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Bringing Hearts and Minds to Work

Guilherme Leal (Natura, B-Team) in Dialogue with Walter Link (NOW Partners)

Natura co-founder, B-Team leader and running mate to Marina Silva in Brazil’s 2010 presidential election, Guilherme Leal is a pioneer of sustainable business. Here, he appears in dialogue with Walter Link, discussing the process of co-creating sustainable economies, the principles that have made Natura so successful, and the potential to create better societies through business.

Guilherme Leal © Renske van GrinsvenWalter Link: From the very beginning when we met in the 1990s, a long time ago, to co-create this movement of doing business differently – of integrating the social and the environmental and the human aspect into business – what struck me was that you had such a strong passion, not only to change a business but that this was also a very personal journey for you and that it started in a way very young seeing how we split life between the personal and the professional, between the business and the sustainability, between the human and the professional. That these splits are very much also one of the core problems of why we don’t have a healthy economy and a healthy society and healthy environment. How did it start for you, this recognition of this splits and the journey of overcoming them?

Guilherme Leal: It’s tough to say exactly how this has happened, but I believe that at home where I was living and experienced that we would like to create another one, an alternative one. This experience, this personal experience at home was related to work as a way to provide the conditions to survive and requiring us to leave love as a separate thing.

It was a challenging experience I would say – we could have had much more enjoyable life if we could as a family group live in a more integrated way. My father met with a very early end in his 50s with lack of hope. But my personal journey is to keep hope alive.

I used to say and I repeat many, many times – and it’s true for me – that without hope I can’t live. So since I was 20 or 21 in my life I’m trying to prove that we can combine, that we need to combine hope, change, day by day, in the way we live our lives, working, eating, celebrating, doing things and keeping hope – but not in a naïve way. Trying to build the foundations of hope, build experiences that can reinforce the reasons for hope.

Even knowing that human being is a highly complex being, that our history as humanity is not only made of pink colors but tough red colors, black colors, and so trying to be connected to reality but without losing the perspective that things can be changed. You yourself can change, can learn, can share, can be better day after day, and things could be better. Companies could be better, societies, communities could be better and many times I think that we are in the early stage.
"Companies could be better, societies, communities could be better and many times I think that we are in the early stage."

We human beings are at the early stage. We are not using probably 10% of our capacity to build, to co-create, to change things, to use less energy, and to use our more inner energies.

Bringing hearts & minds to work
Guilherme Leal © Renske van GrinsvenWalter Link: By now, I think it’s two million people who have been involved in creating products and distributing products in the whole creation experience of Natura and of course nowadays many companies do professional training, they even do leadership training, or innovation training, but you do it with a very deep personal exploration. I was always very struck by one of the first questions that many people ask when they come to work with Natura is what is the purpose of your life and how can that very personal purpose come into co-creation with the purpose of Natura that is not only to make and sell good products, it’s also really to be of service to the world.

So, tell us a little bit about like this journey that you invite people into who maybe have not asked the question to themselves and did not go to places to work where the company asked them, what do you care for? You as a human being what’s important for you? What has meaning for you?

Guilherme Leal: I remember the alignment of your personal desire, your personal meaning with the alignment, with the beliefs of a group of a company, make a huge difference. I remember that I read somebody probably around the ‘80s, saying that the American workers at that time used to leave their automobiles, hearts and minds in the parking lot and just the body enters the offices. And I used to say that without the heart pumping lot of blood to our brains and passion we cannot really make difference.

"Without the heart pumping lot of blood to our brains and passion we cannot really make difference."

We have been trying, and it’s not easy for sure, to bring hearts and minds to the work, to offer an opportunity to find meaning for our lives, not only find the resource to pay our bills but to bring, to really feel. We would love that all of our collaborators could feel important as builders of this new work that we would like to see. It’s not necessary to talk about the pains of this work, but about the hope and the possibilities that each of us has to promote change, together in a company like Natura, like Apple, like whatever, but as a citizen, as a family member, as a community member, as a customer exercising your power.

So, we try to bring this wholeness to life with our collaborators, our partners, our suppliers, the leaders of our communities and so on. We try to bring that it’s possible to work together, and it is possible and highly desirable to connect your personal life with your work, the home that you have in the community. It works, it’s our belief. It’s tough, it’s not easy. We need to change the ways to do this, to reinvent things, but it works.

Walter Link
NOW Partners’ founding CEO. Former co-owner of Euro-Asian industrial group. Co-founder & leader of first sustainable business networks across Europe and the Americas. Advisor and coach to senior leaders in business and other sectors. Passionately committed to co-creating a regenerative economy within a regenerative civilization.

Gesellschaft | Pioniere & Visionen, 15.07.2023

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