Business for a better future
- Today, businesses are not separate entities, but rather a cog in a system, which must learn how to work for the betterment of the system as a whole
Apr 24, 2017-
One of the most interesting trends in business is that of learning how to do business from nature. Although the oldest businesses in the world are over around 200 years old and there is much we can learn from them, the earth itself has been around for longer. In this unfathomable time, there has been much trial and errors to create and sustain different lifeforms. Biomimicry is a field of business that draws inspiration from this long history of earth to generate insights on how to run a business. One of the most important realisations has been that of systems thinking, wherein you treat the whole business world as a big ecosystem where everything is connected and affects each other.
This approach of looking at business as part of a system has given rise to a hotly debated topic in business, that is, how to do business in a way that positively impacts the future. Traditionally, businesses were seen as entities that conducted activities for the sole purpose of earning money. Today, however a business focusing solely on profit will find it hard to survive as the consumers are becoming more and more conscious about what they buy, and government regulations continuously push businesses to become better. Today, businesses are not separate entities, but rather a cog in a system, which must learn how to work for the betterment of the system as a whole.
Understand the product supply chain
One of the best ways a business can make conscious efforts to have a positive impact in the system is by being aware of its supply chain. The product or service supply chain shows the process of the products or services going from raw material stage to becoming the final product that reaches the hands of a customer. While businesses have long known about the supply chain, it has only been used as a way to efficiently keep track of the flow of goods.
However, the supply chain can also be used to keep track of how the business interacts and impacts different stakeholders in different phases of the business activity. For instance, the stage when raw materials are being extracted to build a smartphone impacts the environment, the people living in the surrounding area and so on. Similarly, various interactions happen between the business and its surroundings in each stage of the supply chain. Therefore, the goal of a business is to recognise these interactions, and make sure that they are at least minimising their negative impact, if not creating a positive value.
Create positive environmental impact
This task is probably one of the easiest to implement and to measure the impact of. It is easy to implement because much has already been researched and implemented in the sector of eco-friendly businesses. Most countries already have certain standards set in place to regulate the amount of pollution caused by businesses. Furthermore, there are various international environmental certifications one can get to make sure your business is eco-friendly, such as, ISO 14001, Carbon Trust Standard, among others. However, many new businesses don’t stay within these regulations or get a certification. It seems that the cost of eco-friendly certification is more than they can afford. This is a misconception, as even something as small as using LED lights can seem expensive at first but you will reap its benefits with a significantly lower electricity bills later.
There are various ways a business can create a positive environmental impact. For instance, they can look towards maximising the productivity of the raw material they use and make it energy efficient. They can also create by-products from the waste of the main product, and substitute their raw materials with renewable materials. All of these may initially seem like a hassle but in the long run, these will help businesses gain significant economic advantage against their competitors.
Create positive societal impact
Today, companies need to take care of how their activities impact the society and work towards minimising any negative impacts, if there are any. Businesses affect both the people working with them and people in the vicinity. These happen in various networks of complex, direct and indirect interactions. Therefore, a business will need to continuously strive towards making these interactions positive. Creating a positive societal impact makes sense from a business perspective as well as it will build a good brand image and potentially lead to loyal customers. Furthermore, treating your employees right and caring for them will turn them into ambassadors for the company.
There are various ways a business can achieve positive societal impact. One of the most common ways has been to improve the local economy, where the business exclusively hires a local workforce. Similarly, some businesses have also implemented various awareness and educational workshop for people around them. For instance, if a business is responsible for creating LED light bulbs then their way of contributing to the society would be by providing workshops to the local population about the importance of saving electricity and how LED light bulbs help with the process.
While the above initiatives focus on a reactive role of the business, where a business is trying to cover up its negative impacts, a more proactive role is needed to create a better future. The role of a business now is to take a more hands on approach to ensure the wellbeing of their surroundings. This can be achieved by maximising the positive societal and environmental impact of the business.
The goal of business leaders must be to repurpose their business according to the needs of the society. Therefore, they can implement policies that help build communities or help restore the environment. The employers could also let employees own part of the business through stocks or gain sharing. Furthermore, a growing understanding is that just pressuring the producers to make their processes more efficient or just thinking more about the society is not enough. A change must be brought onto the consumption behaviour of the customers in order to create a better future. The consumers too need to learn how to consume sustainably, and the companies need to be the ones bringing this change through education.
A business that solely focuses on profit cannot exist anymore. Successful businesses of the future will be ones that are able to create harmony among the three factors; profit, society and the environment. As consumers continually become more aware, the push towards being a conscious business will be more pronounced. Businesses will need to learn how to work in a way that betters all aspects of the society.
Published: 24-04-2017 08:35