New role of family business: Collective legacy, value and succession

The World Economic Forum’s central focus this year was the imperative task of “Rebuilding Trust”. I believe that businesses need to step up to rebuild trust and take the lead to create solutions to the sustainability challenges we face today. To do this, reform is needed to shift businesses’ focus to becoming purpose-led for-profit organizations.

The Emergence of the Marketing Economy has Led to a Deterioration of Ethics and Morality

In our supply-driven economy, an emphasis on capacity has shifted from being market-driven, that serves the market, to a marketing economy enslaved by materialism. This in turn has seen businesses maximize profits by unconsciously capitalizing on humanity’s greed and craving for luxury.

This model that benefits a select few at the expense of the majority, has exacerbated wealth gaps and reinforced a mindset of individual power over collective well-being—a separating and dualistic you or I model. And with greed and ignorance driving economic activities, ethics and morality have declined. This has weakened relationships throughout the social fabric, and is now threatening the sustainability of all life.

Family Business Is Uniquely Positioned to Lead Change in this New Era

Family business has more control over its future than big corporations. Conglomerates’ ultimate investor shareholders are often distanced from the business, through layers of fund managers, whose shareholders or stakeholders may yet be another fund, making it difficult for them to think about long-term investing. Return on investment is used as the measurement of success, and this shapes the behavior of businesses. Consequently, companies naturally focus on profit-maximization with shorter term horizons.

Family business on the other hand, especially multi-generation family business, is positioned to lead business reforms, and navigate this complex terrain, as it prioritizes succession, value and legacy, inherently long-term concepts with a direct connection to the future of the firm. However, as more family businesses have been consolidated into corporations, many have adopted shorter term investment outlooks managed through family offices. Despite this trend, family businesses still have a significant impact on global economic activities, as they contribute to about 70% of the global economy.

In the new era, family businesses can build a collective legacy – by collaborating and co- creating solutions to benefit humanity as a whole to build a well-being and flourishing economy. They must initiate business reforms, return ethics and morality to the forefront of corporate decisions and catalyze the shift in the market economy.

Family Business to Steward Ethical and Sustainable Practices

In this context, family businesses emerge not only as economic entities, but are also ideally positioned to take the lead in stewardship of ethical and sustainable practices. Legacy and wealth protection have long been what inform family business strategy and decisions, stemming from a unique blend of family and business – the practice of a relational approach. Family businesses are motivated and organized to pursue legacy orientated goals, enabling them to prioritize sustainable practices and long-term profitability over immediate financial returns.

Therefore, family businesses are inherently more aligned with a responsible and conscious market approach, where the focus is on preserving and enhancing well-being for future generations while also creating wealth. They embody stewardship, viewing their business not just as a means to an end but as a legacy to be nurtured and passed from generation to generation.

Family is the first place where we learn what love is and how to nurture and express it. This is naturally intertwined into family-run businesses, promoting a mindset that fosters a culture of care and responsibility, which in turn encourages practices that are inclusive, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

Family businesses’ success largely depends on maintaining a delicate systemic coherence with three roles: the family office to serve the well-being of the family, the family business to serve the well-being of society, and finally family philanthropy to serve the well-being of humanity.

It is this constant value-add to the system that has a positive impact on society at large and in turn holds the family together through a shared purpose and benefits.

Embrace ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) for Impact

Wealth that lacks a higher purpose can result in negative consequences, such as division, ignorance, and even conflict. The remedy for this is to embed purpose into wealth. Therefore, it is up to the family to decide how they want to influence their company to direct their wealth to improve the lives of not just themselves but the broader community, too. They should embrace long-term thinking and support ESG practices and impact investments to bring business ethics and morality back to the market economy.

There is increasing pressure on businesses, from the public and the private sectors, to account for their value and relevance in society. A threat to societal order has raised questions about businesses’ ethics, which technological developments have increased the transparency of unsustainable business practices, and society is taking them to task.

In the contemporary era, family businesses hold a collective legacy akin to that of humanity, embodying existential significance. Today, the invisible hand within the free-market system is naturally returning order to the system through ESG regulations and directing investment for impact and philanthropy. This has long been propagated by Adam Smith in his book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which calls for enlightened self-interest.

