I dipped in and out of Marmalade, but the sessions I made it to seemed to lead continually back to the same points - the world would be a better place if we recognised where true value lies, if we genuinely valued people, and if we were able to live lives and pursue careers with our values at the heart; and these fundamentals shouldn’t have to be compromised in the name of business.
The people I met and organisations I learnt about left me with a real sense that business can no longer ride roughshod over people and the environment in the pursuit of dizzying financial success. Too many people are becoming disillusioned with the promised benefits of business as it currently operates and, crucially, people are proving there is another way. Marmalade kept demonstrating that through the development of innovative, exciting and sustainable products, through business models that provide jobs and that make the world a better place, communities can thrive and society can benefit.
However, I couldn’t help then seeing the implications of such a stance in the wider political and economic landscape. These organisations, wonderful as they are, are still tinkering at the edges in terms of impact. They face colossal odds in a landscape where politics colludes with the market in championing the virtue of profit despite the ravages of inequality and the wide ranging consequences of environmental and climate change. Not to mention the less tangible consequences for people and places; disintegrated communities, stress, isolation and loneliness that materialism and the fight to the top cannot solve, and indeed, likely, exacerbate to our own detriment.
Nevertheless, I feel emboldened by being surrounded by more and more people dedicated to proving the business case for organisations that step more gently in the communities around them. All of this is reflected wonderfully at Marmalade where people are seeking to make real change, and to craft lives and livelihoods where profit is a means to achieving other, worthier aims and ideals, rather than an end of itself. It’s an unusual space, and an inspiring one.