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Business Can't Survive in a Vacuum

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Vacuum packaging is a method for sealing food and other substances from outside contamination. It first appeared during WWII as a way to preserve meals for soldiers in the field. The concept is simple. Vacuum packing seals the contents from atmospheric oxygen, limiting the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi. Vacuum sealing may work well for foods, but today’s businesses can’t survive as a “sealed off” organisation. Like it or not, it’s a global world and everything that happens around the globe has either a direct or indirect impact on every business. To survive and thrive, businesses must engage with their surroundings, whether that be local communities, global supply chains, social issues or the environment. If we can’t seal our businesses off from the chaos and disruptions of the outside world, then we must fully engage with it. Yet that’s not the norm for most organisations. Most businesses today still adhere to the advice of Milton Friedman. In 1970, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously declared in a New York Times article that the sole responsibility of business is to increase its profits. Investments in any other activities not directly related to profit maximization is an abdication of leadership responsibility. Thus over the past several decades, investments in social and environmental issues have largely been avoided by business. As a result, the oceans are choked with discarded plastic, large land areas are filled with toxic waste, and excess fertilisers pollute our rivers and lakes. Social instability and armed conflicts disrupt commerce and trade. Gender inequality reduces innovation and business growth. As we have seen with the sudden rise of COVID-19, health care is woefully underfunded and resourced. To help the world build more sustainable enterprises, the United Nations ratified seventeen Sustainable Development Goals as strong guidelines. The Sustainable Development Goals have been ratified by most countries in a global commitment to build a sustainable economy and well-being for people.

Implementing one or more of these goals into a business is not as simple as putting them into a strategy document. Building a high-performance, sustainable enterprise requires a corporate culture aligned with the objectives. In many companies, profit maximisation and cost reduction are key drivers of management and employee behaviour, and set the tone for the culture. To build a culture that is able to balance profit and sustainability, the leadership team must take the lead and integrate sustainability thinking and objectives into every part of the organization, from values and vision to training, recognition and rewards, budgets and investments. Here are a few steps every business can take to help guarantee its own future, as well as the future of global commerce and peoples everywhere. Step 1: Your Company … Assess the impact of your company against the seventeen SDGs, and identify related risks and opportunities across your entire value chain. Step 2: Your Leaders… Hold a meeting of the board (or the executive management team) to set goals and targets specific to your company that align with sustainable development. Step 3: Your Shareholders … Tell shareholders and other stakeholders the goals your company has set to contribute to the SDGs and progress made, also analysts and other influencers. Step 4: Your Employees … Engage all your employees in advancing the Goals through their own work and distribute responsibilities across the entire organisation for achieving progress. Step 5: Your Customers … Show your commitment by including SDG education and branding in your products, communication materials, and annual report.

It may look like extra work, but it is necessary work, and our individual and collective responsibility. "There is no business to be done on a dead planet." ~ David Brower For more information or to request a demo for how to build a sustainable corporate culture, contact us here.

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