It is imperative that family businesses embrace long-term thinking and support ESG practices and impact investments to enact positive changes in business morality within the market economy. This shift is critical to trigger a reversal of the current social contract driven by greed to one that is led by love and care.

Contributed by Chavalit Frederick Tsao
March 2024

This article was originally produced for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 at Davos, Switzerland.

Accelerating the green transition: Time for action leadership, beyond thought leadership

The urgent need to address climate change and accelerate a green transition, is imperative for our shared future, as indicated by the World Economic Forum’s New Nature Economy report that approximately $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature. 1 As a holistic system, we bear direct responsibility for the degradation of the natural world, and the recent GAEA Agora discussion at the Forum emphasized the importance of a nature-based solution.

In my opinion, considering the systemic nature of our world and the intricate interplay of ecological systems, it seems plausible that by addressing a major environmental challenge like climate change, nature may autonomously devise solutions for other interconnected issues.

It is important for global leaders, especially CEOs and corporate leaders, to appreciate the urgency of this green transition. However, we must also attend to our motivation and courage to act and contribute to the cause. Love for life is the impetus to act and have an impact on a sustainable green transition.

Motivation of the Driver Behind the Wheels of Green Transition

Global temperatures are likely to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 if they continues to increase at the current rate, causing extreme and irreversible climate effects. 2 This is not a phenomenon for future generations to worry about, but an urgent situation calling for immediate action – a collective commitment for coordinated, systemic action. There are many conversations and movements at many levels and in multiple locations. However, a notable absence are conversations that discusses the motivation behind the green transition. In their absence, we risk green washing and depriving the transition the attention it truly deserves.

I would offer the analogy of the car and its driver. Policies, processes, technology are crucial, but they are tools similar to a car’s components. No matter how good the car, its’ performance is ultimately in the hands of the driver, who chooses how to act – when to engage the accelerator and how to navigate the journey. What propels the driver to speed into the uncharted future and what fuels their courage? In this analogy, finance is the fuel that propels the vehicle, while the motivation of the driver is analogous to love. The resultant outcome, akin to the vehicle’s trajectory, is contingent upon the quality of leadership exhibited in navigating towards sustainable change.

Love as the Catalyst for Change

Recent developments in quantum science brought about a paradigm shift that bridge the materialism of the external system with the spirituality of our internal world, and mark a significant departure from conventional perspectives. A journey into our internal world will shift how we see the world and what meaning we give it – opening up new possibilities and choices available to us. When we make different choices, we have new experiences. This sparks a shift of consciousness. As we find coherence between the two systems, the “I” becomes inseparable from the “we”, activating love from inside and allowing us to naturally care for the outer world.

It is in our nature to love, and when we see that the essence of everything is connected, we naturally seek connection and alignment. Essentially, we are relational creatures, and when we discover our true nature, all of our actions will be informed by love and care, helping us to contribute to solving the shared challenges of humanity. This is the green transition. Without love, there can be no care, and without care, there will be no connection and insufficient motivation to act to add value to the world.

Love is the core of well-being and the fuel for courage and leadership. It is important to instil awareness within our institutions, where the drive falls on the shoulders of their leadership, to step up to be CEOs of Love.

Philanthropy, is another expression of love. The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek “philanthropia,” which simply means “love of humankind.” Philanthropy is not an institution or a cause for momentary gratification, but rather it is a culture, a way of living, a lifestyle. It is a commitment to living with compassion, a form of love in action. The time for transformative change is now, and each one of us can contribute by embracing love as the driving force for a greener, more sustainable world.

Start from Plant-Based Eating: A Tangible Change for All

Jane Goodall’s closing session at WEF 2024, was profoundly impactful, setting the stage for the discourse that followed. There is a tangible action we can individually undertake to add-value to a collective commitment – a transformative step toward a healthier future for both us and for the planet: the promotion of plant-based eating and a re-evaluation of our food system.

One noteworthy initiative is the adoption of a predominantly plant-based diet. Research indicates that shifting to a plant-based diet can have significant environmental benefits, including a 49% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat and dairy production in agriculture. Additionally, this transition can mitigate biodiversity loss, with animal agriculture being a major driver of deforestation and species extinction, promising a more sustainable future for global food security. 3

It is practical and accessible to everyone – one small step for the individual and ONE BIG STEP for humanity and nature, marking a pivotal contribution to both personal well-being and the broader health of our Earth.

