Green Element Weekly podcast interview with Adam Garfunkel from Junxion


 We are thrilled to have and be interviewing Adam Garfunkel from Junxion Strategy, a strategy and communications consultancy dedicated to helping leaders build the success stories of the next economy – one that is fair, inclusive and sustainable. They do that by helping organisations articulate their purpose, plan for impact, share their stories and measure and report on the difference they have made. Adam has spent thirty years as a sustainability consultant, writer and activist working with organisations of all sizes including the United Nations, global businesses, NGOs and social enterprises.

 Will: Hi Adam, thank you so much for joining the show. It’s an absolute pleasure and I’m really looking forward to talking to you. We’ve known each other for a few years now. We’ve known each other through the B Corp Network. Yeah, so welcome to green element podcast, tell us a bit about your purpose and who you work with, a bit about yourself as an organization.

  Adam: Okay, yeah great to be here, Will. So, Junxion with an x, Junxion strategy, I always say Junxion with an x. It’s like I want to say my name Adam Garfunkel as in Simon, and it’s the way it always goes. Anyway, Junxion with an x, our purpose as a business is to accelerate the shift to the next economy. And by the next economy, we mean one that is just and inclusive and good for people on the planet. And so, we help leaders build the success stories for the next economy. So essentially, our job is to help the people who are running organizations do a better job of whatever they need to do and become what we think of as the success stories of that next economy.

 You mentioned B Corp, Will, I mean certainly, that thinking of us as certified B Corps being kind of exemplars of better business, exemplars of the new way of doing business with marrying profit and purpose, definitely formed our thinking. We want to help other people be those success stories, be those exemplars of the next economy. So, that’s our thinking, we do that in lots of different ways. I started to talk about it as Pisa, we’re not Italian, but I think of it as Pisa. So, we help organizations articulate their purpose, plan for impact, share their stories, and demonstrate accountability for the different segments. 

 Will: Can you give us an example of the sort of work that you do and what sort of impact it had?

 Adam: Yeah sure. If I start with purpose, we might help an organization work out what it stands for and why it’s in business and how it can bring a social perspective, a social purpose into what it does. So, if I think of an example in that sphere, we were approached by Heart of the City, do you know them? They are a responsible business network that operates in London and they were formed by the corporation of London, the city of London Corporation and City Bridge Trust to galvanize small businesses to take responsible business or CSR more seriously, and so they run a bunch of training courses and so on. We were asked by them to help them with working out how to do a better job of their marketing and their outreach to get more small businesses to sign up for their two-year course. At the beginning of that process we thought, you know what, you’ve actually got to work out why you’re doing this, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it before you can do any outreach, any marketing on the back of it. Because if you’re not clear about your purpose up front then it doesn’t make sense, you’re not telling the right stories. So, we effectively did that piece of branding thinking, that architecture for them. We worked out their purpose and mission and vision before we went into creating a communications plan for them for helping to go into their outreach. They are currently recruiting for next year’s intake and any small businesses who are listening they should know that the first year is free. Lots of great valuable workshops. I’ve done one before, I can tell you it’s really good. They’ve already had, I think, 15 companies sign up. I think we’re looking for 70-odd to join the cohort next year, so they’re ahead of where they’ve been in any previous year in terms of their recruitment. So, I’d like to think that’s as a measure of impact, the difference we’ve made.



Will: That’s brilliant. I think it shows that such a take-up of organizations does not try to do that isn’t there?




Adam: Yeah, absolutely and I think businesses of all sizes recognize that there’s something going on. I mean, you and I work in the space, we’ve talked to larger companies who maybe have had longer to think about it or more need to think about it over time and maybe have tried some things and are sort of further down the road. But I think any business of any scale recognizes that there’s something going on, but businesses need to be more responsible. They need to create a better workplace for people, they need to demonstrate how they’re having a positive impact in their local community, how they’re doing good work for the environment or at least reducing the harm to the environment that comes with their business.


I think even five, six-person business, if I think about my friend Karin who runs an architect practice. He came to me and said, “I’ve been thinking about what we’ve been doing in my business, been running it for 20 years, been thinking about my legacy, I’m thinking about how we can make more of a difference in the world and I want us to do something more about the environment in our architectural practices.” That was the starting point, nothing more precise than that and it was informed by a rather personal experience he had of a beautiful place in the world that has now been trashed, thanks to deforestation. A place he traveled with his wife years ago that now is unimaginably different in a horrible way. He thought that’s not right and what can I do, running a small business, to have some measure of impact in this area. So, again with him, we did a piece of work which was all about how you bring environmental thinking into your architect business and that was partly some very practical things and partly a piece of work around articulating his purpose, their purpose and what they’re trying to do day to day. 




