the idea of an energy company paying respect and attention to indigenous cultures as part of their work doesn’t quite fit my experience. However, we were able to hear the unfolding story of Mainstream’s approach to a new wind farm project, to see the trust and genuine respect in the relationship between the community liaison team and the indigenous elders, to hear the stories of the significance of the country we were on and the genuine concern from Mainstream for the protection of the sacred sites. And we were able to see how all of this is being incorporated in an agreed and sustainable plan for everyone. This was humbling.
We were invited to attend a two-hour ceremony, meeting and meal hosted by the native Mapuche community. At this gathering, conversations about relationships and sustainability of the community were the main agenda items, which told us a lot about the culture of Mainstream. We are not so naïve to suggest that the overall plan for the wind farm and its commercial viability was not at the back of everyone’s mind, however it was part of the consultation process rather than the whole story.
What is also wonderful is to know that after three years of collaboration and joint representation, approval for the Puelche Sur Wind Farm has been obtained and Mainstream’s community relations team are continuing their work in connecting the next phase of this important project to the overall life of the Mapuche community.
To us, this is a real example of a ‘for purpose’ organisation living what it believes in and leading by example. The sustainable focus and relationships that are being built and the engagement of the community in co-design and decision making are genuine and respectful.
You don’t have to be a B Corp to use your business as a ‘force for good’ – you simply have to make that commitment.