The call to action is clear – a demonstration of a holistic and systemic approach, rooted in love for life, is essential for accelerating the green transition. We need to disseminate this awareness to both institutions and households alike. Recognizing the interconnected elements, embracing the quantum reality, and acknowledging the role of internal motivation are pivotal.

It is time to start acting to truly make impact. It is time for actionable leadership, and the time is NOW!

Contributed by Chavalit Frederick Tsao
March 2024

1 World Economic Forum, Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy. New Nature Economy series. 2020 Jan.

2 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3-24.

3 Gibbs J, Cappuccio FP. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns for Human and Planetary Health. Nutrients. 2022 Apr 13;14(8):1614. doi: 10.3390/nu14081614.

This article was originally produced for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 at Davos, Switzerland.

What if the world’s corporate leaders were fuelled by love?

SUCCESS in the business world has been viewed through the narrow lens of maximising profits and enhancing shareholder value. The world today is defined by a marketing economy that has dominated the market-driven economy. This is a perilous path, driving unsustainable consumption and materialism, at the expense of our planet and wellbeing of life.

This op-ed was originally published in The Business Times.

Impact investment: Transforming leadership, shaping philanthropy, and creating sustainable business

Impact investment: Transforming leadership, shaping philanthropy, and creating sustainable business

IMC Pan Asia Alliance Group (IMCPAA) is proud to join the Philanthropy Asia Alliance (PAA), a Temasek Trust initiative, as an Action Council member.

Asia’s scale, diversity, and development profile present an unprecedented opportunity to drive impact. The region accounts for over 50% of global emissions, with 60% of the world’s population, and is disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. Solving Asia’s challenges will benefit all, but this cannot be done alone.

Dynamic partnerships are the key to shaping a brighter future for all. Officially launched at the 3rd Philanthropy Asia Summit on 15 September 2023, PAA will build capabilities, capacities, and communities in the philanthropic sector, and harness multi-sector partnerships to catalyse Asian solutions for global challenges.

PAA’s Calls to Action target 3 areas: Climate and Nature, Inclusive and Holistic Education, and Global and Public Health. Its vibrant and diverse global community is over 80-strong and fast-growing, with collective pledges of US$777 million (over S$1 billion).

As an advocate for synergistic collaboration to unlock greater positive change, IMCPAA is excited to lend its expertise, experience, and resources to energise collective philanthropic action in a more coordinated, sustainable, and impact-driven manner.

Noting the symbiotic interrelationships between businesses, governments and communities, Chairman of IMCPAA Chavalit Tsao, said: “We believe that PAA is the next meaningful alliance that would add value to Life and create Impact in the new era of well-being and happiness. We also believe corporate philanthropy would facilitate the integration of Love as part of the social contract of business.”

Watch the video below to learn more about IMC Pan Asia Alliance Group and Philanthropy Asia Alliance’s partnership and aspirations to co-create a more sustainable future:

In this new era, businesses will transform from being profit-driven to purpose-led

Our world today is entering a new era.

The United Nations (UN) have been advocating a paradigm shift from GDP to Gross National Happiness (GNH) since 2012, championing a new vision of well-being and happiness. The term GNH1 , as conceived by the King of Bhutan, calls upon us to recognise the non-monetary aspects of well-being, including social equity, quality of environment, and cultural flourishing – all integral to comprehensive human welfare.

Whilst our economic system remains somewhat lagging, around the world, multilateral organisations, businesses, and investors alike are waking up to the shifting times. Many businesses, investors, and individuals are evolving from greed and ignorance driven by narrow- self-interest, towards long-term, holistic well-being, powered by enlightened self-interest. This free-market economy is transitioning towards being purpose-driven and no longer focussing on short-term, narrowly defined profits. Indeed, CEOs and business leaders are awakening to their responsibilities to serve as stewards of our times.

Motivations of Humanity Have Evolved Over Time

The dawn of civilisation was marked by humans transitioning through a hunting-gathering phase, into what some may dub the agricultural “subsistence era”, where well-being is equivalent to producing enough to meet our needs for survival. This was reasonable, given that there was often not enough agricultural produce or livestock to feed everyone across local villages.

