People / Planet / Profit – A conversation with Stuart Williams.

By on September 16, 2015
ian stuart

For our second speaker in our guest speaker series, we had a chance to sit with Stuart Williams. Stuart is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship, a frequent guest lecturer on social and environmental entrepreneurship at The College of Charleston, and a frequent global speaker on how to generate the future’s highest and most sustainable profits by embracing People and Planet. Stuart has presented his work to The Elders and at The United Nations.

In 1993, Stuart co-created the business, investment, humanitarian and environmental thesis of Making A Profit While Making A Difference. Using his own blueprint for a Whole Systems Approach that goes way beyond sustainability, his team was the first to design and run a project that engaged an entire country to build its emerging economy on the Principles of People, Planet, Profit. In addition to governments, Stuart and his team design similar programs for private ecosystems such as Corporations, Professionals Service Firms, Private Family Offices, Endowments, Foundations, and Wealth, Asset and Investment Managers.

PE took notes of the whole conference call. We do a live conference call and video chat with each session where you can engage in the conversation. To be on the list for when the next conversation is live please fill out our contact list at

People Planet & Profits – Stuart Williams:

When I first introduced the idea of whole systems thinking in the late 80’s and early 90’s, people thought I had lost my mind. CEOs and executives wanted absolutely nothing to do with the crazy idea. All that has changed dramatically over the last 15 to 20 years with the final culmination of the market crash of 2008. Many people are now keenly aware of the absolute need, not want, to change before it’s too late. The crash of 2008 brought us to the very brink of a global economic collapse, and it became painfully obvious that America and the west are not too big to fail. In the 80’s and 90’s it was a conscious movement to invest in sustainable whole systems thinking. Now in today’s global economy it is not consciousness but rather common sense that tells us that building a whole systems approach is not just a good idea but the only way to save the world from the brink of social unrest.

The good news is this is a huge opportunity for us, the human race, to come together in a spirit of collaboration. There truly is only one race, the human race, and if we don’t work together NOW it may be too late too soon. It is no longer acceptable to only intellectualize the idea of whole systems thinking, but now time to act swiftly with whole systems doing.

The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. The Stone Age ended because technology changed the way humanity interacted. Planet Earth will survive ultimately, but our children and grandchildren and our way of life may not. This is painfully obvious to our youth, and that is where we have to start. We, the baby boomers, are seeing the last gasp of the extraction age. The extraction of fossil fuels, coal and precious resources of the planet. This “Extraction Age” was the single biggest wealth building phase of the planet. It has created wealth as never before realized on this planet and along with it a very disproportionate sense of power and money. We, the baby boomers, will not be the ones to change it. It will be our youth, the millennials, which will soon be the largest generation on the planet as the baby boomers die out. The general thought is that the millenials need to make major sacrifices to fix the problems they’ve inherited from us. This is simply unfair and selfish of the baby boomers. The millenials didn’t create this problem. We need to lead the way in helping to pass on to them a world that will be here for them and their children. It is often said that the millenials are the “Entitled” generation. I have 3 children who are millenials and wholly disagree with that statement. My children are not entitled, but they do have a very different set of values than we do. That’s not entitlement. Our youth are not going to work 100 hours a week to earn a billion dollars. They will work 100 hours a week to make change. We need to help them as they guide humanity into the future. We need to accept responsibility for the mess we have caused and help fix it.

As I said earlier, there needs to be a whole paradigm shift of what the values are for our financial systems. It is okay to make a profit, but not at the expense of any people or the planet. That is the idea behind ‘People, Planet and Profit’. Profit is good. Profit at the expense of people or planet is unacceptable.

Whether man made or not, climate change is real. It matters not whether man is accelerating the process or not. We must deal with the fact that our oceans are rising. This is physically evident in the area where I live in Charleston, SC. I live on Kiawah Island and the locals all agree this is the highest tides we’ve ever seen. The ice in Alaska is melting at alarming rates. California has an unprecedented drought. The climate is changing now. The people who will be the most effected by this are the poorer citizens of the world. One argument I’ve heard is that we’ve had an Ice Age before. This is true, but there also wasn’t 7 billion people on the planet. There is going to be major suffering if we cannot adjust to our changing dynamics.

It is not just climate change. There is a global economic ecosystem that has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. If we cannot get a whole systems, mutually beneficial paradigm to global economics then the answer is obvious that we are headed for social unrest. It is not a question of if, but when. Tomorrow? I don’t think so. In my lifetime, very possibly. In our children’s lifetimes, inevitably. Any student of history can tell you that there have been many super powers over the civilizations. Without exception, when the gap between haves and have nots gets too wide a super power will implode on itself. The world’s first super power was China. With civil unrest and expansion super powers have inevitably moved west. The super power moved from China to Greece, to Italy, to Spain, to France, to UK and finally to The US. If we in the west have the naive delusion that the US will remain a super power forever then we are in big trouble. Everything cycles and unless we change the cycle the super powers will continue to move west and ultimately be China again. I believe by now acting on the whole systems thinking and moving onto whole systems doing that the next super power could be the disenfranchised people of the world. As the very famous document reads “We The People” are the stewards of our society and our planet. Does it have to be a nation that is the super power? That is the question. Can the next super power be ‘We The People’?

One of the major obstacles to face is that these issues are very complex ecosystems around the planet, and the problems are largely systematic. By systematic I mean all-encompassing. The system itself is part of the cause, and not just an effect. We must identify and address the systematic problems that are driving our financial realities. An absolute and real paradigm shift must occur on a fundamental level in the following 6 facets of our economy.

1. Finance
2. Legal System
3. Accounting
4. Health Care
5. Education
6. Consumer Lending

The profit only driven model that we currently operate under is not only unsustainable but self-defeating. These industries are very engrained in every aspect of our society and are going to be very hard to change.

We have to shift our current paradigm from one of a completely top down pyramid approach to asset allocation, to a holistic circular all inclusive approach which includes profit, but not at the expense of any people or planet.

Screen shot 2015-09-16 at 5.54.59 PM

As a society we need to learn to work together. This is in contradiction to what we actually teach our children which is competition, competition, competition. That is the first step.

I have started two initiatives to begin the whole systems doing. One is from the top down, which needs to be part of this new whole systems paradigm, to completely change the banking industry. In New York we are launching the world’s first totally transparent whole systems banking approach. The other is the bottom up, which definitely needs to be involved in the change, on a local economy level. We are initiating the bottom up community approach right here in Charleston. Working with The College of Charleston we are developing Charleston’s local economic, cultural, and environmental eco-systems based on the whole systems approach. We will be looking to partner with people from the community to develop an outline of the parameters required to be part of our whole system community and will begin voting with our dollars on a local economic level.

That is the basic outline for the ground work going forward. We need leaders in each of the 6 above named industries to use these points of industry to drive change in the approach to the future of our precious human race.

The main thing to remember. 1. Never quit 2. Pursue your passion relentlessly 3. Don’t be afraid to disrupt

For more information on Stuart Williams, his work and ongoing initiatives please go to

Purposeful Entrepreneurship hosts these monthly calls to help organize our base of committed doers with each other and resources. If you’d like to stay in the loop just fill out our contact form at

Feel free to use the comments section for questions and feedback. We will be sure to forward them to Stuart.

About iansanchez4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *