How companies are redefining goals to include sustainability

2 minutes read

With the Amazon ablaze and the impact of climate change increasingly making headlines around the globe, the need for companies to redefine business models to include sustainability has never been more pressing.

The good news is that 2019 has become a significant year for turning the tide in big business from a primary focus on profit, to one that places a high value on social and environmental impact alongside profitability.

Even as Trump pulls the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement and attempts to revive polluting coal, many of America’s most prominent business leaders and chief executives recently joined forces at The Business Roundtable to redefine the purpose of a company.

The Business Roundtable is a not for profit association that represents 193 companies with over $7 trillion in revenue and close to 15 million employees collectively.

In a ground-breaking move, chief executives agreed that increasing shareholder value should no longer be the only formally recognised business objective. 

They redefined the purpose of a company to include the interests of all people impacted by a companies’ supply chain, as well as protecting the environment and promoting diversity. 

Nearly 200 CEOs, including major players such as Amazon, Apple, and JPMorgan Chase signed the statement. 

Coming years will show the extent to which these corporations put their money where their mouth is, but it’s clear the will to generate sustainable business is growing. 

So how can businesses improve models to deliver on sustainability goals? And what strategies can be implemented to speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy?

Business leaders won’t have to look far for answers: effective sustainable business models copy the natural cycles and patterns seen in nature. Every stage in the supply chain will have to be examined through the lens of symbiosis. Parties can no longer operate as individuals separate from the bigger picture, all actors are part of a wider ecosystem. To survive over the long-term, they should follow three natural laws: symbiosis, sustainability, and adaptation.

At the heart of symbiosis is that to get what you want, you have to give others what they want. 

Like all cycles in nature, business is a system of systems. Unlocking the intelligence in this system, means ensuring that all parties and the environment benefit from the collaboration.

In business terms, this can be broken down into three principles; traceability, ethics, and visibility.

Both business and the natural world can only survive in the long-term if they follow the natural law of adaptation. 

The world is currently in its second most important industrial revolution – one that’s led by technology and one which recognises that business will either adapt to laws of nature or threaten nature’s survival.

In both business and the natural world, failure to adapt and change means becoming obsolete or going extinct. 

Major corporations updating their model to include the questions of; who benefits? And is everyone benefiting? is a significant step towards the adaption journey – one that envisions making businesses, people, and nature, stronger.