In the past few months, the role businesses play to solve social challenges has become clearer. The very society that sustains its survival, and for many businessmen or shareholders, the dominant reason to sustain their business is to invest more in the business to have returns.
This idea from businessmen and shareholders still affirms the principle of capitalism which is at a heightened level. Well, this may not be entirely out of place but it would be prudent if they consider that making society a better place also contributes to the bottom line.
The issues that led to the collapse of some of our indigenous banks are suitable examples of the assertion of heightened levels of capitalism in our society. I still cannot come to terms with the fact that amid regulations, though was weak, and high stakes in their business, there would be a gross disregard of the incomes their staff and clientele had in these banks. It simply implies the sheer betrayal of their mission and vision upon which they were founded.
People are increasingly losing trust and credibility in notable business institutions due to the widespread notion that these businesses are seeking for their own parochial interest to the detriment of other stakeholders.
Ella Minty, a Public Relations expert, explains that how business results are reported; how the organisation is managed at its executive and leadership level, and how robust the systems that underpin its activity are designed and embedded form part of good corporate governance. She indicates that ‘companies that practice good corporate governance are generally those that are socially and environmentally responsive.’ This is why it is important, now, more than ever, for businesses to embrace sustainability as a model for doing business. When the United Nations (UN) formulated the Sustainable Development Goals to be attained by 2030, the responsibility to achieve them was not only for governments, but for businesses, as well as other institutions that would complement government’s efforts to achieve the ambitious goals by 2030.
The scope of business should go beyond profit to consider people and the planet. It is the triple bottom line where businesses consider also the welfare of people and society aside profit.
Embracing sustainability goes beyond corporate philanthropy or charity. If sustainability is equated the same as corporate philanthropy or a superficial CSR, it isolates it from having a lasting impact in the society and people, thus, it does not create shared value.
The framework should encompass corporate social responsibility that businesses may undertake. It can be the grounds to align business, people and societal needs to create shared value that can impact positively in the environment and its constituents.
One of Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd. (GGBL) Plc’s sustainability efforts is its Alcohol In Society (AIS) initiative, that goes every length to engage their stakeholders on the responsible consumption of alcohol. Is it not surprising that an organisation that produces alcoholic beverages would put in a lot of efforts and resources to engage with all stakeholders towards responsible alcohol consumption? The fact is GGBL puts a premium on the lives of its users rather than its immediate revenue: they want more people to be alive to consume their alcohol responsibly, which, to me is more considerate to people, society, and contribute to profit. This can lead to sustained revenue.
CREATING A SHARED VALUE
There are myriad of societal needs and issues that can be exploited by businesses to create economic value that can contribute immensely to the bottom line. So you can understand that putting sustainability at the heart of business has many underpinnings that improve every sphere of the business life, as well as its people and the environment. To create shared value, businesses must redefine their approach to maximize opportunities; one that creates a shared value which ultimately makes it sustainable. This obviously is a more legitimate way of making more revenue.
Think about this, plastics contributes significantly to our environmental pollution. In Kumasi, there is a start-up organisation that recycles plastics and rubbers to produce concrete blocks to derive economic value. This is in practical terms is just one of the many examples of what creating shared value is all about. If more organisations think along this line, careful thoughts will go into their sustainability efforts.
Research shows that organisations that are sensitive to social issues and make it a core duty to augment efforts at solving social and environmental issues are ones whom consumers cherish and patronize. Reports indicate that 75% of consumers worldwide expect brands to contribute to their wellbeing and quality of life whereas 71% say they prefer brands that drive social and environmental change.
Making sustainability strategic in the business makes the organisation purposeful. Today’s consumers are dynamic and sophisticated and their loyalty will lie with a brand that takes up issues with the society that concerns them. Indigenous businesses should wake-up to the call of making their sustainability initiatives driven by strategy and purpose.
People do not buy what you do, but why you do it’ – Simon Sinek
By: Gustav Gyekye Appiah