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#232 - The Future of Finance & Social Enterprise on the Good Future Podcast, with John Treadgold

July 05, 2022

#232 - The Future of Finance & Social Enterprise on the Good Future Podcast, with John Treadgold
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Sustainable impact investing is one way for businesses to have financial gains and positively impact social and environmental issues at the same time. John’s mission is to reboot finance and economics to serve people and the planet better.

Sustainable impact investing is one way for businesses to have financial gains and positively impact social and environmental issues at the same time.

John Treadgold is a sustainable investment expert and the Founder and host of the Good Future podcast. Good Future highlights business leaders in sustainable, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), and impact investing who are re-defining economics and building companies as a force for good. 

John’s mission is to reboot finance & economics, to better serve people and the planet. For him, this is something that, no matter how the economy ebbs and flows or how the challenges, pivots, and strategies of an organization change, their mission stays solid. 

John is also a writer and an independent communication and strategy consultant who helps investors and businesses identify the emerging opportunities for sustainable investing. 

In today’s episode, John shares how the entire field of ESG and sustainable finance are adapting and progressing even more resiliently in a sustainable future. He gives an update on his podcast, the Good Future podcast, and shares the impacts of the sustainable investment world. Cory and John also discuss how they navigated the COVID pandemic as entrepreneurs.

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The Better World Weekly is a weekly newsletter written and published by Grow Ensemble Founder and Podcast Host, Cory Ames. For the latest insights, analysis, and inspiration for building a better world, join the 1000s of changemakers and social entrepreneurs from all sectors all over the globe who get this email in their inbox every Monday.

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  • The impact of the COVID pandemic on Cory, John, and their businesses
  • John’s approach to working independently as a consultant
  • The changes and evolution of the Good Future podcast
  • How podcasts create meaningful connections and learnings
  • The importance of data in finance and climate impacts
  • How John emphasizes the power of decision-making when it comes to impact investing
  • The exciting future for the Good Future podcast






John Treadgold  0:00  
It's been a really great journey with the podcast at the center. And I've still got that energy. Early on, it seems ridiculous now, but I felt like - have I run out of people to speak to in, you know, the impact investment sector? And you sort of stare at it for a moment, but then that's just wearing your own blinkers. And as soon as you stretch it, and you become more ingrained in the industry, you realize how broad it is, and the many different voices. People like yourself who I wouldn't have discovered otherwise, having these great, broader, more philosophical discussions about this field. You know, what a great opportunity.

Cory Ames  0:35  
Hey, y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, as always, so grateful to have you listening in. Today I'm speaking with sustainable investment expert and host of the Good Future podcast, John Treadgold. This isn't John's first time on the podcast, we actually had the pleasure of speaking back in spring 2020. Whew, what a time. Really refreshing to have John back for a conversation, to talk about how he himself fielded the pandemic, how his business, podcast, the Good Future podcast, has shaped and molded over the last couple of years, and likewise, how the entire field of ESG and sustainable finance has changed and shaped up for, hopefully, an even more resilient, and sustainable future. 

So we dive into many of these conversation bits here in just a moment. Highly recommend checking out John's podcast, Good Future podcast, for a deep dive into the world of impact investment. John is a writer and clearly has thought quite deeply on these various subjects in talks with a lot of really incredibly smart minds in the world of sustainable finance, so highly recommend checking that out. But before we dive into our conversation, I want to invite you to sign up for my Better World Weekly newsletter. It's a weekly newsletter that I write and publish myself, send out every single Monday. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter, to get the next one in your inbox. Alright, y'all, without further ado, here's John Treadgold from Good Future.

John Treadgold  2:24  
Post COVID. It's a funny one, isn't it? I'm here in Australia, and while we have relaxed a lot of the restrictions, there's probably more COVID around than ever. I've had it myself recently and it knocked me around pretty seriously. But yeah, I think as in many places in the world, obviously not in China, there is this view of, okay, we've got vaccination rates up to a certain level so we're going to relax the most stringent restrictions, and people are essentially learning to live with it. Doesn't mean it's easy. 

But yeah, look, that's right, we spoke at the beginning of 2020 and we just didn't know what to expect. You look at the way the stock market reacted and it was hell and brimstone. And fortunately, it didn't turn out to be quite as dire. The vaccine was pretty miraculous in terms of its production. And we all sort of landed on our feet. But yeah, but I mean, bringing that down to a personal level, like yourself, I work for myself as an independent consultant. And so yeah, there was a lot of uncertainty in those early days. I lost a couple of clients. So that was pretty tough. 

But in this world that I work in, which is the world of sustainable investing, and working with investors that are leading in that space, the years prior had been a really positive time of growth of ESG and impact. But there were the doubters that said that it wouldn't weather a downturn, it was a fair weather trend. But that was all proved wrong. Because essentially, this world of ESG impact is all about understanding the investment risk factors beyond just the traditional financial factors. That's what a pandemic is all about. That is the outlier. That is the social impacts, and the worker impacts, health impacts. 

