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Black and white headshot of Berry Liberman smiling

Good chats: In conversation with Berry Liberman

March 25, 2024
November 2, 2020

To celebrate Bank Australia’s B Corp certification, we're speaking to a range of people from across the B Corp community about the power of good business. This month, we chat to Berry Liberman, publisher of Dumbo Feather, founder of Small Giants and all-round advocate for more conscious capitalism.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? For Berry Liberman, it’s making a positive impact on the world – and encouraging others to do the same.

You can see Berry’s passion and purpose throughout her work. Dumbo Feather – part magazine, part coffee-table book, all inspiration – has been sharing conversations with extraordinary people since 2003. Berry took the publishing reins in 2011, and has featured stories with Esther Perel, Bruce Pascoe and Ben Quilty, among others.  

Small Giants, founded in 2007 with her partner Danny Almagor, was established to help empower businesses and entrepreneurs in making their footprint more socially equitable and environmentally regenerative.

Berry’s also the owner of the Impact Investment Group, an investment funds manager showing that finance can be a force for good, and is part of The Sociable Weaver family, a design and building company creating sustainable, community-minded, functional homes.

The one thing these businesses have in common (apart from Berry’s involvement)? They’re all B Corps. We sat down for a chat.

Bank Australia:

It’s probably safe to assume that most people you deal with on a daily basis subscribe to this idea of “purpose”, both on an individual and a business level. But there are still huge chunks of society – in Australia and globally – that haven’t, and are carrying on as it the world isn’t on fire. What do you think we need to do to ensure we can affect as much positive change as possible?  

Berry Liberman:

I'm not the person to answer that question and I'll tell you why: I don't think that the converted are actually converted yet. I think that the people who you think are in the choir that we're preaching to are really enjoying the podcast and buying the books and underlining the phrases and getting excited, but they're not doing it one hundred per cent. There are, of course, the legends who do, but the majority of people who would be on our side have yet to take the leap where they're no longer hedging in the old economy and the old system.

Why is this purpose-led movement so important now?

We were born at the right moment to be of service to this time. And the majority of people right now are just trying to cope with what COVID has done to the world – and the shock of that is enormous. If you never questioned the old system, what is happening now through COVID will be devastating to you psychologically.

For those of us who've been thinking about it for a long time, it's a very sanguine feeling of ‘Wow, we're here at the collapse of the system’. The old systems have no ability and resilience. They cannot cope with these kinds of external shocks and these shakes to the market. But if you've been preparing for long enough, and you have your local community, that's what people need right now. The new currency going forward is not going to be money. It's going to be connection.

And we can see that without connection, who are we? We're quite lost and broken and depressed. So I feel like the converted aren't converted yet. I believe the opportunity this moment avails us is to double down, triple down, on our commitment to a future we want to leave our children and grandchildren, and that we can feel nourished living in right now.

How do you think the B Corp movement in Australia is helping companies, who are already ethical, to keep pushing forward?

B Corp helps those of us who are lighting smoke stacks at the top of the mountain find the other companies and communities that want to do the same kind of work, in the same kind of way. We can find each other. We know where we are and it creates an economic ecosystem that can begin to thrive outside of ‘business as usual’.

That is why B Corp is important. Maybe in 10 years there'll be something else. But B Corp right now is the industry standard for ethical business practice. It’s a flag in the sand or a smokestack on the mount, and we want to sign up to a moral and ethical framework that will keep us accountable to our people, to our staff and out into the world.

As a collective, we keep each other accountable and that self-audit feels so important in a world really gone mad, where the rules, certainly in business, have been steeped in profit and shareholder value as opposed to stakeholder value. I think B Corp is a movement whose time had come and we've felt very privileged and honoured to be a part of that globally.

What difference does it make to your life knowing that whatever you're putting out into the world, from a professional point of view, is helping people or the planet? How does that impact you?

I don't know how anyone wakes up in the morning and is not doing good stuff for the world and their community. I wouldn't be able to get out of bed if I didn't have that; that sense of purpose and clarity.

If it's good for the planet, it’s good for people, and you've clarified what you're supposed to do with your day. You're not confused because if the answer is no, well then it's not on the table. I find it deeply clarifying.

Read more about B Corp, and using business as a force for good

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