The rapid growth in agricultural production, taking place between the 14th to 17th centuries in ancient China (Ming Dynasty)2 , the 16th to 18th centuries in India (Mughal Era)3 , and the 17th to 19th centuries in the Anglo-European world4 , amongst others, brought societies to the stage where food and crop production was sufficient for humanity then. Human civilisation then began to grow rapidly, resulting in the development of large-scale production of goods to meet increasing consumption patterns.

A combination of imperialism, the advent of capitalism, and the Agricultural Revolution spurred the Industrial Revolution. As we entered the industrial era, demarcated by three waves of breakthroughs (respectively, mechanical production with steam and water, power, production capacity and technological transformations, and digitalisation), our priorities shifted to producing more and more goods and services at as low costs as possible.

With the progress of technology driving civilisation evolution, we have gradually but surely been increasingly turning humans into machines, whilst machines are becoming more human. In so doing, we have also come to lose sight of our original sense of power of creativity, and, in its stead, focus on production.

In This New Era, Businesses Will Transform from Being Profit-Driven to Purpose-Led.

Today, we have become addicted to short-term material stimuli, where a marketing economy preying on our vanity, indulgence, and greed, has driven us to become fixated on over- consumption. The free-market economy, failing to reflect our enlightened self-interest, has opted instead for a form of the invisible hand that focusses narrowly on short term gains and narrowly defined profit-maximising, thus driving up intense competition and obsessive profit- seeking.

Distributive Inequalities Divide Us, Sustainable Wealth Co-creation Unites Us

The world we live in does not struggle with the pie size. Instead, we are struggling with ensuring that everyone has access to a slice of the pie. In 2023, the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all countries in the world amounts to a staggering 105 trillion USD, with 60.5 trillion concentrated in advanced economies, with a little under 14% of the world’s population. The remaining 86% of the world’s population possess 44.5 billion of our wealth.5 The global GDP per capita was 12,600USD in 2021, comparable to that of China’s. Indeed, on a per capita mean GDP level, there is enough to go around for everyone.6

What we have on hand here is a distribution issue, not a wealth issue. Today, the world economy is predominantly a marketing-driven economy with multinational corporations focussing on quarter-to-quarter performances with short-term financial dividends taken to be the key indicator of board and leadership successes. The fixation upon maximising gains, leveraging on human vanity, has denatured the role of businesses.

Today, businesses are no longer serving society. Indeed, the market is manipulated by businesses, instead of being driven by society. This has given rise to a growing gap between the rich and the poor across the world. Endless environmental resource extraction and exploitation, inefficient oligopolies and dominant firms crowding out smaller players, and corporate practices precipitating the disintegration of social and communal fabric are excused in name of competition.

We need a new paradigm of economics. The so-called social contract businesses are working with today, is not aligned with the interests of the market they purportedly serve. Global challenges from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance and ability for collaboration across national, economic, and social boundaries.

The rise and fall of human civilisation have been a reflection of the success and failure of human collaboration. In this new era, we must unite on a common journey, to flourish across eras and throughout time. Humanity must connect with our inner, true selves, and to make ease with the external environs – the times we live in, present a clarion call for new consciousness of life. Business is by far most efficient institution to serve human desires, and it is high time that businesses evolve their consciousness, and focus on adding value, to co-create wealth and foster the well-being needed for all life to flourish.

Enlightened Self-Interest, the Means of Reviving the Social Contract

As a Baby Boomer, I was born in the ‘Hippy Era’ and grew up in the ‘Yuppy Era’. With the advent of unbridled globalisation, came the ‘Greedy Era’. Today, we stand on the cusp of another radical transformation, from the ‘Greedy Era’ to the ‘Happy Era’. In this era of well- being and happiness, a journey towards love and joy is foundational. Around the world, people are waking up to a very simple truth: where there is love, there is joy. True joy can only come from the love of humanity – a willingness to give, to engage in selfless forms of philanthropy, and to celebrate life. The dividend of joy is much more than just money. It is rooted in an enlightened form of self-interest.

The UN shift towards GNH highlights that lasting joy cannot be found through monetary or materialist enrichment. Only loving relationships can generate deep and enduring meaning, from which we derive well-being. After all, the market economy must serve the global human culture of flourishing. This expanded conception of self-interest in Adam Smith’s theory of moral sentiments, takes our well-being as individuals, as inseparable and embedded within the collective. Our interests are best served when we are well – when our life systems, and hence the universe, are fundamentally coherent. Well-being is coherence between the individuals and society. It is coherence between our internal and external realities. It is the miraculous synchronicity between humanity and nature. Indeed, our awakening to this new economic paradigm is only natural – as the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs7 reveals, upon the achievement of physiological and safety needs, more and more people will shift naturally towards the pursuit of love, esteem, and then self-actualisation.