Will: That’s so important. So, what would you say Junxion with an x is their superpower? 




Adam: What’s our superpower? Well, it is the junxion function Will.




Will: I’ve just realized the Junxion is a junction




Adam: Exactly, it is the junction.




Will: I’ve never even thought about that.




Adam: It is all that, it is. I think we bridge divides, we come from different sectors, we think the future is for companies to have a blended mission. They’re going to be commercial, but they’ve got to be environmentally responsible. We come from those backgrounds, we make those links, we live in both worlds. I used to be a campaigner for Friends of the Earth and fundraise for Greenpeace back in the day, so I’m an activist at heart. I want to see the world be made better and I think companies have a responsibility to step up. But now I work as a consultant to companies, I’m that critical friend but I’m not waving the placard outside a building kind of saying do this, change that, I’m saying let me help you. And by the way, if you try and do something kind of inauthentic or express something in a kind of clunky way, I’ve got the air and the background to let you know that that’s not going to work, so I can be that critical friend. 


So, I think it’s that Junxion function, I think it’s because we come from those worlds and because we marry sustainability thinking with marketing communications expertise. So, we’re comfortable in the boardrooms, we’re comfortable on the front lines, we’re comfortable writing marketing campaigns for businesses, but we’re also comfortable writing letters. As my business partner, Mike, did it in Vancouver, writing letters that get a thousand businesses to oppose the pipeline that the Canadian government wanted to build through British Columbia [08:49 inaudible] the beautiful BC Coast. So, we can play both those roles, but I think when it comes to work and projects, we then bring those skills to them in a really important way. So, we can help you uncover your purpose but because we really know our stuff in that world, we can help make sure it’s done in a meaningful way. So, we can help you show your stories, but we can help you write the honest credible report on your performance. It isn’t just marketing but is actually genuinely kind of warts and all honest reporting on the difference you’ve made. So, we can play both of those rolls. 




Will: Do you miss your activist days? Do you look back on them and go, God, I wish I was doing that? I know you clearly love what you’re doing now, but it is a different work in the corporate world. 




Adam: It is different. I mean, do I miss it? It’s difficult, I thought about this quite a lot, I miss being 20 something. 




Will: Don’t we all. 




Adam: So, the two things happened at the same time in my life, right? So, it was a lot of fun and I’m not sure how much of that was fun because I was 20-something and how much was fun because I was an activist. So, that’s definitely part of it but I definitely get a lot of kicks out the work I do now. We say one of our company values is to be courageous and we explicitly say and advise and train our staff in speaking truth to power. So, that activist mindset is embedded in our values as a consultancy and it would be, wouldn’t it? I mean, I guess that’s where we come from, that’s who we are. So, I guess I don’t miss it in that way and I think the other thing that I do is I’ve spent a lot of time and effort certainly in the last 10 or so years, but ever since I left frontline campaigning, I’ve worked quite a lot in my local community to try and make my local community a more thriving place. So, when I stopped being a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, I was active in my local [11:24 inaudible] group for about 10 years and then for about 10 years now, I’ve been on the board of trustees of a flagship art center near where I live, called Jackson’s lane. And for the last six years I’ve been a school governor at the local primary school where I’m a chair of governors, so it not quite the same as being an activist but it is in a way it’s being…




Will: You’re doing stuff.




Adam: I’m doing stuff in the voluntary sector to make the world a better place and I do it in my community, largely, and then on a more global scale through my work. 




Will: Brilliant, a hard act to follow, [12:06 inaudible]




Adam: Well, I don’t know about that, I’ve certainly made lots of mistakes along the way, but it is important to me. One of the things, I mean, you’ve been here too Will, one of the things we do when companies go through the B impact assessment is you look at your community engagement work and we’re very clear that we want to be active in the communities where we live and where we work. So, it’s important for us to be individually active in our communities and I take that very seriously as I’ve just said but also to be active in the communities of interest where we operate. So, we are deliberately active contributors to the B Corp community in the UK. Of course, you are too and that’s part of the culture of the community, is to be active, but I’m very proud to be a B Corp ambassador. I’m very proud to sit on the working group, helping to look at the next version of the B impact assessment and give some feedback of what I think it should include and could include, being better and more useful. All of those things I think are important. My business partner, Mike who’s based in Vancouver, he’s on the board of the Social Venture Network which is the largest collection of social entrepreneurs and impact investors in North America. He’s helping them be a better organization and we feel that’s really important to kind of show up and be engaged in your community whether it’s physical to where you live or your professional community. We’re trying to be those exemplars that we talked about earlier. We’re trying to show the way towards a better way of doing business. 




Will: We then veered off track slightly but that’s a good thing, that’s a really good thing. What I’d like to know is how you engage your staff, suppliers, customers with your mission and purpose? What sort of things do you do to engage them? 




Adam: Yeah, we’re a bit of an odd fish I think in a way because we live and breathe this stuff. So, I’m not wearing it now, but I wear that B Corp badge two parties, Will.




Will: So do I. Brilliant, I’m glad you’re [14:26 inaudible]. I wear the t-shirt out and about, I actually have it on today.




Adam: Exactly. So, it is a bit of a kind of… 




Will: Cult? No, it is fair.




Adam: B cults, that’s what my wife calls it, yeah. No, but it is about a thing that you sort of live and breathe all the time, so I don’t think you’d work here if you didn’t and wouldn’t work with B element either if you weren’t value aligned, if you didn’t want to do the kind of work that we do. So, you’re pushing a very open door in terms of engaging staff is my point, they’re keen and interested to hear. So, in terms of more down-to-earth ways, I mean we have a number of systems and processes that we have in place partly because we’re based all across Canada and in the UK as well, a very small team in lots of different places. We have a number of systems and processes in place to remind us about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We have a strategic plan that we look at, at how we’re developing the business and every two weeks we spent an hour checking in on how we’re doing, part of that is around our mission, how we’re living it. We have an annual summit every year which we did the first time last year in June, last financial year for us where we all got together and we did a strategic review of the business and thought about what we’re trying to achieve and what our ambition is. So, Mike and I, we decided that one of the things we were going to change was to be a little bit more open with everyone about, frankly, the financial state of the business, what we were aiming for in financial terms, so we’re really being open about that and including staff in that. So, if anyone has got any great advice about profit share schemes, I’d love to hear it because that’s what we’re currently exploring. For example, in order to really bring people on board to what we’re trying to do and can attract and retain good people.




Will: Have the reach of reinventing organizations.




Adam: Yes, I’ve had that mentioned to me before, thanks I should pick that up. So, when we go out and talk to clients, I think we’re in the room because of who we are and what we do in terms of how we engage them in our mission. We’re pretty clear, upfront in pretty much all our conversations, that we want to help them run a better business and here’s what it means to us and here’s what we think it should mean to you. So, for example, when we run purpose workshops, we use our own purpose, mission, and vision as examples. So, I often tell people that we exist to accelerate the ship to the next economy because that’s our purpose. And then I say well, our vision is an economy, this next economy that’s been remade to serve the common good and our mission and what we do every day to work to create that vision of the world is to help leaders build the success stories of the next economy. So, I just put it all out there, Will. I mean, I just tell people what we’re trying to do and all the time in our work, so it’s unavoidable. Maybe we should speak less and listen more but that’s definitely us, that’s who we are. 




Will: So, when it comes to running an ethical and sustainable business, what would you say has been your biggest struggle so far and can you tell us a bit about how you’ve overcome it?




Adam: Yeah. This is an interesting question because I think that probably the struggles I’ve had in running a business are probably the same as anyone has had running any kind of business. Do I have the right people? Do I have money? How is cash flow this month? All of those standard business challenges any small business would face. In terms of the kind of ethical and sustainable aspect of it, I think it’s got to be about people, about making sure you’re treating them well, creating the opportunity for them to grow. I think that one of the most important things about running a business, for me, is that it embodies a set of values, a way of doing things that I believe in and Mike, my business partner and I both believe in, and that is to coin a phrase about creating decent and meaningful work people. You want to create decent and meaningful work and you want to thrive and grow and that requires of you as a manager, boss, whatever, to find time to coach and develop them, to be fair to them, to be fair to the demands you’re placing on them.


