– By Maria Cristina Machado Cortez, Principal and Felipe Sentelhas, Senior Associate at Cortez, Rizzi & Miranda Attorneys at Law
During my 27 years working as a legal counsel for computer and high-tech companies, I had the opportunity to work on incredible projects, but many of which just didn’t take off and even lost their way after an initial success. The growth was not sustainable, and I always wondered: why that project lost its own light. The answer to that question may be simple – those brilliant projects had no meaningful purpose.
By meaningful purpose, I mean more than an alignment with a corporate goal. In fact, purpose is not limited to the goals that move someone in a certain direction, it is something more profound: the subjective element that creates belief in a better future, generates a positive impact for themselves and the community. Deep down, everyone wants a better world to live in.
And what does technology have to do with it? Compared to other industries, Information Technology is a new sector that has grown very quickly. In a few decades, IT skyrocketed, from valves to clouds. With such increased amount of processing and storage capacity, we became an industry that can create customized prediction and behavior models.
The digital transformation has also brought process automation and machine learning, virtualization, the use of big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, smart contracts, among other major advances for the world and for society. However, like all other sectors, there were negative impacts – technology, algorithms, and machines are no longer tools for human development and started to define and dictate the objectives and purposes of companies and society itself. Along with all the freedom, beauty, and innovation of the internet, also came in fake news, hate speech, intolerance, and segregation.
The damaging effects of such practices have also drawn the attention of governments around the world, which have decided to take action to try to balance the forces. Among these measures, we can highlight the adoption of data protection laws and regulations, such as GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California, LGPD in Brazil.
Governments and other stakeholders realized the objective (financial) and subjective (rights to privacy and intimacy) value of the data and decided to bring balance to the equation through the adoption of specific regulations dealing with the topic.
The need to rebalance forces was even more evident with the pandemic. Companies had to accelerate their digital transformation, no longer as a competitive advantage, but simply as a way of survival. On the other hand, society began to demand other attributes that technology alone was unable to provide.
After all, as wonderful as they are, machines do not consume, do not get sick, nor do they buy medicine, food, clothes, or services, people do! Companies have realized that they should pursue a meaningful purpose with repercussions on social well-being so that they can engage and retain their customers. This is where the ESGD agenda (acronym for Environmental, Social, Governance and the most recent Diversity) comes into discussion.
Companies and entire sectors need to adopt such agendas and clearly communicate them within their corporate purposes. These agendas recognize that we (individuals and companies) live in a network of economic and social connections, with limited space and resources. The ESGD agenda has an impact on how a company must cope with its own growth and how it produces value.
Understanding that we are working with a limited and unequal world gives us a new perspective on the so-called “unicorns” within the technology industry, i.e. Companies that have grown at an accelerated rate through large funding and valuations. The unicorns have faced several criticisms for being disconnected from the sustainability requirements.
As a result, a new model is on the spotlight – the “Zebras”, companies aligned with the purpose of sustainable prosperity, based on a cooperation and a win-win model, whose beneficiary is the collective, the communities, but without neglecting profitability. Unlike Unicorns, whose priority is user acquisition, Zebras prioritize user success, thus promoting integration among corporate and social purposes.
In Brazil, a company that has been standing out in this area is ItsNoon Tecnologia, which in 2010 created the ItsNoon platform to promote inclusion and job opportunities in the digital world. The platform works as a social network in which a “like” (represented by a sunflower) is worth BRL$ 1.00 and thus the user – called a creator – is directly paid by the community for the creative content made available on the network, in a true model of reciprocity.
Over these years, ItsNoon has been testing the network value distribution model with more than 100 thousand users, distributed in public and private institutions of all sizes. Its project for the Auckland Council (NZ) was recognized and awarded in Oceania, Asia and the United States, for its attributes of transparency, inclusion and solution for smart cities.
ItsNoonApp application had a big boom with the pandemic, precisely because it provided a means of livelihood the most affected strata of the Brazilian population. As the company is compensated only when the user withdraws its money, its business model works under an authentic win-win system.
Like ItsNoon, there are other companies that have been bringing innovation to the technology market. There is no doubt that in a post-pandemic world, the adoption of the ESGD agenda and its alignment with the corporate purpose will be essential for the success – and survival – of any company. Intelligence should no longer be artificial; it must be real and human.