And so yeah, the field, the sector group, if anything, and financial returns were really strong. Now, that's clearly partly due to the general market sentiment that hit a low but then rapidly swerved back up. Obviously, technology companies, which are naturally low carbon did well, that tends to have a weight in ESG and impact funds. We don't need to get into that. But yeah, so look, an interesting roller coaster ride. My business like any other was up and down, but we're in halfway through 2022 and everything's looking really good. 

The perception, the need, the awareness of terms like ESG and impact is stronger than they've ever been, and there is now a sort of a push back. And I see that as a natural part of the hype cycle. And in some ways, it shows that we're making traction, and that those that don't want change, the incumbents, are pushing back stronger than ever. So yeah, I think the fundamentals haven't changed, and all's looking good. How about yourself, the world of social enterprises intrinsically linked, there - has much change for you?

Cory Ames  5:26  
Yeah, I mean, much of the same, and certainly some different components as well. I mean, it seems like the last two plus years have been perhaps like a condensed 10 years of history in some sort of way. I don't know if it's like some sort of, like hyper attentive focus on media and news and happenings around the world, because we're all at home for that period of time. But it feels like a whole bunch of things happened, and really nothing at all happened in such a short condensed amount of time. 

So I feel like from the aspect of social enterprise, and just broadly sustainable business, I do feel like there's a lot more hands involved. Just anecdotally speaking for one, there's companies who weren't speaking with such messages and communications before the pandemic, who now are, you know, making climate pledges or as well, you know, you might be referring to, or you can look to the social justice movements in the US, a lot of companies taking some sort of activist stance during that time, and moving forward to where I feel like the social and environmental consciousness of companies' consciousness, I don't know if that's exactly the right word - awareness, perhaps - just that, that these are things that are quite concerning to people is much higher than it was before. 

But you know, if we're speaking to social enterprise versus just the broad spectrum of all business, you know, be it from the the Amazons to the small businesses that that perhaps are started for a different purpose, I'm noticing that the spectrum of those businesses that are interested in social and environmental impact or consciousness is varying widely from the multinationals to startups and much smaller groups. So, more people are involved. And, of course, it's an exciting thing. You know, as you're mentioning, similar in the world of finance, with your realm. 

And as well, there's, you know, there's some things that you need to be skeptical about in some of the mainstream messaging and communications. So the interest is there, surely. And I think likewise, just from folks, younger people who are interested in getting into work that has purpose, has meaning, there's a much greater, it seems, commitment or, you know, obligation that it feels younger people have entering and transitioning the workforce, you know. We have this great resignation, there seems to be a much greater pulse of people who want to have work that has purpose, and they're looking for companies that align with those values. And I think, likewise, that was a trend that was happening, but I do think that COVID kind of put fuel on the fire. 

So more interests, you know, and likewise, there's things to look out for, and things to be wary of. But personally, you know, myself, I feel like it was maybe two of the hardest years I think I've ever had in working for myself. I think the level of focus and discipline you needed to have to continue to, kind of like, make progress and building this thing, you know, you conceive of your business, was very challenging in a space where you're in a kind of Groundhog Day routine. I benefit a lot from novelty, as I know other people do, just from, you know, seeing different places and different people. And sometimes it felt like, you know, my brain was just kind of complete mush and numb, to where it was very hard to have the fuel, the inspiration, the next day to kind of do what felt like the same thing I did yesterday, the day before and weeks before that. 

So I think about work a little bit differently now, I don't know, if you do. Has that changed at all for you? And I know, working independently, you know, there's a lot of flexibility that is inherent and implicit in it. But perhaps emerging from from COVID in some way, do you think about how you approach work and the balance between that with life at all differently, or nothing noticeable?

John Treadgold  9:20  
Yeah, I think that's certainly been a shift that I made three or four years before the pandemic, when I shifted to working as an independent consultant. I feel like us consultants who've worked for ourselves, pre COVID, we were there already when everybody was working at home and everyone was talking about, oh, isn't it difficult to work at a home office? You're sleeping the same place that you're working? And we're like, yeah, yeah, we've been there. Like, we've worked through all of these challenges. And so in some ways, we were the old hands. 

And, I mean, what's interesting is people say, Oh, you'd be used to working at home. But I always found it really difficult for those reasons. I'd always try and work in a co working space, I still really enjoyed having people around me and I needed it for focus. It's too easy to go and make a cup of tea and do the washing all those sorts of things. Everybody's aware of that now, that's always been a challenge for me. In terms of the shift - yeah, I think that it's just a continuation of that constant, I guess, personal debate about how to manage work life balance. What does lifestyle mean? What does work mean? What's my purpose? And I think that's only gotten stronger. 

