What do we think it means for a company to be Sustainable?
Sustainability is a word that is getting thrown around more and more so I think it’s important that we start by determining what we mean and how we think about the actual word.
For me, sustainability means thinking long-term. Not making the easy decisions today that take us to the places we don’t want to be. Not sacrificing the future for the present.
It means being patient, building slowly and taking things in stride with a focus on improving each day while keeping in mind the consequences our actions have on others.
It also means being aware, diligent and putting in the effort. As long as we wish to continue to grow then we must also take the time to make sure we do so responsibly.
The Triple Bottom Line
The concept of a triple bottom line is young but not new. It has been around for almost 30 years and has probably been communicated in many other ways well before then.
While there is a lot of talk and hate around the idea of faceless corporations the fact of the matter is that people do business with people. We work with people, for people and around people. Our work has an impact on the lives and livelihoods of our clients and it’s important that we work to make that positive.
From the quality of the work that we do to the way that we interact with them. Our customers should know that when they work with us they can trust us to communicate well with them and design our systems to produce high-quality work each time.
But businesses do not only serve people. They are made of people.
Business should serve not just its customers but also the people within the organization, no matter if they are working with us on one or two small projects, or if they are with us for 10+ years.
The business should be designed for people to leverage so that they may live the lives that they want. Whether that is to continue on their career path, develop new skills, support their family or travel the world. For more on this I point you to one of my favorite books by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing.
I seek to create a business that lifts people up, enables them to live happy lives and empowers them to reach their goals. Our primary tool for this type of organizational design is systems.
Systems in business are not just vital for the long-term viability of the business but are also here to support the happiness and fulfillment of our team. Systems within the business should be designed with this in mind. People should not be treated as robots or cogs in a machine, just clicking buttons. Systems should be designed for people to thrive and do amazing work. For more on this point, I recommend a recent book I’ve been reading by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called Good Business.
This would not be a very good letter on sustainability if it did not include the planet.
I think it goes without saying that we only have one planet to live on and the work that we do now to conserve its biodiversity and reduce warming will have a significant impact on the quality of life for our kids, grandkids and their kids. Not to mention the countless people who are and will be displaced by the amount of warming that is to come.
While working we will do our best to continually improve our relationship with the planet. Working not only to reduce our negative impacts on the planet but also to work to improve its current condition. Looking to reduce carbon emissions as we strive for neutrality but also looking further to becoming carbon negative.
As a member of 1% for the Planet and The Conservation Alliance, we look to give to organizations that are helping support the planet we call home, conserving its beauty and restoring what has been lost.
In order for a business to provide both stability and opportunities for growth it must be financially sustainable. This means profitable.
Profits do more than just buy expensive cars, yachts or giant mansions. They provide peace of mind, eliminate undue stress and allow the mind the time and space to focus on the future.
Profits provide us with the opportunity to reflect, consider where we can do better and then invest in our people and processes to provide better outcomes for our clients, our communities and our teams.
Without financial stability and sustainable profits a business will not be able to adequately serve its people and respect the planet. While people clearly come before profits we need profits to support people.
Sustainability and Stewardship
In my mind, sustainability and stewardship go hand in hand.
All of the systems built for people, planet and profit need to be created, managed and constantly improved. As things change, as we learn more it becomes important to check in on what we’re doing. We want to find the places that we’re falling short, the places we can do better, and work to improve them.
We need to stay diligent in not just measuring our progress but in defining clear goals. Making sure that we are not taking on more than we can handle, that we do not get burnt out and that we do not let things fall into a state of disrepair.
People, Product & Purpose
How I see my job and responsibilities as a steward of Better World Products lies in my responsibilities towards our people, our products and our purpose.
Acting as a guide for the organization, defining our objectives, looking after our people and ensuring we build products that serve our clients well.