The Formula for a Sustainable Company

In recent times, sustainability has risen on the agenda for companies. More and more companies profile themselves as sustainable and several do put a considerable effort into making a change towards a better world. This is indeed very, very good news.

Although, this is the only way forward. We can not any longer afford to ignore the planet, or become wealthy at the expense of someone else. The time has passed for that.

We are evolving new values and preferences. The Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study from 2015 states that: “Consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. They are even willing to compromise quality, pay more or reduce how much they buy if it will have a positive impact on social or environmental issues.”

This also totally aligns with the exponential development of our consciousness (I wrote about it in the previous article, you can read it here.) Customers are people, and people work in companies. This gives us that employees, managers, leaders are evolving towards more altruistic preferences than before. This gives us companies with a new focus.

So let us dig into “how can a formula for a sustainable company look like?

Nature is a very good source of inspirational for this subject. Everything in nature has its role in the ecosystem (gives and takes in balance).

To be a sustainable company, you must contribute to our world in one way or another. You can contribute to an individual, to the society or our planet. You can be in the entertainment business, or make socks, or plant trees, or provide medicines or build the latest mobile technology. It does not matter what you do. What matters is — are you contributing to someone? And how are you doing this?

If you do not contribute, you are simply not relevant. Please note, the stress is on contribution, not on profitability. Focusing on profitability belongs to the old paradigm of running a business.

I do have a lot of faith in the lean startup movement. As an entrepreneur you start off your business by really finding out — what problems are you solving? How can you contribute? Based on that you build your business model.

This is something many established companies have forgotten. As I see it, you can not take away “sustainability” from the business development work. Sustainability and business development come hand in hand. Sustainability is the core part of a good business model. I question the very fact that some companies have CSR positions separated from the business development.

Is it then enough to contribute to be sustainable? Well, not really, you have to consider all your stakeholders inclusive our Planet, so you do not create new problems while contributing to your customers.

In nature everything is changing in one way or another, and every species is striving to be its best (AKA “the fittest survive”). Nothing is permanent. If we translate it to the business world this will mean that we have to continually focus on improving our contribution — is our contribution still valid to our customers? How can we contribute more?

In parallel, we need to consider if we are creating any negative impact while doing our best to contribute to our customers. For instance, a side effect could be that your operations use some toxic chemicals. In that case your focus will be to eliminate toxic chemicals out of your production. Your focus will be to do as little harm as possible on the society and on our Planet.

With this in mind we get the following formula for a sustainable company:

Sustainable company = Contributes > Negative impact

If we add the time aspect we get:

Sustainable company =
Continually focus on increasing contribution, and the contribution is bigger than >
The negative impact. With continuous focus on eliminating the negative impact

The aim for a sustainable company will be to strive to get as big gap as possible between contribution and its negative impact.

How does the formula apply to your company?

How is your company contributing to the world?

Last but not least — how are you contributing to the world?