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Leadership lessons from Hans Reitz: Trailblazing the Natural Business Movement

Hans Reitz

In my mission to understand the role of values in shaping societies, nations, and organizations, I have interviewed many inspiring individuals and entrepreneurs who are guided by a strong sense of purpose and greater meaning. 

One such individual is Hans Reitz, whose experience exemplifies the power of a single individual to effect positive change and bring about meaningful transformation in businesses. Hans is a thinker, creative, visionary and doer at the same time. He teaches us as business leaders that it is possible to be both an entrepreneur and an artist, to live by a core set of values and embrace everything with joy. 

Here are just a few of the things leaders can learn from him if they hope to place natural business at the heart of their endeavours:

Place humanity at the core 

Hans Reitz’s journey began with the determination to place humanity at the core of all his endeavours, which has led him to where he is today. Founding the creative agency circ in 1994, he has advised global organisations on developing socially-driven cultures including globally renowned brands such as BMW, H&M, and VW. Inspired by the initiatives he brought to his clients, Hans went on to found coffee franchise system perfect day, whose business model blended his values of social business and effective brand positioning.

Hans has found joy and success in other social business ventures too. One such venture is Elephant Coffee, a social business focused on revolutionising the coffee supply chain and cultivating direct relationships with their farmers. 

Drawing upon his experience as the founder of perfect day, Hans has created the “Perfect Way” approach to disrupting the coffee track. This approach relies on implementing actions that are socially, digitally, and environmentally conscious into the supply chain. Starting with the use of permaculture techniques, Hans aspires to create a cup of coffee that is both climate positive and carbon negative.

Through this vision and Hans’s natural business expertise, Elephant Coffee presents itself as a pioneer in global coffee production with the potential to influence other coffee brands to incorporate the same practices and contribute to the global shift towards carbon-negative commodities. 

Adopt key principles of social business

Notably, Hans Reitz has worked as a Creative Advisor to Muhammad Yunus, whose work to alleviate poverty through microcredit banking awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize and global renown. Over the last 16 years, they have developed multiple global initiatives that have established the foundation for successful social businesses. Their partnership led to the launch of the Grameen Creative Lab (GCL) in 2009, an incubator and creative consultancy aimed at addressing society’s most pressing issues through the work of social businesses. As a daughter company of the Yunus Centre, the GCL served as a catalyst for a strong friendship and business partnership between Reitz and Yunus that later resulted in the creation of the Yunus Environmental Hub.

In an effort to promote their shared vision and socially conscious businesses, they established the seven principles of social business. These principles outline the objectives of a social or natural business, and are as follows:

  1. The purpose of the business is not profit maximisation, but rather to address an issue that is negatively impacting people and society.
  2. A social business must be financially self-sustaining and cannot rely on external funding to operate.
  3. Investors will recoup their investments, but will not receive dividends.
  4. All profits earned above the investment will remain within the business with the focus of scaling and improving operations.
  5. The business must advocate for environmental wellbeing and gender sensitivity.
  6. Employees of the business receive market wages and better working conditions.
  7. Everything must be done with joy.

Do everything with joy

Within Reitz and Yunus’s joint endeavours and these principles, joy emerges as a key element. Since their purpose is not to optimise earnings, a natural business must hire those who are devoted to the company mission and collective societal betterment. In doing this, a business can foster a culture of joy rather than stress.

These principles have served as a framework for those who run or promote social or natural businesses across the globe. They also distinguish the social/natural businesses from the businesses that promote social welfare in name only. 

Personally Hans has a huge mission over the next ten years to create together with family and friends an ecosystem around his unique experience, to finance every inspirational project they love to do.

Combine entrepreneurship with artistry

Hans Reitz emphasises the power of the individual to create positive change through business, and like Yunus, believes that everyone is both an entrepreneur and an artist. This is best exemplified through his own career. Leveraging his creative expertise to address the world’s most pressing issues, Reitz has cemented himself as a leader in the world of natural business.

Live by core values

Importantly, a career like his is built on establishing a core set of values and living in accordance with them. 

Through this practice of living by core values, we can reshape our perception of business success and discover new opportunities that bring meaning to our professional lives. 

It is my hope that in this process, we might, like Hans, discover the importance of doing everything with joy.

Written by Dr. Mandeep Rai.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Opinions - Leadership lessons from Hans Reitz: Trailblazing the Natural Business Movement
Dr. Mandeep Rai
Dr. Mandeep Rai is the Author of The Values Compass: What 101 Countries Teach Us About Purpose, Life and Leadership. She is a global authority on values, working with companies, institutions, and individuals around the world. She has travelled to more than 150 countries and reported as a journalist for the BBC World Service and Reuters, amongst others. Dr. Mandeep Rai is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn.