Dominic Shales is CEO of Change Incorporated, a new independent editorial channel from VICE Media, which has one simple, single goal: to drive measurable, positive change where it’s needed the most
We live in a world where radical change is needed to solve existential problems. Change Incorporated, which launched early in 2019, is already helping to drive positive change harnessing the power of the media and business to find solutions.
Tackling climate change is the major issue of our century. In the next few decades, this challenge is going to have a major impact on all our lives, including the businesses which provide our goods and services, as well as underpinning jobs and the economy. That’s how it should be, if we are going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without any compromise.
This is extinction-level disruption
And it’s going to be a tough transition, which is going to cause a lot of disruption. In fact, for a lot of businesses, it’s not going to be survivable. According to a recent study by Innosight Consulting Group, around half of the companies included in today’s S&P 500 will be replaced and many household name brands and companies will simply disappear. This is extinction-level disruption, but also an opportunity - for those companies who can look into the future and make a drastic shift towards becoming fully sustainable, in every sense.
The good news is that many businesses are aware that they need to change and even rethink their whole industries if they want to survive. Recent research from Bain & Company shows that 90 percent of companies feel they need to change their core business model in order to operate in a truly sustainable economy and over a third feel that their core business model will need to change radically.
So how to do this? Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects are admirable but often fail to address fundamental issues – no business can market or communicate its way through the transformation needed at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution.
The ones that will succeed will actively embrace the challenge, and this is where Change Incorporated comes in. Our mission is to work with businesses that are ready to transform and create positive change in the world. And if that means turning a company at the heart of the problem into being part of the solution, then so be it.
As a media channel, we are aware of the power of journalism and the huge responsibility that comes with it. We don’t think it’s responsible just to focus on bad news which makes headlines and drive clicks, even if that’s a traditional media model.
It may be profitable, but it’s not helping. In fact, it’s fuelling what some experts call the ‘hope gap’ which is when people worry about issues like global heating but feel powerless to do anything about it. Over a third of VICE’s audience in the US and UK feel stressed or anxious about the future, with environment and climate change being the main reason, far above the economy and immigration.
We don’t want people to be paralysed and unable to take action. Change Incorporated aims to close the ‘hope gap’, to move away from horror and carnage towards upbeat and positive stories that inform and motivate. We want to showcase the solutions which are already out there, and to help our audience move away from despondency towards hope and action. The VICE audience is ready and willing. Although only nine per cent are optimistic about climate change, 86 per cent believe that their individual actions can make a difference. Half don’t know how to help when it comes to protecting the environment, even though they want to.
So how do we create this impact? We are experts at creating journalism that packs a punch but speaks to people at eye level. We tell real human stories that resonate, emotionally as well as factually. We are already creating a deep, enduring body of work that will become a go-to source for all those who want dynamic relevant content. With over 20 million video views in under six months, our content inspires, sparks conversations and tells the stories that matter.
Our editorial independence is vital because we’re about journalism, not marketing. The missions have to involve real industry change which means not just a different perspective, but a genuine seismic shift. We need to elevate the discourse and really raise our ambition.
Our mission is to work with businesses that are ready to transform and create positive change
In order to ensure we include a wide range of opinions, we include expert voices from the scientific community, from industry, from politics, from academia, from pressure groups, asking them to share their knowledge and potential solutions to tackle complex issues, without scaremongering.
And we have to be clear on metrics. We want to be clear and transparent on what we want to achieve and understand how that positively affects behaviour.
We will document how business transformation impacts changes in behaviour and society. Transparency is crucial and we relish people questioning and challenging our missions, especially if there is funding from businesses which may have commercial interest in the area.
We welcome that and we want to include critical voices in our editorial so we can have real debate.
So what’s our focus? We are taking aim at some of the world’s biggest issues, launching a number of missions in the coming months and years that affect positive societal change in areas such as: reducing oil demand and fighting the climate emergency; encouraging responsibility around food; understanding data privacy and even supporting democracy.
For each of our missions we will work with businesses that fund our content - businesses that are committed to change. We set strict guidelines to ensure that we can deliver content that has integrity and maintains independence.
Our first mission launched in the UK in April 2019 to encourage smokers to Quit Cigarettes with funding from Philip Morris International. Smoking is still the largest cause of premature death in the world, so it feels right to have started with this ambitious undertaking.
We have created thousands of pieces of content, reaching millions of smokers across the country, with initial indications that our mission is helping many of them reconsider their habit.
This gives us huge confidence - and hope - that we are in great shape to create impact in other areas too.
If we can get this right, the prize is creating a powerful force for good, with business right at the centre. No one can doubt that the boardroom drives societal change as much as, and potentially even more than, any elected official. Over the past five years, people say they have lost less trust in corporations than they have in government. Half of VICE’s audience now believe that business has more control than the government.
Like it or not, big business shapes our future and can lead the way in tackling the major challenges that face us in the 21st century. Change Incorporated exists to promote change while encouraging and challenging businesses to step up and better serve their stakeholders - and future generations.