And I think I have to keep remembering, when I have the hard times whether or not that's when I have not enough work, or the very real problem of having too much work, which happens - it's always at one end of the extreme, one end of the spectrum - that I have to sort of take a moment, take a breath and be like, well, I work for myself, I make my own hours, I'm working in a field that I'm passionate about that I spent years researching, you know, just because I really enjoyed it and wanted to know all about it. I get to ask some of the smartest people in the world questions about the field in my own podcast. And, yeah, I'm sort of at the cutting edge of this new field. And day to day, there are challenges, it can be difficult pros and cons, that when I zoom out, and I look at where I've got to, it's really exciting to have that control. 

And yeah, I think I'm naturally a generalist. And I now embrace that as not being a problem. I was always like, I need a specialization. But now I've sort of embraced, being a generalist as a bit of a superpower in terms of being able to look at so many different areas of the world, take the macro view, and the micro view and be able to process all of that and return. And I think that's a value to my clients rather than being a sort of a drawback. Big organizations, investment firms, because I've got lots of specialists, right, and they're all in their section, they've got their desk, they've got their role, and they do it. But the external consultant comes in, and their role is to have a perception of the world and understand the market, but then also to ask lots of smart questions and get a feel for the organization and give them a perspective on themselves that you can't do - you can't read the label when you're in the job. 

So yeah, embracing all of those elements that are unique to me, and channeling them to bring value. So has it changed? I think, yeah, I just think that reflection is all there. And look, I think what's so interesting, beginning of 2020, we were talking about this new world, people were saying, like, will we no longer ever shake hands? And I was always like, I think you guys are overselling it. Shaking hands is so intrinsic to humanity. Of course, we're going to hug each other, you know, the basics of human connection, are not going to be blown up with an infection or virus. 

So yeah, and here we are lives pretty much back to normal. People wearing masks, people shaking hands, I think it's great that we're more aware of hygiene, people aren't going to work when they're sick. I think that's a really great outcome, that if you've got a cold, you stay home or you wear a mask, and people are really aware of that. So that's great - washing hands. Yeah, it's an interesting place.

Cory Ames  13:13  
Well, and so when when we first spoke, John, your podcast, the Good Future podcast, I think you were in maybe the teens or the 20s, in your episodes, and I just caught your up in the 80s. You might be nearing episode 100 sometime soon. And so I'm interested to know, has the purpose of the Good Future podcast changed for you with time? Have you noticed it and in some way? Or is your approach to it different than maybe it was a couple of years ago? 

And because I'm always interested, too, as more people have flooded into the podcast space, there's certainly-- not many people stick around for years and years and years. So I'm really curious, how have you felt about sustaining? You know, has your energy level with it varied? Where are you at with a Good Future podcast and how has that changed?

John Treadgold  14:06  
Yeah, that's another great topic to reflect on. And I've got more energy than ever. I fell into the podcast world with very little expectations. I knew that the topics I wanted to talk about weren't being talked about, there was a gap there. And I felt that I could ask questions, but I didn't really know what I would get out of it or where it would lead. But I think the key benefit that I've taken personally, is a really valuable personal development in terms of active listening and being able to ask questions. 

And for a consultant that's so valuable. That's all you do. You have meetings and your job essentially, is to ask questions, and to tease out what are the problems in these organizations? And you've got to dig below the answers that are verbalized, and really understand and have questions that dig deeper. That's the same with a podcast. And so I've really embraced that. I think I'm scared to listen to some of those early episodes because I'm sure I'll cringe at how bad the audio is, and my own stumbling on questions, and all those sorts of bits and pieces. But the paradox is that when you start early on, you don't want a big audience because you're probably terrible. 

So it all works well, though, when you start out, you don't have a big audience. Everybody learns together and you grow. I'm approaching number 100. I've got a, you know, a big and growing, committed audience now, that's growing every week. More and more people reaching out from, you know, sort of concentric circles stretching around the world. And that's really exciting. And I think my podcast and my own understanding of the field of sustainable investing has grown together. I think my timing was excellent. In some ways, I was very lucky to, both in terms of the themes and the the field, as much as you say about the world of podcasting, which exploded in 2020, when everybody was at home and wanted to share their opinions and their gripes with the world. 

So yeah, it's been a really powerful personal development piece. And it's interesting how I started because I discovered this world of impact investing, and it brought together my interests from development, economics, international development, and then I was working in finance. Impact investing was a real lightbulb moment. I was like, "Oh, wow, I can bring together these two parts of my world." And I thought that's a perfect thematic for a podcast. And at that stage, I was the one asking questions, because I felt that I was naïve, maybe not naïve, but curious, had lots of questions. And I think that came through. And now two, three years later, I'm being asked those questions by younger people and being invited to speak at conferences and those sorts of things. 

