twentyfifty turns 20: Our story so far
8 February 2023
As we mark 20 years in business on Sunday, we asked one of our newest recruits, Hyunjin Lee to find out more about how twentyfifty came about, in conversation with our Founder and Chief Executive Luke Wilde. With Luke at the helm since day one, twentyfifty has grown into a pioneering business consultancy, with a roster of clients that includes some of the world’s biggest companies.
Here Luke shares what sparked his passion for championing responsible business, his career highlights, and his ambitions for the future.
Hyunjin: Luke, what made you start twentyfifty back in 2004?
Luke: After university, I decided I wanted to work with a wide range of people which led to various roles in international consulting and with the United Nations. By the early 2000s, I was running training courses with Amnesty International. We were helping companies to apply business management approaches to respecting human rights. It was unique at the time. During those courses, it struck me that identifying and addressing human rights issues in this way had a huge potential to effect positive change. I wanted to build on my experience in business consulting to make that happen, and twentyfifty was born from that ambition.
Hyunjin: Twenty years on, have you achieved what you set out to?
Luke: I’m a restless spirit, so yes we have achieved a lot but I’m not done! Today we have an award-winning international team and an extended network of exceptional consultants. Together we are helping leading companies to turn commitments to respecting human rights into practice.
Our experience spans two decades, in numerous countries and stretches from the boardroom to the field. We have worked with many of our clients for multiple years, getting deep into their value chains and close to their impacts. But there’s always more to do and that’s what drives us.
Ultimately, we want to ensure that the work we do with clients is positively impacting people’s lives, which in reality means working with complex systems and helping them lead change. In the last 3-4 years we have seen a real shift with the work we do being led at higher levels in companies and better resourced. As that trajectory continues and technological advances and climate change create new opportunities and challenges, the next decade will be about helping our clients navigate our rapidly changing world, with a strong ethical compass and by putting people at the centre.
Hyunjin: What do you think has been twentyfifty’s biggest impact?
Luke: I often say to new consultants, you have to listen for the moments when our work creates a change in the way a client is talking. When they refer to ideas we’ve developed together, as the way they do business now.
My greatest pride comes from seeing the impact we are making and learning from the people whose lives are changing. I remember standing with a farm manager going through his work council records. He was a supplier to a company we had worked with on an initiative to address violence against women. He showed me the records of how a complaint from a woman had been dealt with by the council, how sanctions had been applied and the man who had assaulted her, had been dismissed. Such action reduced conflict among farm workers, women felt safer and happier, and productivity improved. We helped make that happen.
Hyunjin: How have your personal values influenced the way twentyfifty has evolved?
Luke: I grew up attending Quaker meetings and have always found it interesting that so many Quakers became successful businesspeople.
From my Quaker roots, I learnt that everyone is equal and must be treated with respect and dignity. I felt that even as a child in Quaker meetings. Differences are seen as an opportunity to learn, to explore fresh perspectives. Social responsibility, respectful listening and doing good deeds are core to the Quaker ethos. Without realising it, that shaped the foundations of my upbringing, influenced my reasons for creating twentyfifty and informs how I show up and lead the company today.
Hyunjin: And finally, what are your hopes for the next ten years?
Luke: If I look forward ten or even 20 years, I hope today’s concerns, such as inequality and climate change, will be abating. That we will have seen a turning point where irresponsible capitalism will have passed its peak and we can look back on the positive impact that we have had.
If I look further to 2050, I hope that responsible businesses will be thriving. I hope that the twentyfifty team will continue to be seen as pioneers and I hope that we continue to be ‘the change we want to see in the world’. Both in the work that we do and how we do it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Luke Wilde is the Chief Executive and Founder of twentyfifty and has worked in leadership and organisational development for more than 30 years. Before starting twentyfifty, Luke worked for the United Nations, PwC and London Underground.
Hyunjin Lee joined twentyfifty in March 2023, working on projects in the FMCG, aerospace, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. She has lived, studied and worked in New Zealand, Korea and the UK.