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  • Writer's pictureKaty Sperry

Torrey Project: The Action Leader for Stakeholder Capitalism

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Torrey Project’s launch timing in April, 2019 couldn’t have been better. 2019 has been a year where the stakeholder approach to business has finally started to become mainstream.

US CEOs Embrace Stakeholder-Focused Business

In August, 2019, the Business Roundtable released a statement on the purpose of a corporation where 181 CEOs of America’s leading companies pledged to do business in a way that benefits all stakeholders. This was a major step forward from a group of companies who have historically embraced shareholder primacy, which means that the needs of their shareholders came before the needs of other stakeholders like employees or the environment.

In November, 2019 Vistage, a network of high-performing CEOs throughout the US, released a report on how to build a conscious corporate culture. This report cited that 63% of the over 1500 CEO’s they surveyed agreed that culture is crucial to a company’s performance and success. But, only 11% of CEOs surveyed were satisfied with their current corporate culture. This report is one further piece of evidence that CEOs throughout the US are realizing that culture and the way companies interact with their stakeholders is crucial to how they do business.

Thought Leaders in Stakeholder Theory

The concept of doing business in a way that benefits all stakeholders, including an organization's employees, suppliers, partners, shareholders and customers as well as the environment, local communities they operate in, and society at large, has actually been around since 1984 when Ed Freeman published his book “Strategic Management: a Stakeholder Approach.” Since Ed Freeman’s initial thought leadership on stakeholder-focused business, other thought leaders have emerged and some, like John Mackey of Whole Foods have exemplified a stakeholder approach in their businesses and inspired many other business leaders to adopt a more conscious approach to business through books like Conscious Capitalism, co-authored by Raj Sisodia.

Torrey Project’s Action Leadership

Torrey Project was founded in late 2018 by David Ferran, a multi-time CEO and recent convert to Stakeholder Capitalism. David founded Torrey Project, a global organization dedicated to utilizing the power of business as a force for good, because after learning about a stakeholder approach to business, he realized that this approach would have prevented or solved so many of the problems he faced during his decades as a CEO. He also saw that the two causes he cared about most, environmental degradation and economic injustice, could only be permanently solved through a complete long-term transformation of the way businesses are run. This led to Torrey Project’s mantra: Transform Capitalism, Change the World.

Since Torrey Project’s launch, it has accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments including:

The Torrey Project Incubator: In May, Torrey Project launched a startup incubator for entrepreneurs who seek to run stakeholder focused businesses.

  • 2 Cohorts, 11 Startups: The Torrey Project Incubator has now graduated two cohorts of entrepreneurs, totaling 11 startups across both cohorts.

  • Serving the Underserved: 100% of the entrepreneurs in the second incubator cohort (Sept-Oct 2019) were either women or people of color. In January, 2020, Torrey Project plans to run two cohorts simultaneously, one of which will be comprised of all female founders.

  • Full Scholarships: 100% of the entrepreneurs who attended Torrey Project’s incubator were provided full scholarships to cover the cost of their attendance.

  • Crossing Borders: Two members of the September incubator cohort, Daniel Sanchez and Nicholas Sandoval, commuted across the US-Mexico border to attend the incubator.

  • Students Become Leaders: Two graduates of Torrey Project’s first incubator cohort, Jessa Spainhower and Laurel Lees, now help lead business model development sessions for subsequent cohorts.

  • B-Corp Certification: One incubator graduate, A Stellar Co., is already pending B corps Certification by B Lab.

  • Top-Notch Teachers: Gustavo Grodnitzky, author of the book Culture Trumps Everything and highlighted leader in Vistage’s latest report, teaches Torrey Project graduates how to build conscious company cultures.

Educating Local and Global Communities: Torrey Project’s leadership has developed strong ties with universities and community organizations.

All in all, Torrey Project has become the “Action Leader” in the cause of Stakeholder-Focused business, building on the work of thought leaders who came before and turning theory into concrete action that immediately benefits entrepreneurs, communities, and all other stakeholders.

As a startup non-profit organization, Torrey Project relies on donations from generous donors to fund their work. Those interested in supporting Torrey Project can get more information on their donors page.

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