So it's been a really great journey with the podcast at the center. And I've still got that energy. Early on, it seems ridiculous now, but I felt like, "have I run out of people to speak to in, you know, the impact investment sector?" And you sort of stare at it for a moment, but then that's just wearing your own blinkers. And as soon as you stretch it, and you become more ingrained in the industry, you realize how broad it is, and the many different voices, people like yourself who I wouldn't have discovered otherwise, having these great, broad and more philosophical discussions about this field, you know, what a great opportunity. So yeah, onward. How about yourself? I think you have a higher output than me. You've got great systems to get it done. But has it changed from the, I guess, always inevitable, naivety at the start to having a great track record?

Cory Ames  17:36  
Yeah, I share a similar sentiment. I mean, it started with an interest in a particular field and thought that podcasting would be a really good mechanism to gain some familiarity with it, both with the people and the subject matter, and just start to understand what conversations are actually important, and worth having in the context of sustainable business and social enterprise. And so yeah, that was mainly the object from the very beginning, but it has shifted I feel like multiple times now. 

I think we're publishing Episode 225, or something this week, at least it while we're recording here. You know, I've thought about where the podcast kind of fits in - like, I need to mentally place it somewhere. It feels like I have that kind of obsession of like, how does it fit in the concept of what, you know, my business is. Me as an entrepreneur, where does the podcast fit for me, and ultimately, where it's evolving. Like, I thought about it as to some business development engine or whatever, you know, especially in the context of consulting - which I'm doing less consulting now than I was. And what what has kind of felt to make the most sense for me, ultimately, is that the podcast is really a research mechanism for everything else for me. 

So I feel like the podcast, the conversations that I have on it, the people I connect with, are now ultimately fueling the writing that I do on the backside of it, you know, and what sort of fodder and things that I sit with, for articles, ideas, and otherwise. And so I'm writing right now, an update for our newsletter, our Better World Weekly newsletter, in the shift in this kind of actually being something of an announcement, a new project, what we're calling the Learn Ensemble project, but really, this is to put together a resource library for the who, what, why, where and how of building a better world. 

And so I see these different conversations with folks like yourself who have the variable expertise, from the world of impact investing to conversations I had last week in regenerative agriculture. You know, I'm trying to get all these little subsets of questions answered now at this point, and kind of like start to piece those together. And what I imagine is some kind of conceptual library. It's shaped so much for me and the business that I have now, and as well, the community that I've developed. I think maybe the very first person that I interviewed, her name is Adrianne Chandra-Huff, she's from Bodhi Surf Yoga, a surf & yoga resort, a certified B Corporation in Costa Rica. And her co founders too, they've been some of my best friends ever since that point. She was generous enough to be the first guest that I interviewed who wasn't a family member or friend. 

So, you know, I've made some really meaningful connections from it. And now I'm really interested in to, you know, like you, after gaining what I felt is maybe, one, some confidence in the fact that I had some subject matter expertise, you know, but likewise, the subject matter expertise, to really dive deep into the material and the substance of it, and hopefully start to develop or reflect some new and interesting, or original thoughts as it pertains to the world of social enterprise and sustainable business. And definitely some thoughts that won't be new and interesting, you know, I'm counting on that as well in that process. 

But, you know, that's how it goes. There's some wins and there's some losses, but I've really enjoyed how it's shaped. It's been, you know, ebbs and flows and the energy levels, I think, that's also been matched with the arrival of my wife and I's first son, too. So that had a big, you know, kind of hit my energy level. So it's hard to tell if that was the podcast or my baby boy, but you know, what are you gonna do?

John Treadgold  21:11  
Yeah, well, congratulations. That's great to hear. Mom and babe are healthy, great to hear. But look, so interesting, that idea of the coalescing of ideas. And people may-- if someone came to this fresh, they may say, you're talking about, you know, you've got a surf yoga entrepreneur, and this guy's talking about sustainable finance, that these are so vastly different, what's the linkage? But to me, that linkage is so natural. Those things that are clearly-- it's that underlying philosophy of-- I've pulled away from saying a lifestyle business, because who wants a career that doesn't factor in their lifestyle, right? I think that that's never really a positive option. But finding balance in life and in all things, and yoga, surfing, and business, what a great way to combine things. 

But then in impact investing it is recognizing that our ecosystems have a certain absorptive capacity, and we're pushing beyond that and that it simply can't go on, that we need to find balance, otherwise, we're going to kill ourselves and destroy our world. And so that, to me, seems really natural. And that if you're an impact investor, that you're most often someone who's worked in traditional finance, and you've got a seat in financial services. And you probably see that things aren't quite right, you've seen that things are going to change. And from my own processes that certainly, you know, the anecdotal evidence that I've got, because so many of my guests have said, "I was working away, I was, you know, making wealthy people richer, and didn't feel that it was sustainable in terms of the business or in terms of that environmental sustainability concept." 

And then they had a lightbulb moment. And they felt that, "I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and ditch this business, I want to use the power of finance to make positive change." And then you look at social enterprise, and I think people have had the same revelation. You look at the way people who have no understanding of finances are saying, "Hang on, I've got a pension fund, Hang on, I've got a bank account. I want to direct that towards companies and businesses that share my values, and that aren't exploiting the world." 