To unlock this holistic vision of well-being, we need a consciousness shift, one that revives the sense of ethics and stewardship of life. Consciousness is the mother of all capital, which shall give rise to new solutions to our sustainability challenges. Indeed, we all share one common life purpose, to add value to the world. Philanthropy is the expression of love to make impact – it is a way of life, an ethos, a mindset focusing on adding value to the collective of which we are a part. Philanthropy is a practice in and of living, a prerequisite for a life of authenticity and being.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs8 , is a helpful framework developed by the UN. The SDGs are integrated: “one action in one area will affect outcomes in others”, and all goals are anchored in advancing social, economic, and environmental sustainability.9 At the core of SDGs lies the tenet that humanity is well when it finds coherence with the whole life system of nature. When humanity is well, that’s when joy, love, and passion come organically together, steering our politics, societies, and economy towards more enduring stability and harmony. The SDG No. 17, on partnership for the advancement of these goals, is core, as it drives collaboration – to set aside differences, to pool resources and efforts together as one.

How Businesses can Transform to Become Purpose-led

Businesses are drivers of the economy. Therefore, they must lead this transformation through a consciousness shift, to rejuvenate the free market – one rooted in an expanded and comprehensive understanding of well-being. Fear, as a driving force, would only cause businesses to come apart. Hope is the force that brings us to true happiness.

Purpose-led business management would take the lead in the resolution of today’s sustainability challenges, stark inequalities, and large-scale disenfranchisement and alienation. Some pioneering businesses are taking the lead in adding value, making impact, and serving their communities and societies. From the incorporation of ESG, to the rise of green bonds, select investors and stock exchanges are responding to the calling of the new era – that calling is love, the energy that guides consciousness evolution towards solution to all our challenges. Yet more must be done.

The change is already happening. Around us, many are quickly awakening to the reality that change is the only constant – this is the logic of constant evolution. We must co-create, harness the prowess of the market in converting greed and selfish wants into forces for good for humanity – hence enlightened self-interest. We must meet the challenges of the era by transforming the way we think, relate, and empathise with one another. We can be a part of the story of human success – one of organic collaboration, as opposed to vicious competition.

Businesses must first recognise that purpose-led action requires integrating their entireties – from executives and board members through to frontliner employees – with a common purpose, to advance the interests of all, as one connected whole and not as separate parts. The age of separation has given rise to a worldview that artificially drives a wedge between “I” and “You”, “I” and “We”, inducing individuals to see themselves as separable from and independent of the collective.

Through the “I to We” journey, we align our thinking and actions to value add towards collective, communal well-being of the wider community. There can be no “I” without “We”, and we shift consciously as we unite, as “I in We”. Eventually, this spiral of consciousness shift culminates in the epiphany that “I am We”. The individual is the collective. In this state, businesses give and receive joy – this is the new business model for the market economy.

Businesses must also embrace the ascent of impact investment and ESG as a means of transforming their investment and market decisions. When there is systemic coherency, there is clarity in purpose for the individual, who would be driven to add value to life – this is impact. Power is where there is coherence and alignment. In pursuing impacts, businesses should seek to gain greater insights into the outcomes of their own activities through internal assessment reports, open deliberation within companies, and constructive community engagement rooted in evaluating the many dimensions of their holistic impact.

Corporate and C-suite leaders have a responsibility for the well-being of their organisations, foster a culture that values connection, love, and philanthropy as core principles. Candid reflections over corporate culture, management and personnel practices, and the values and mission undergirding the corporation, are most needed in facilitating this shift towards a purpose-driven business model that eventually benefits everyone. When business is purpose- led and not driven by myopic short-termism, we will get real alignment between business with communal needs.

This new world has dawned upon us – regulation, financing, and social pressures are jointly enabling its arrival. ESG is facilitating this transition and impact investment is key in directing business value contribution. The question is, are we ready to embrace it?


This article was originally produced for Bloomberg’s CEO Forum at Asean.