UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Business is the answer


John ReplogleSolutions to global challenges will come from business.

That is the vision of John Replogle, CEO and president of Seventh Generation, the green-cleaning pioneer, and former CEO of Burt's Bees.

Replogle asked MBA students to name highly functioning global political organizations during a talk at UNC Kenan-Flagler. No one answered.

Next he asked them to name highly functioning global corporate organizations. They had lots of answers this time.

“Business has got to be the fulcrum, the centerpiece, the solution set to wrestling with and solving these global issues,” Replogle said. “I believe business is the most powerful force on earth.”

Businesses have to expand their responsibility from shareholders, he said, to stakeholders that include its community, customers, employees and supply chain.

And business has shifted its focus from the bottom line only to the triple-bottom-line of people, planet and profits. “Capitalism fundamentally has solved so many of the world’s issues,” Replogle said. “The problem is there’s a secondary impact that has gone unmeasured, these externalities.”

“We‘ve been living in the world of ‘more’ since the Industrial Revolution, and what that ultimately does is result in less: less natural resources, less biodiversity and less balance,” Replogle said.

Major global 21st century challenges that need solutions, he said, are:

  • human rights
  • water
  • healthcare
  • well-being gap
  • climate change
  • loss of biodiversity

Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are global corporations and only 49 are countries, he said, citing a Corporate Watch study. “Incredible opportunity to solve the world’s problems rests within these organizations,” Replogle said. “These are complex issues and therefore what’s going to be required to rise against these challenges is systemic thinking.”

Replogle identified five ingredients that the 21st century business leader needs to solve those challenges.

  • Vision: The ability to see what others don’t.

  • Courage: The ability to challenge and overcome obstacles and stay steadfast when you face challenges to your principles.

  • Collaboration: “Those who compete think in a zero-sum game; those who collaborate create incredible richness and opportunity. That’s what your job has to be, not to think as tigers and competitors but as collaborators and value creators.”

  • Engagement: “Those who really make a difference roll up their sleeves and get out there.”

  • Moral code: Knowing what’s right and defining that throughout all of your life. “It will define the arc of your success. We are a nation with a huge deficit in moral code today.”

Replogle gave this keynote address at the MBA Class of 2015 orientation day focused on “Living our Core Values.” To learn more about Seventh Generation, watch Replogle’s sustainability report, which shows him standing in front of the McColl Building at UNC Kenan-Flagler.