So yeah, I see a real coalescing of these ideas coming together, everybody drawing towards a central ideal. And we don't have to call it sustainability or social impact, or have sort of a central ideal. But maybe it's balance in all things? You've got to try and find that central source of truth, I think, to stay sane, and to stay on board with the mission. I work as much on the financial strategy as the communications and storytelling side of things for impact investors, and I think that having a mission, while it is marketing jargon, and people can get frustrated with it, I think the mission to me is a really central pivot point. And it's what I always look for in an organization and there are good ones and there are bad ones, but a good one isn't the tagline, isn't the marketing tagline. It's something a little bit deeper underneath. 

And it's something that no matter how the ebbs and flows and the pivots of an organization and the strategies change, the mission stays solid. It's that off in the distance north star that you're driving towards, and that every morning you get up and you're like, "that's why I'm doing it." And I like the term mission. I think that's powerful, mission led organizations. I like it. I think everybody has a mission, but it's really unearthing it. Coming back to that the podcast skill set of asking questions and digging down you know, the five why's: Why do you want to do that? Yeah, but why? And you dig deeper and deeper and finally, you have this sort of lightbulb moment of "Ah, that's right. That really captures everything that we're doing. And all of those other things are just features of our product, they're not really the mission." 

So, yeah, I think that's a powerful piece. And I also like the word coalescing, I think that sums it up - everybody sort of coming together with a some sort of message that we can't quite hear but we're all drawing towards something. So yeah, I think it's powerful.

Cory Ames  25:14  
I'm with you on that. I think that living sustainably, socially, and environmentally, as we're coming to gain a greater understanding of what that means, specifically, I don't think that that can be just such a tactical and mechanical switch and change. I think that it is inevitably something much deeper to where it doesn't have to be based off of, I think real, societal lifestyle changes, from what it is that we value, and what sort of different constraints that, you know, we take very seriously in the context of business or, you know, impact investment, whatever it might be - at least, what I'm starting to see where the the spectrum starts to vary. 

There's a term coined long ago about the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. And, you know, I'm starting to feel like that doesn't exactly go far enough. In that context, for me, it feels like those are still exactly on the same line: people, planet, and profit alongside each other. Where I feel that it needs to go as to where people on planet are actually prioritized and put in front of profit, in that the constraints are set to be a bit different. If we're evaluating our considerations or mining for the planet and the people that live on it in the same context is profit, then I think that we're not exactly getting to the change to where we need to go. 

It's progress, undoubtedly - I certainly see it as progress. But I think, you know, as you mentioned, some of those folks that you host on your podcast, you know, they see using the world of finance to effect positive change. It's like the outcome shouldn't necessarily be returns, although that is a byproduct of that system that exists, the outcome should in fact, be positive change. Or in many cases, in a lot of businesses, it should be doing less harm, which is kind of a tier of where we need to get to, as opposed to like seeking to do positive change. 

Even the most renowned - and I'm wearing a Patagonia hat here, right now - and this is something that I've spoken on this podcast before, you know, Patagonia is not perfectly sustainable. They don't have complete transparency just yet in their supply chain. A percentage of their line is Fairtrade certified, verifiably. And so one of the renowned examples of a socially, environmentally responsible business still has a ways to go. I'm still a fan of Patagonia and appreciate their transparency and everything. I just think that there's a slight differential there, to where it's like, if we do in fact value the planet or natural ecosystems, and as well, the people that live on it, we need to make decisions that prioritize positive outcomes for them, even if that can come in conflict with what would seem to be the financial returns. Is that making some sense at all, at least from from how I'm taking it?

John Treadgold  27:55  
Oh, definitely. I think that is the undercurrent of this world of managing those different metrics. And for so long, you know, we have 200, 300 years of modern accounting, and it's always been neat and tidy. I mean, it's had lots of ups and downs, and it's adapted a lot. But essentially, it whittled down to risk versus return. It whittled down to this dollar figure, a profit number. It's clean, it's really easy to measure success, you know, percentage gains up this year. Good. Right. 

That was useful, but I think that the other factors that matter that you've talked about, the planet, the people, these factors, I think we all know, they're important, but they're just very difficult to measure. And so I think that that's what's changing, that we're now almost being forced, but we do have different technological systems that are helping with that impact measurement. But if I'm discussing these issues with people that haven't really been through that sort of philosophical discussion, like, "What are you talking about,? Finance is finance, you want to make money isn't that obvious?" And if you simply overlay it by saying, it doesn't matter what your values are, it doesn't matter if you feel like you're an environmentalist, all that really matters is that when you're investing you want as much data as possible. When you're reviewing a business, you want to know more about it than less. I think that's pretty hard to argue with. 