So, to live that value when you’re trying to do everything else you’re trying to do, that’s the biggest struggle. How I’ve dealt with that, I’m not sure I’m brilliant at it yet, I keep working at it, I try and be open. I told my direct port sharer when we came back from the business summit we had in June, I said, I want you to tell me when I’m not giving you the coaching that you need. I’m happy to be held to account by people who I manage, and I give her permission to do that because sometimes I might be distracted, and I shouldn’t be and I should be responsible. I should do it myself, but I want her to feel that she can tell me if I’m not giving her the support that she needs to develop. I think that balancing that, finding time for that, I think that’s been the biggest challenge. It’s about recognizing that that is important, recognizing that even though it might take longer to delegate or to show someone how to do something, in the long run, it’s worth it, it’s worth it to you and to them and to the business.




Will: What good one piece of advice you could give listeners to help them with their purpose and what would that be?




Adam: With their purpose? 




Will: Yeah.  




Adam: There’s a classic exercise called the five whys exercise, so my advice would be to keep asking why. 

Yeah, keep asking why. Just keep asking why you’re doing something. Why are you doing that? Why do you do that? A couple of things happen, one is, you’ll end up with something more and more sort of fundamental about why you’re doing what you’re doing, which is useful. And the second is if you sort of go why am I doing that? That’s not what I was… I don’t know, that’s a good question and you might realize that there are things you’re doing that you don’t need to do, in fact, you don’t want to do. I think to get to your true purpose, you need to keep asking why. 



Will: Right. Good. Brilliant. When it comes to reducing your environmental impacts and carbon footprint of your business, what would you say your biggest challenge or frustration was?




Adam: The biggest challenge is that we’re in international business with international clients, which means we get on airplanes.




Will: Right, and do you carbon offset? 




Adam: Yeah, we do sometimes, I don’t think we do it rigorously. I think if there’s a surcharge option, if we buy the ticket or something else buys a ticket, it doesn’t always get tipped. I don’t know, it’s definitely sketchy on that, Will. I think we could do better at that because I mean, you’ll know this better than me but I’m pretty sure that the amount of electricity that my little laptop uses is inconsequential compared to the fact that last month this big project we’re doing with the United Nations Environment Programme to help produce the communication strategy for the principles for responsible banking and testing initiative to get banking aligned with society’s goals and needs, great project. It’s just a huge, fantastic, lovely project, but they required me to fly to Singapore and make a bunch of presentations to 28 of the world’s largest banks and then fly back again four days later.  




Will: You know what, that’s kind of where you are pushing that change, by doing something bad.




Adam: No, exactly. No, you’re quite right. So, in terms of our footprint, that’s a bad thing to do but in terms of the work that we do and, in a way, to flip the question back and you’ve already sort of done this for me, of course, by galvanizing, I hope, the world bank to change the way that they do business. So, it’s more aligned with society’s goals as expressed in the sustainable development goals in the Paris climate agreement that’s going to have a massive change, that dwarfs even my ridiculous flight to Singapore and back in terms of footprint. So, it’s absolutely about the difference we make with our clients it’s much more significant than our operational footprint.




Will: I’m going to be slightly controversial here, I’m only doing it because I know you. Who’s to say we’re doing the right thing? Who is our judgment? Is that not slightly narcissistic to say that we can make a judgment call like that? 




Adam: About the difference we’re making? 




Will: Yeah. So, saying, oh yeah, well, it’s okay for us to fly because we’re going to help the banking industry, but it’s not for someone from another industry to fly somewhere for another meeting. 




Adam: Yeah. No, I hear you, I think it’s a fair challenge. I mean, I think it’s why you’re flying I suppose would be the question, what are you hoping to achieve? I could definitely say well, what I was hoping to achieve was to galvanize a bunch of banks to do more about changing their business strategies, so they are more aligned with what society needs, so that’s a straightforward one. I guess if you’re flying around the world to, I don’t know, sell more cars, to burn more fossil fuels so more people drive, then it would be a harder equation to draw. The last thing I want to do is be bias, I think that’s a real risk.




Will: I know. I just know that some people listening and that therefore it’s worth noting that. I think it is really hard, isn’t it? It’s really hard to justify what it is that we’re doing by that and I think that not everyone’s perfect and I think as long as you’re aware or not you, one is aware of what the ramifications are then I think that’s a good thing.






