The triple bottom line model is now almost universally applied in sustainable business, but I’ve noticed that the social dimension is frequently limited to various forms of charitable behaviour. Now before I go any further, I agree entirely with businesses donating money, expertise, goods and staff time to charities, but I think there’s another and better way for a business to demonstrate social responsibility. It involves recognising that a business is a member of many different communities, and that every member of those communities has a responsibility to treat every other member fairly or that community and it’s members will fail.
Too many businesses treat employees in an adversarial way. They don’t trust them, they watch over everything they do and are fast to punish any infraction while paying as little as possible and making sure that every hour paid is an hour worked. I’ve worked for people like that, and in one case over a 18 month period they had a 100% staff turnover with all but one of the dearly departed taking a successful personal grievance against them. Yes, including me. They’re an extreme case, but that mindset is very common and hurts everyone, especially the employer. Acting like that exhausts the finite supply of employees and is an unsustainable business practice.
So what’s the sustainable way? The first thing to remember is that your employees have the same goals as you. They want your business to succeed because not only will that improve their job security, but it will give them the pride of being part of something successful – nobody likes being linked with failure. Treat them with respect, listen to them, make it as easy and pleasant to do their job as possible and give them a sense of ownership in your business. In return they’ll reward you by respecting you, coming up with ideas to improve things, working harder and promoting your business to their networks. And you’ll find that if times get tough they won’t mind if you can’t afford to pay as much as your competitor has to because you have treated them as a finite resource to be nurtured and sustained.
A lot of businesses treat the relationship with their suppliers as a contest to see who can come out on top. Prices are driven down, bills are paid on the last day possible and visits by reps are treated as annoying interruptions.
The sustainable business strategy is to see suppliers as partners who provide the goods and services the business needs to remain sustainable. Prices are fair to both sides because they know that if the supplier doesn’t make a decent margin their economic sustainability is undermined and there is no incentive to go the extra mile with service. They also know that if they treat their supplier as businesses partner, that supplier will always be on the lookout for better ideas, better products and new opportunities as well as passing on savings. And if things get tough and they need support through things like extra credit and more time to pay bills, they’ll get that support. By ensuring suppliers are able to remain sustainable it means they will keep your business sustainable.
This is part one, thanks to a finite number of hours in the day the rest will have to follow in a few days or this blog is unsustainable. Have a look at an earlier post on a sustainable way of looking at the competition here: The art of making an enemy into a friend
- Is Everything Better in Threes? Discussion Regarding the Triple Bottom Line (anchalproject.wordpress.com)
- Two Reasons Why Your CSR Program Should Engage Employees (triplepundit.com)
- Focusing on Sustainability, Companies to Collect More Data from Suppliers (greenresearch.com)
- Practising social responsibility without the CSR label (guardian.co.uk)
- Business Sustainability Becoming Business Norm (ichomegrown.wordpress.com)