And so now we've got all of this financial data, but we've also got data about waste and efficiency, about how workers are being treated, about diversity. Look at biology, and it's pretty clear that for a species to flourish, you need diversity of genetic diversity, right? It's the same in an organization with different views. You want to target different customers. So from that base level, I think more data is better and we're getting that more than ever. We've now, slowly, with the new ISSB standards following the European, the EU taxonomy, in terms of mandating financial reporting beyond just financial factors. Reporting climate impacts, reporting diversity, nature-based biodiversity assessments. 

I think, yes, there are going to be problems. Yes, there are going to be organizations that greenwash and say, "We're doing all of these things that are great." But the metrics are now becoming more stringent, more reliable. And yeah, it doesn't matter what your view is, but we've now got a broader set of metrics. I think that's really powerful.

Cory Ames  30:27  
Yeah, I appreciate that, and I think that that's a convincing point of view. I guess the areas where I'm most interested in, that, I think we can measure, perhaps it's the difficulty in transparency, and, you know, what people kind of defer to the complexity of like, the global supply chain. But, for instance, this example that I always put my head is a company, let's put it in the fashion industry, for one, where there's much of this very rampant labor abuse, but everyone who works within that supply chain, ideally should be paid a verifiable living wage, you know, depending on the context, you know, in living wages is relative to the locality that they're inhabiting. 

But there's a lot of other things that become more difficult to measure for me, but that feels to me like a very strong-- and I think that the reason why we can't measure it is because, you know, what we're leaning to is this, you know, silhouetted global supply chain, that's become far too complex and difficult to keep track of. But I do think that kind of plays to many of those larger companies' benefits. But that's the thing for me, that that feels very clear, and in the context of, you know, the different set of constraints people implanted over it, you know, I feel like there should be, at some level, we should agree societally, essentially, that if a business cannot pay people a verifiable living wage, to operate and perhaps make their product and get their product to shelves, it doesn't seem to me worthwhile that that business exists, or it should be a different level, you know, of constraints to where we should agree that that's not okay. 

Because at some point, it seems like, you know, what level of exploitation are we okay with? It's like, well, we can't, you know, verifiably pay everyone a living wage, it's just too difficult, it's going to cost too much to find out, to track whatever it is. At some point, isn't that where we should see that it's not worth that business existing? Or, I mean, I don't know, I guess it's a progression. That's a bit of a pipe dream. But that's where I feel like there's, you know, a hard distinction. Because if we're okay with that uncertainty, I feel like we're likewise okay with some level of exploitation for the sake of that business, or just business, you know, in general surviving.

John Treadgold  32:30  
That's a huge topic. And that does swing the breadth of what brought me into impact investing, which was the international development side and understanding the varied benefits from globalization and the way our world is changing. And then overlaying finance and understanding that is a lever for change. But look, you know, what is a living wage? I mean, even that is a huge question. Because obviously, so many different economies with very different standards of life, and different types of work, different social safety net, and governments having, you know, different levels of impact. 

And then even if we look at the developed markets, the developed world and developing markets, even the US is different because of the diverse, you know, it's so broad in terms of there's no real national minimum wage. And there's so much debate about that, and lots changing. And I think that idea of-- I mean, I think it's a really valuable provocation, and to not make assumptions about, oh, look, there's always going to be a working class, and it's positive for business to have lower wages, these oversimplifications. And if you challenge that, and say, on the one hand, actually paying your workers more is great, because the lowest paid people, if they have an increase in their wage, they're the ones that are going to spend that money. And where are they going to spend it? They're going to spend it locally. 

So that's going to be a broad, macro economic benefit. While, if those dollars go into the hands of the wealthy, they tend to save it, it doesn't get cycled through the economy as much. So that's one layer. And the second layer being, and in terms of that provocation of changing the way people think, if your business model can't sustain paying your staff a living wage, perhaps your business model is the problem, not, I guess, rules about setting minimum wages and those sorts of things. 

But coming back to the practicalities, and you know, you and I sitting here, but these are such massive macro issues, we don't have much control locally, let alone offshore. We do have the power of making decisions. And I think that's the shift we've seen where it's clearly a benefit to the product and to the story you can tell and to your reputation. If you are explicit about "we made the decision to pay our workers X. Happy workers, better product." Customers now are more aware to that. Not everybody, some people are just like, they just look at the tag, they just want the cheap, and they walk out of the shop and they don't think about it. 

That's changing. And I think that's what is driving this change. And as I said, it shouldn't be a crutch, that these are big problems, we can't control it. When you make a decision to buy something, that's the power. And if everybody utilized that, if everybody did a little bit of reading, you got a supercomputer in your pocket, do a minute's research and understand where the product comes from. If there's no information about where it comes from, then you can be pretty sure that it's not great. And the companies like Patagonia, but there's a whole range of them now, nipping at Patagonia's heels. And I think that's great, that's a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom. 

