“Visionary” entrepreneurs and managers
There are many entrepreneurs and managers whose sensibilities or insights have contributed significantly to guiding the evolution of corporate culture.
The name of Italian entrepreneur Adriano Olivetti (1901 – 1960) is one. His well-known quote summarizes well the richness (and future content) of his way of thinking: “The factory cannot look only at the profit index. It must distribute wealth, culture, services, and democracy. I think the factory for man.”
In more recent years, there has been significant interest in the experience and commitment to the environment of US entrepreneur Yvon Chouinard (1934), who, after contributing profoundly to the evolution of ice climbing equipment and founding and leading the sportswear company Patagonia (1973), in September 2022 announced his intention to divest it to an ad hoc fund (Patagonia Purpose Trust) and a nonprofit organization (Holdfast Collective) so that all corporate profits can be reinvested in the fight against climate change.
Another entrepreneurial figure distinguished for her commitment to human rights and the environment was Britain’s Anita Roddick (1942 – 2007), founder of The Body Shop cosmetics company in 1976. Her approach to beauty and business was different and innovative. Roddick’s choice was to use natural and ethical ingredients and sell her products in essential, refillable packaging. Simple choices that turned out to be “revolutionary” in the 1970s helped spread environmental and social justice awareness and promoted an idea of beauty that was less about imposed standards and more about taking care of oneself to help people develop self-esteem and positive energy.
Among the interesting examples in the world of managers, a special mention is undoubtedly due to the experience of Paul Polman (1956), CEO of Unilever for 10 years (from 2009 to 2019). His commitment to fostering the establishment of businesses capable of improving the lives of all is outlined in his book, Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take. According to Polman, businesses today are called upon to help find answers for the two major challenges we are facing: climate change and growing inequality. According to Polman, companies should put themselves on the front line and support governments that cannot solve these problems alone.