This week saw FutureX host its annual Impact Summit, which explores the rise of values-led, ethical business and some of the key pressing issues of our era; spanning themes such as tech for good, climate change, sustainability and mental wellbeing.
This year’s Summit also explored the implications of the ongoing pandemic and considered what this would mean for Work in the time of Covid-19.
Coronavirus has caused a global healthcare crisis resulting in over 300,000 deaths, and the associated disruption has led to an economic decline which is expected to trigger another worldwide recession.
Business has been hit hard, and organisations of all shapes and sizes are having to adjust to a new paradigm. Indeed, an inescapable side-effect was the delivery of the Summit itself, which took place as a fully virtual event for the first time ever.
Against this hugely challenging global backdrop, Futurex co-founder Bruce Walker believes that one small consolation is that it has presented an opportunity for consumers and businesses alike to reflect and change habits.
A society under lockdown now finds itself working from home, which presents challenges to communication, productivity and mental wellbeing.
Organisations the world over have been forced to embrace new working practices and refine their strategies. Ideas which many scoffed at six months ago – of a four-day working week, of fully-remote teams – are now a reality.
Meanwhile for consumers, online shopping has skyrocketed and for many businesses has become the only source of income. This provides customers with a chance to continue to support small and local businesses – or those which reflect their ethical values.
During the opening session, Walker’s fellow co-founder Zoi Kantounatou insisted that “now, more than ever, is the time to stand behind the businesses that are impactful, ethical and sustainable”.
A New Era of Impact
Walker believes there are positive signs that businesses are becoming more impact-orientated, and thinks that the current disruption presents an opportune moment to reflect on how we can maximise positive outcomes.
“It’s something that’s really coming of age now,” he says. “We have been involved in this ‘impactful’ space for a good number of years, and probably at a time when it definitely wasn’t in the mainstream.”
“It’s difficult, near impossible, for the whole world to have a ‘stop and reflect’ moment at the same time, and different people obviously have that throughout their lives at certain inflexion points, but we’ve all stopped and now have a chance to reflect,” Walker adds.
A lasting legacy of this era will be an altered perception of what tech for good really means. Yesterday, this was a key topic explored from a range of angles, with speakers from backgrounds including climate change, sustainable mobility and disabled accessibility.
“What we are seeing more of is that tech for good isn’t just about what you do, it’s about how you do it. That was the blend we went for yesterday with sessions like OLIO talking about going from two customers to two million, or people talking about business leadership from a perspective of empathy and patience,” he says.
“This is what makes tech for good exciting. It’s not all about what problem the product solves, but how you build your culture as well, because that’s impact,” Walker explains. “You are impacting the lives of everyone you touch; all of your employees, your customers and your stakeholders.”
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Long-term, Walker believes tech for good is a space in which Scotland can become a global leader. A raft of companies and entrepreneurs are already championing the cause in Scotland, which is embedding tech for good into the very fabric of the ecosystem.
“I think lots of entrepreneurs in Scotland, particularly in the tech space, recognise that they want their products and services to be a force for good. They want to solve a problem,” he says.
In the several years that FutureX has been running the Impact Summit, Walker says the language of the tech scene is now aligning to the behaviour. More companies are realising they’re a tech for good company, where previously they would not have associated as one.
Walker argues that at the core of this positive social intent is also solid business principles which bode well for the viability of the sector: “There’s this natural thing where people want to do something that’s going to help other people, and you know what? That actually makes great business sense.”