I think that's what you're leading with and telling the stories of, which is really powerful. And then hopefully, I come from the other direction in terms of the investors in the capital and how we can steer investment capital to those companies that are being more transparent, and drive that change from different directions.

Cory Ames  35:46  
John, what stories are you most excited to dive into here in the near future with the Good Future podcast for the world of ESG and sustainable finance? What threads are you most interested in pulling on right now?

John Treadgold  35:59  
Yeah, great question. It's so exciting. I've got so many directions, always got a very long list. But just jumping straight to the top of that list, I'll start with the very dry and boring, and that is impact measurement, something that we always talk about. We've touched on it today. But we're in a moment right now where lots of these different frameworks are all coming together and harmonizing. So that's something that is always an ongoing conversation. But we are seeing a bit of a moment here, which is quite exciting. 

But then to the more tangible, and what I think more interesting, is the recognition of the value of biodiversity and nature-based assessments and transparency. And so, yeah, there's a real focus on trying to value biodiversity and recognizing that it's so vital to maintain. And when we talk about carbon emissions, and we talk about living wages, and we've got lots of these metrics and factors that are important, and that we're leaning towards, but I think biodiversity is one that we take for granted. 

And if you if you start doing the reading, it just gets so depressing of the extinction rates. I mean, even the food we eat is becoming less diverse. And we're just losing these wild spaces, there's more plastic in the oceans. And so yeah, to me, that's a really exciting movement that I think everybody recognizes, that the problems with carbon emissions, and there's lots of great measurement and lots of direct discussion. So now, let's try and leverage all of those lessons and research and understand the value of biodiversity. 

Look, I think naturally, we all understand it, but we live in a capitalist system ruled by economics. And so in some ways, we need to use those metrics and speak that language. And, as always, need to make sure we're not just putting dollar value on things so they can be exploited more, we need to recognize their values so they can be conserved and saved. So that's where I'm headed. How about yourself?

Cory Ames  38:04  
Exciting. Well, for us right now, there's really kind of three pillars that we're honing in on. Especially, as I feel, like maybe in contrast to you a little bit - while you speak to a lot of folks from a lot of various organizations, different positions, you know, we're in different industries in sectors regenerative agriculture, I mean, next week, we're talking local, like, municipality, solar power. There's just a lot of realms that, you know, we're speaking with people whose career and work is impact. A lot of overlap, but maybe somewhat of a broader scope in that way. 

And so I look for the parallels and the ways in which people are approaching the work of building a better world. And I think the first one that I'm most excited about is actually looking to craft-- like, work with these folks to extract and craft what is the vision for that? I think there's a lot of ways that we can move forward, I think there's definitely a lot of problems that we're working to run away from. But I think that, likewise, it's not often talked about what inspiring a vision that we could craft to have, you know, people be feel very energized, motivated and inspired to work towards it. 

I think it's often with what happens with the news cycle, you know, we can certainly dwell on the negative and the cynicism as opposed to look for, you know, what's worth saving, what's worth working towards? I think that's an important component. The second there is, you know, really trying to dig deep into the ways in which, you know, I like to call it kind of creating awe or inspiring awe, because I just think that there's so many ways in which the planet and the people that live on it already are just so incredible. You know, I think that the deeper that you dive into whatever it might be, the subsections of regenerative agriculture, you know, just talking about soil health, or talking about marine protected areas and looking to reforest and grow groves of mangroves. 

It's like, there's just so many ways if you really hone in on these very specific things that might be climate solutions or social solutions, that I'm just I endlessly blown away. And that's something that I really like to dig for with our podcast, are things, and the people who are working with them within various sectors, have just like, I have this feeling of like, Oh, I've just got to share that with a friend. It's kind of how I think about it. Like, I have to tell somebody about that. Usually, it's my wife after I stop recording on the podcast, "you won't believe what I just heard." 

And I think the last component for us is how that all connects to more meaning and purpose in life and work. Because like I said, earlier, I feel like, you know, living more sustainably, socially, environmentally is not just you know, about switching things very tactically, mechanically. I genuinely think that it's a different way of being. And I think, you know, I make the case and argue that it's a healthier way of being, you know, and I'm sure that that you agree with that in a lot of ways, just, you know, the the big word that's become thrown around quite a bit is balance, in the context of life and work, and that word can go for a while in the context of sustainability, both as it relates to this social, environmental element. So those are the three threads that I'm pulling on right now, and quite excited to do so. 

John Treadgold  41:10  
Well, that's it. And to me, what comes through is how lucky we are in this modern world, that we're just individuals. We don't have mainstream news organizations behind us. But yet, we can reach out to people that we wouldn't otherwise know, ask them questions to have these conversations and share the story globally. I think that's just such an amazing opportunity. It gets me excited every day. I wouldn't have had contact with you without it, so that's great. And I can absorb all of your positive energy, which is awesome. So yeah, hope people absorb some of that. I enjoy listening to our podcasts. And yeah, there's no barriers. Everyone can do it. But yeah, engage and enjoy it all.

