Moira Canty Outlines The 3 Pillars of Responsible Corporate Sustainability

Moira Canty
Sep 11, 2019 · 4 min read

“A company’s only fidelity is to its shareholders.”

How many times has that old axiom been used to justify acts of corporate misconduct? If there is money to be saved by dumping waste in a local river, so be it. A company’s only fidelity is to its shareholders. If a can’t-miss real estate deal comes along involving the purchase and destruction of a local park, so be it. A company’s function is to maximize profits, not to care about green space. This is outdated thinking.

Now more than ever, it is clear to responsible businesses that a key component to overall success is working together with their local community to facilitate sustainable economic growth — the two operative words being ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainable’. Moira Canty states that a responsible company considers not only its fiscal bottom line, but also the impact its behavior has on local neighborhoods and people. Sustainable economic growth is an outcrop, and the goal of these considerations. It means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. In other words, for a business to truly do well, it must not only make a healthy profit, but also do its part in building a healthy community.

But what is the method of approach that a company ought to use when hammering out a strategy for community growth? What are the elements involved? The following are explanations of the three major areas of consideration — or, ‘pillars’, as they are sometimes called — of corporate sustainability.

1. Economic Impact

Necessarily, the first consideration for any business must be economic. In much the same way that a flight attendant advises parents to secure their own oxygen masks before securing those of their children, a business must be able to sustain itself before it can worry about advancing the growth of its surrounding community. Responsible companies are quite aware that the tactics they employ on the way to being profitable should in no way harm the local land or population. The bottom line must be a priority, but so must ethics.

With already profitable companies the considerations are a little different. The economic impact pillar involves maintenance of profitability while simultaneously keeping in good standing as a local corporate citizen. Ideally, the interests of the board of directors and management should align with that of the shareholders, employees, end-users, and local community. This is a tricky needle to thread, however. At the very least, there ought to be a clear rejection of corporate malpractice — things like engaging in illegal activities or using political contributions to curry favorable treatment from government.

2. Environmental Impact

In recent years, many companies have awakened to the fact that employing environmentally friendly practices is not only good public relations and the ethical thing to do but can also ultimately increase profitability. Moira Canty says that a good example of this is how the attitude of the private sector in general has changed toward issues such as packaging waste and water consumption. By lessening the resources dedicated to product packaging and the amount of water used in production processes, companies have found that it is, in fact, possible to kill two birds with one stone; it is possible to have a positive impact on the environment while cutting costs.

There are some industries, however, that have an indisputably negative effect on the planet and struggle with ways to rectify that. Food production and resource extraction are two primary examples. Though there are some corporations in these realms dedicated to instituting meaningful environmental reforms, the very nature of their industries makes it difficult. In such cases, the adoption of cutting-edge, conservationist technology holds the greatest promise for reform, but these changes are incremental. The idea of a carbon offset credit system has been floated by federal and state governments alike, so that heavy polluters can buy their way out of trouble by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gasses. Such a system has yet to be implemented anywhere, though, and many critics are dubious as to how effective it might be. In the meantime, it is imperative that oil companies, factory farm conglomerates, and other heavy polluter businesses keep detailed and accurate records so that the true environmental impact of their activities can be known.

3. Social Impact

Finally, the pillar of social responsibility must be considered. These days, some of the higher-profile examples of corporate social outreach come in the form of diversity and inclusivity in advertising campaigns — and these are unmistakably important contributions, to be sure. However, the truly key factor in a company’s social impact is its relationship with the local economy. Things like the implementation of a living wage for employees and hiring nearby small businesses for contract work go a long way to reducing poverty in a community, as well as supporting local economic growth. Add to that the more traditional practices of charitable donations, paying the requisite local taxes, and listening to the concerns of local citizens, and very little else can be asked of a business to be a positive social force in its surrounding community.

“A company’s only fidelity is to its shareholders” is outdated thinking. Moira Canty believes that here and now, in the year 2019, that old axiom ought to be updated to “a company’s only fidelities are to its shareholders, the environment, and community.”

Since 2017, Moira Canty has been a volunteer ambassador for OurHarvest encourages local, sustainable, healthy eating. This voluntary position works to raise money towards our parish school (St. Agnes in Rockville Centre) and raise high quality food to be distributed through our food pantry to anyone in need.

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