By Tony Tjan, CEO and Managing Partner, Cue Ball Capital
Let’s face it: 2017 wasn’t a year where the world set inspiring standards to which all of us should aspire. A seemingly infinite news cycle of corporate scandals, Hollywood sexism and scandal-ridden Silicon Valley cultures (and I’m not even adding politics into this mix) makes me realize how more ever we need to reestablish our trust in institutions and leadership through a “Call To Clean.”
From business ethics to healthy living—including alternatives to traditional models that improve our wellbeing— Cue Ball Capital seeks to advance this Call to Clean movement not just by backing complementary companies but by advocating a longer-term perspective—and time frame—around capital investments that have the potential to create positive, durable change. Clean isn’t just a matter of altruism. At Cue Ball we believe strongly that this area holds great long-term superior return potential for long-lasting value creation.
First, though, let’s take a look at some of the meanings of the word clean. For decades companies have sought to harness the sun, wind, tides and other natural resources on behalf of clean energy initiatives—and yes, a heightened commitment to clean energy is one element we’re calling for. Also for decades, cities and municipalities have sought to clean up our streets and communities to rid them of litter, drugs and crimes—and again, yes, that’s another element we value, too. Outside of science, business and government we’ve also seen a widespread cultural emphasis on cleaning our bodies, minds and souls through a better-rounded approach to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. That, too, is another facet of the Call to Clean.
In addition, we’re also calling for a complete reevaluation and subsequent correction of everything that isn’t clean – things that are, in fact, quite literally dirty, whether we’re talking about thoughtlessly short-term environmental practices or more fundamental human and values-driven qualities, including the premium businesses need to place on truth, humility, and self-awareness as baseline, non-negotiable expectations of leadership and institutions.
Why shouldn’t we want to eliminate unethical business practices, dirty politics (on all sides) and harmful practices and consumption? It’s a no-brainer. More importantly, we need to explore the role each one of us plays in our own consumption patterns, leadership styles or approaches to mentorship. Working collectively, we can embrace a simpler, more purposeful and yes, cleaner approach to practically everything.
At Cue Ball Capital, we embrace the Call to Clean philosophy across all our business practices, as well as in our lifestyle and venture investments. Nearly all our inclusionary companies embrace some form of conscious consumerism. Several of these companies are clean and fair beauty businesses armed with purpose-driven missions of providing consumers with safer, more natural and more ethical choices. At their foundation, as I point out in my book, “Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters,” are two qualities essential for creating any transformative culture, namely, truth and integrity. I believe that no business can hope to attain its higher purpose or highest expression without first establishing a foundation of clean and ethical business practices.
Many of us may not be aware of the non-clean choices we make. Every day, for example, we use our wallets to cast a vote for the products we buy, the services we use and the experiences we enjoy. Only rarely do we ask harder questions about the labor, business, and sourcing practices of the companies or establishments we frequent. Sometimes the truth requires very little investigation and often just common sense. A corner nail salon featuring a lineup of standby staff in a high-rent neighborhood that charges what seems to be too good a price to believe. A chain store selling fast-casual clothes that doesn’t go out of its way to advertise the grubby supply chain that underlies disposable fashion. The restaurant where we have our suspicions about what might be going on with the immigrant kitchen workers, but we ask for the menu anyway.
This much I can promise: if we all take a long-term approach to Cleaning our lives, helping the people around us do the same, and executing a variety of small daily changes with a fervent commitment to advancing Clean in every aspect of what we do, we will collectively begin to feel better, live better, and create a better world for ourselves, our communities and future generations.
How to put these ideals into practice? There are lots of ways, but let’s begin with a few:
If you don’t agree with a company’s ethics, don’t do business with them.
Become an agent and voice for change by helping to educate the people around you. Share your beliefs openly, whether it’s in your personal life or in your workplace. Let employees know that Clean business practices matter, and that you won’t compromise ethics for numbers.
Another simple way to embrace Clean is to by surrounding yourself with healthy lifestyle options. Consider the number of fast-casual food alternatives that have made cost-effective healthy foods available to an entirely new segment of consumers. Organic foods are becoming more affordable, and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will only expedite this trend. One of our portfolio companies is a nail salon chain committed to abolishing workforce exploitation and the harmful toxins that predominate this historically under-regulated industry. We are each given one body in this lifetime. We need to treat it well and use it wisely.
The “Call To Clean” is a bold and maybe even brazen call to action. It won’t happen overnight. But we have to start someplace, so why not start today? When we begin awakening as individuals, as business leaders and as members of a global community, and start paying attention to what’s taking place around us, we can make surer strides toward ridding the world of many of its unclean and destructive elements. The time for clean is now.
In future articles I will further explore a variety of tools and practices that will help us implement Clean into every aspect of our lives, business practices and culture. But I’m also eager to hear from you. What do you think?….