Adam: Absolutely. I mean, I have to say the other thing, and I think this is probably true of a lot of small businesses today, our office is in a shared workspace and it’s a great workspace, lot 22, the guys here are fantastic, love being here, it’s just south of King’s Cross. How do we know what our share of the electricity bill is when it’s a few desks in a shared workspace? It’s really hard to work out. So, I was wondering Will, one for you with your carbon calculator tool that I know you’ve got. Have you got a way to go into, say come here at lot 22, go speak to the guys running the shared workspace and say, let’s work out what each small business that’s in here, what their share of the total footprint is?




Will: How do they divvy up the rent, is it per desk? 




Adam: Unfortunately, there’re a number of different ways. There is per desk but there are also some people who come in for a certain amount of time only and they pay a lower amount, so there are a couple of different ways. 




Will: We would be looking at how they divvy that up and then look at the electricity and so I would imagine that they will have a meter that is there. And now with compare footprint, you can now upload any Excel spreadsheet into it and it will sort it all out for you, so you can do your station. I mean it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant because we’ve realized that people didn’t want to enter this data and if you’re a bigot and want to also pay what you want. Now, we’re not charging anything. Well, we are, we’re charging 10 p or more. PayPal has a 10-p minimum, so we’ve got a 10-p minimum. It means then if you’re a massive organization, like for example a massive bank and you want to find out the carbon footprint of every single organization within your organization, as in all those premises. You can fill out the template, i.e. postcode and all that kind of stuff, upload that then all your organization’s are in the system and then you just upload all your stuff and as long as it’s got postcode or building name or something that’s attributed to it, our software will now attribute everything and you get scope one turn to emissions and then benchmarks.




Adam: So, I should just tell the guys to log in and sent…




Will: Yeah. So, this would be ready at the time of this podcast, we’re going to Lisbon web summit and that’s at the beginning of November, it has to be done by then because we’re going for that.




Adam: Awesome. I’ll get him to do it. 




Will: Thank you.




Adam: [28:44 inaudible] 




Will: Which is not, as I said before, it’s not what it’s about.




Adam: No, no it’s not. 




Will: When it comes to reducing and your approach to environmental management, how do you approach environmental management in your carbon Footprints? You have talked about it slightly. 




Adam: Yeah. I mean, I have to say we don’t think it’s the most important part of our overall footprint as a business. So, I think we’re a consultancy with basically desk based consultants, and we absolutely love it when our staff wants to cycle to work and like I said, they’re thinking about that stuff anyway, so some of them just cycle to work. My job is, can I find a shared office space that has got showers so that when my colleague cycle to work they can shower when they get here, that’s my job. They’re already cycling, and I don’t have time to cycle, so I think there’s a limited amount that we do. To think about it if I’m honest, I think we, as I said earlier, the challenge and the area where I spend more of my time, is thinking how I can create a workplace where good, able, smart, values-based people can do their best work. So, I want to create a workplace that facilitates their success and their growth and their positive impact in the world and that definitely takes more of my attention than thinking about how many laptops we run or whether we cycle to work or not.




Will: That’s fair enough. I think that makes complete sense. Is there anything you’d like people to take away from this podcast today? What piece of advice would you like to give or something you’d like people to do, an action?  




Adam: So, this is something I sometimes get companies to do is to think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. So, there’s a great exercise which is to try and write down the mission of your business in eight words or less. So, to say a verb, who the target population that you’re affecting is and what you’re trying to achieve, so, verb, target population, outcome, eight words or less. Trying to do that is not that easy, sometimes it’s really easy. So, the classic example is a charity might be running campaigns and trying to raise awareness and they might be lobbying MPs and what are they trying to do? They’re trying to save African rhinos from extinction. That’s really clear, really straightforward, everyone knows within five words what their purpose is. If you can get to that kind of degree of clarity about what your purpose is, you’re in a really, really strong place to go forward and build all of your stations and impact measurement on the back of it. So, eight words or less what you’re trying to do, work it out. 




Will: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much, Adam. Is there a place that we can go to find more about Junxion with an x? 




Adam: Yeah, Yeah, plenty there, lots of great articles, you can subscribe to our newsletter, you get something thoughtful and provocative in your inbox once a week.




Will: It’s really good, I like reading them. 




Adam: Thanks, good to hear Will. 




Will: We’ll put everything in the podcast notes so thank you so much, Adam. [32:48 overlapping talk].




Adam: Yeah, happy to do it. Alright Will, take care, see you soon.




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