Bruce Walker, CEO and Co-founder of FutureX, believes now is the time to be bold, ambitious and purpose-driven

This month I had the opportunity to interview Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and now Co-founder & Chair of IMAGINE, a social venture which mobilises business leaders around tackling climate change and global inequality.

Paul spoke frankly about the socio-economic repercussions from Covid-19 and its impact on inequality across the world, particularly among ethnic minority communities, women and girls. The notion that the pandemic is a ‘great equaliser’ might make for a neat soundbite but it’s simply not the case. 

If we’re going to ‘build back better’ or work towards a fairer, greener and more equitable society post-Covid, it’s time we recognise the crucial role business must play. It’s not enough for companies to wait for government legislation that forces change. We have the capacity to lead that change ourselves today. 

Business and society, like humans and nature, are not separate from each other, they are one and the same – interlinked and interdependent. The decisions we take in our businesses have a direct impact on the wellbeing of our people and planet. We must now challenge all our assumptions and ask: is what we did yesterday fit for today? 

Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 is going to rely in part on entrepreneurs  but my fear is, if we don’t learn the lessons from the past, we’ll miss this opportunity to create a more diverse, inclusive and progressive attitude to business. 
How many people today want to start a business but feel it will never be in their grasp?

How many people are told their business idea is ‘not going to work’? Far too many in my experience. 

It’s not for me to tell you your business won’t work. After spending a number of years in Silicon Valley, I’ve long since discovered no one is qualified to tell you that. Ideas are cheap but having the determination and vision to bring something to life is what really counts. 
Our post-pandemic Scotland must get more comfortable with risk – to become an entrepreneurial nation that is prepared to try, learn and try again. It’s only when we accept what we don’t know that we’re ready to learn and open our minds to new possibilities. We need to recognise both our strengths and our shortcomings as a nation, and build towards the goal of a society where everyone benefits from innovation and entrepreneurship. 

I believe for this to happen, every company should have a purpose greater than profit. That’s not to say you shouldn’t create a profitable business. However, excess capital should not be the goal but the by-product of achieving your purpose. 

When financial success is interlinked to human and planetary success and wellbeing, then we’re really on to something exciting. For those of us who aim to support businesses and entrepreneurs in Scotland, we should take time to consider if we are working off old assumptions. Are we delivering events, competitions, accelerators, investment, funding and training in a way that reflects the diversity of our society? 

Now is the opportunity to reflect and adapt for a new world, in the knowledge that great innovation can and does come from anywhere, when people from different backgrounds are given equal opportunities.  .  

There are already some great initiatives under way and the CAN DO Collective, made up of more than 60 enterprise support leaders and organisations, are helping to bring together progressive ideas – from the Impact Economy Business Advisors training run by Scotland Can B, to recruitment and people specialists AAI EmployAbility delivering forward-thinking diversity and inclusivity workshops. 

When we have the collective will there is nothing that can’t be achieved. When we believe we can, we will. Now is Scotland’s time to be bold, ambitious and unapologetically purpose-driven. 
Together we can make business the greatest force for good throughout our nation. n