English version making business work for society

Enlightened management to give weight to sustainability

28 februari 2013

The transition towards a sustainable and green economy is often promoted. Yet, both business and investors are struggling to really change course. Too often sustainability remains in the area of ‘nice to have’ and organisations only go for the low hanging fruits (easy gains). This will not bring the promoted transition.

In order to really make progress companies and investors alike have to focus their attention on what really matters. Avoid the general fluff of sustainability; a mind shift is needed (see previous blog). Identify approx three material issues that allow for making a difference. This implies aiming for changes that both contribute to the future earnings capacity of the organisation and add value for society.

The focus on both organisational and societal gains is now often referred to as ‘shared value’. Although the notion is very popular, it should not expected to be easy to create shared value. Sometimes I worry that ‘shared value’ is mistaken for a new instrumental approach. Some just seem to want a new set of nice indicators and eager to show results over night. I believe an organisation can only push the shared value agenda if it fundamentally understands ‘what it stands for’ and what it wants to contribute. Without this understanding there can’t be a strong enough drive to generate societal value in a business fashion. Without it, shared value will just be another box ticking activity and lack substance.

Shared value success requires ‘enlightened management’. With this I mean a truly integral focus on both business and societal needs and aspirations. Thus an inclusive approach that goes beyond the own short term interests and includes long term societal interests. It means identifying an entirely new road map. And thus, although it may seem like a paradox, by putting the interests of society at the forefront ultimately also the organisational interests will be served best. This is not just doing the same things in a different way. It is doing things differently.

Enlightened management will deliver shared value and give much needed weight to sustainability.