Cory Ames  41:50  
I dig it, John. Well, as always, it's a pleasure to chat and get reconnected. Let's see, one thing before we tidy up there, since I see a full bookshelf behind you. You told me it wasn't full recently, but that's changed. But hit me with a book recommendation. Maybe something you've been reading recently that's impacted you? 

John Treadgold  42:09  
Yeah, well, look, I only said it was empty because because I moved out, so it was all in boxes. I'm always surrounded by lots of books. Let me have a look. I ask my own guests that question, and here I am struggling. But, all right, I'll recommend as I do with-- my guests often stumble, and they want some profound new book about, you know, the cutting edge world of ESG or something. But no, what's on my bedside table is a book about Bob Hawke, who's a well known ex Prime Minister of Australia through the 80s. 

And in massively stark contrast to the painful polarization of politics at the moment, he was in power for, I think, two, maybe three terms. He was so popular. And it was because of personality in a really positive way. He was he sort of embodied a sort of traditional Auzzie values of mate ship. He wasn't polished, right? He was he was really, you know, understood the working class. I mean, he was a union guy from the start. But anyway, this book was really powerful. Bob Hawke is now I think, in his 80s, he's getting old, but he's still definitely with it. And the author was originally a surf journalist. So I think that's how the two things came together. 

And he got this amazing access to steal probably Australia's most popular politician. And he led-- I think that the policy changes that he drove are still what is making Australia successful and vibrant, to even today in terms of opening up to Asian markets, to a lot of deregulation. And yeah, I think a lot of it more on that social democracy side, more left leaning, but at the same time, very pragmatic about the importance of trade, and opening up and modernizing the economy. 

Anyway, I won't go on, the US audience probably won't be as interested as past Australian Prime Minister. But certainly, if there is interest, look up Bob Hawke, because yeah, he's just such a character, a real larrikin, and yet quite staggering that he did so well. But yeah, great guy. Good book.

Cory Ames  44:25  
Good recommendation. I dig it. Awesome. Well, John, we'll sign off here. I'd love to know what are the best links for folks to keep up with you and Good Future - where do you want listeners of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast to head?

John Treadgold  44:38  
For sure. Jump onto my website, Johntreadgold.com, and you'll find all the podcast episodes there with descriptions and links. That's the best place to go and there's lots of bits and pieces there. You can you can cruise around to my articles and my thinking, and we're also on Instagram, Good Future podcast. And I think in terms of that broader financial approach of ESG and impact I'm most active on LinkedIn. So, always happy to follow people there. And yeah, come along and have a chat. Ask me any questions. 

How about yourself? Like, my audience is always interested in a broader perspective on social enterprise. Where can they find you?

Cory Ames  45:17  
Sure. So our full archive of episodes for the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast are at socialentrepreneurship.fm. And then all things Grow Ensemble, everything else we're working on are at growensemble.com. Probably Better World Weekly newsletter that I write and publish myself, send out every single Monday, best place to keep up with my musings on all things building a better world. That's at growensemble.com backslash newsletter. And like you I think I'm most active on LinkedIn, and maybe Twitter as well. So we'll have all those things for both sides linked up in our show posts to check out. Thanks again, John. 

John Treadgold  45:54  
Perfect. Good stuff. Alright, Cory, thank you.

Cory Ames  45:56  
All right, y'all. That's a wrap on another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. As always so grateful to have you listening in. If you love the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or hit subscribe wherever it is that you get yours. And as well. I want to invite you to sign up for our Better World Weekly newsletter. This is our weekly discussion with our community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers on all things building a better world does the newsletter I write and publish send out myself every single Monday go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter, to join in on that discussion, all things building a better world. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter to get the next one in your inbox. And finally, if you know of a company work within a company or run a company that might be interested in sponsoring the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, we always love starting conversations with potential partners who share our vision of building a better world together. Go to socialentrepreneurship.fm backslash contact. There, you can fill out a quick form, start that conversation with us. And these sorts of partnerships fuel our mission to build a better world together. All right, y'all. Until next time.

John TreadgoldProfile Photo

John Treadgold

Consultant, Podcast Host

I help investors and businesses identify the emerging opportunities of Sustainable Investing.

My mission is to reboot finance & economics, to better serve people and the planet.

As a communications and strategy consultant, I operate as linkage between a marketing team, and an investment team. I’m a subject-matter-expert that turns sustainability metrics (and financial jargon) into a compelling story.

Through my podcast (Good Future), my writing and my engagement with the sector, I've established myself as a specialist communicator across ESG, impact investing, social enterprise, sustainability and everything in between.

My diverse career comprises an economics degree at one end, and a Masters of International Relations and International Law at the other.

I've worked with fund managers, startups, the United Nations, the World Bank and Government departments. I have more than a decade of experience in research and communications.