Nov 27, 2023.

All you need to know about Australia’s most purpose-driven business conference.

ZEN was delighted to sponsor the Purpose Conference for the first time earlier this month. Held in Sydney at the beautiful Carriageworks Art Centre in Eveleigh, we were heralded with inspired ideas and inspirational speakers on engaging with the new world economy.

Since 2015, Purpose has explored and amplified the growing momentum of ethical, regenerative and socially impactful business.

Highlights from the event.

We are Warriors

Indigenous musician and host of Triple J’s ‘Blak Out’, Nooky focused on the value in inspiring youth through the way that we show up. His story, told with inimitable chutzpah, was deeply moving – a timely reminder of how far we have come as well as how far we have to go with Indigenous engagement. Nooky’s story of meeting his business partner and wondering if it was ‘just another guy who wanted a smoking ceremony for his office’, was very funny but also motivated us to reflect on how much deeper we need to take our relationship with Indigenous communities.

We are Warriors’ catch cry of ‘See it. Be It.’ It is a challenge on the value of role models as well as the engagement and inspiration that the creative arts can provide.

Indigenous Designed Finance – Regenerative Finance.

Paul Girrawah House and Chris Andrew from the Waluwin Foundation provided insight into the way that we farm in Australia and how banks traditionally finance in this sector. The poignant words ‘We farm the way we finance’ highlighted the degradation that we can impose on our precious land through the pursuit of profits to meet the burden of debt; as opposed to working the land with respect to the weather cycles and mother nature. The team is working with Emeritus Professor Bruce Chapman to design a new economy focused financing model to enable our land to flourish.

Lee Schofield – Future for Now.

Lee gave us some fascinating insight into the world of generative AI. Quoting Yoval Noah Harari:

“In a political battle for minds and hearts, intimacy is the most efficient weapon, and AI has just gained the ability to mass-produce intimate relationships with millions of people.”

Lee reminded us that we are moving away from the attention economy and into the intimacy economy. She introduced us to the frontier conversational AI – Pi.Ai and noted that she loves to brainstorm with Pi.

She also took us through the 28 AIs (now in Beta) that have been launched by Meta. While silently chuckling at the ‘celebrities’ who have allowed Meta to use their face – deeper questions are at play. When this AI steps out of beta, up to 3.88B subscribers to Meta platforms will be able to have their own AI character.  What does this do for engagement with your firm?  Do these characters count as people if they are ‘owned’ and managed by people? How do you know who you are dealing with on social media?

This is another way that TRUTH will be tested across the globe.

The best tip – which we have embraced – from Lee was to use PerpexityAI instead of Chat GPT – because Perplexity actually provides its references. The truth is out there.

Desiree Fixler, Whistleblower and ESG Expert.

Desiree delivered an incredible keynote about her journey to blowing the whistle on Deutsche Bank Asset Management’s false ESG claims. Her actions resulted in a series of investigations, fines and a global re-focus on how organisations report on ESG. She highlighted that the firm’s risk assessment tool was not good enough, that they were making claims like ‘ESG is at the heart of everything that we do’ and ‘in our corporate DNA’, reminding us of the need for excellent governance and risk frameworks in this space.

Desiree noted that close to €200B of European funds have been reclassified from ‘dark green’ products to ‘light green’ as a result of her actions. A brave woman who took on a great deal of personal risk to highlight these issues.

There is a big lesson for us all here. Next economy governance is about culture and structure. And building a defensible narrative.

Dr Toby Parkes – Rhizocore

Dr Parkes introduced us to Mycorrhizal networks. Using our new friend, Perplexity AI – we note that:

A mycorrhizal network, is an underground network found in forests and other plant communities, created by the hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi joining with plant roots. This network connects individual plants together, allowing for the exchange of nutrients, signalling compounds, and infochemicals between connected plants.

Dr Parkes informed us that 13.2Gt of carbon passes through mycorrhizal networks annually and that they offer 60% greater absorption than non-mycorrhizal trees, they grow 20-50% faster and 25-60% of carbon is transferred into the fungal biomass and roots.

He made a super interesting comparison of traditional carbon capture and storage where carbon is captured, transported along pipes, and stored in old sinks that have previously been used for activities like mining. He noted that trees with mycorrhizal networks can capture carbon, the roots of these trees can transport the carbon (replacing pipes) and the soil becomes the store. World Soil Day is on December 5 and feels like a good time to contemplate the ability of soil to create a carbon sink!

Rhizocore is building a gene bank of fungal species based on their ecological traits that link them to forest productivity. They are preserving the gene bank and treating it like the valuable biological asset that it is. They are then capturing data on the growth stimulation of the trees that they inoculate with the genes to determine the best strains. Using advanced liquid fermentation techniques, they can grow the fungal mycelium at scale and pelletise them for distribution.

Dr Parkes highlighted that there are multiple benefits of this technology spanning forest health, water health and human health (through potential pharmaceutical discoveries). Mushrooms are certainly the new gold.

MCi Carbon – Sophia Hamblin Wang.

Sophia introduced us to the amazing work that the team at MCi Carbon has done developing a technology that safely captures and converts industrial CO2 emissions into solid bulk materials that can be used in new low-carbon products for construction, manufacturing, and consumer markets, ultimately enabling the circular economy.

The team won the #1 CleanTech’ at COP26’s Clean Energy Start-up Pitch Battle in Glasgow. There were 2700 global solutions pitched in that battle! In a great example of a public private partnership, MCi Carbon was formed through collaboration with the University of Newcastle and Orica.

Sophia introduced us to ‘Myrtle’, their second plant which will be built in Newcastle, NSW. When Myrtle is complete, she will be the world’s first multi-purpose carbon plant. MCi Carbon will be able to take any source of CO2 emissions and mineral-based feedstock and react them together to create new construction materials.