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Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’

Corporate Sustainability – Board, Management, Market, and Stakeholders

January 17, 2011 5 comments

I am carrying out research on the adoption of Triple Bottom Line Sustainability (TBLS) in business companies, and I am pondering the question “Is it all about financial return?” In this regard I am interested in tapping into the wisdom of readers of this Blog.

I define TBLS as the outcome of the activities of an organization, voluntary or governed by law, that demonstrate the ability of the organization to ethically maintain its business operations (including financial viability) whilst not negatively impacting any social or ecological systems.

As I understand it, the Board of Directors of a company is responsible to the shareholders for optimizing shareholder value, making sure profit compares favorably with businesses in comparable industries, being competitive relative to challengers, and guiding the company’s strategic management by controlling and monitoring the activities of the company’s management. The CEO and management team in theory only design and run the company to satisfy the Board. This looks to me like a directive tailored for ‘Financial’ not ‘TBL’ Sustainability.

The Board and/or the CEO and the management team may be wise enough to envisage enhanced profits and market position by taking advantage of the uniqueness of products and services tailored to TBLS; however, this approach is still financially, rather than ethically, motivated.

It would be encouraging to see large numbers of companies embracing TBLS for ethical reasons, but that may not be realistic given the Board mandate highlighted above. It seems to me that the ethically driven leverage for introduction of TBLS comes from the marketplace, the shareholders and the stakeholders – we the people!! In other words, if enough consumers, shareholders and stakeholders are sensitive to ethical concerns and place pressure on companies to operate in a TBLS manner or else risk earning lower company profits and reducing shareholder value, then the relevant Boards have a responsibility to make appropriate changes to introduce and sustain TBLS, and must ensure the changes take place (or risk the corporate consequences). Indeed under these circumstances the CEOs and management strategists ought also to be pressing for change based on strategic imperatives. However, even if corporate action is based on the ethical concerns of “we the people”, the outcome is still based on a Board’s financial obligations.

The only other option for introduction of TBLS that I see is by Government intervention through a change in Corporation law – not likely to happen I think.

Your thoughts and comments on the general thrust of this Bog would be most welcome and thanks in advance for taking time to consider the thoughts expressed here …

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Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #5

November 17, 2010 1 comment

This is the fifth of six Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability to be published over the next few weeks. All these Blogs are being co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams.

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” – The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy

Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™) was introduced and defined in Blog #4 of this series. OSA™ results from following a Right for Market™ (R4M™) approach. R4M™ is an improvement on the Right to Market™ (R2M™) approach associated with Sustainable Advantage (SA) that was discussed in an earlier blog, and which involves the more basic method of introducing the right products and/or services at the right time in the right contexts with the right supply chains, and then continually updating, optimizing, and retiring them as necessary. An R4M™ approach makes sure that R2M™ strategy and implementation plans are based not only on profitable win-win collaboration of all parties, but on strategy and implementation plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological and sociological systems. In other words, OSA™ is still pulling change into being, but it goes to a new level by adding the triple bottom line elements (social, ecological, financial) as a significant component of sense making and decision making.

The difference between SA and  OSA™ is particularly important because in our contemporary social-media savvy culture, how a corporate entity performs in environmental, social and economic dimensions has begun to have significant impact, either positively or negatively with respect to the judgments of all stakeholders, including shareholders, consumers, customers, and clients. Whilst there is a clear understanding that businesses are about making profit, firms may no longer profit at the expense of populations or resources at risk. Such a profligate mindset alienates an increasingly aware market-base that is continuously making choices based on their sophisticated understanding and informed awareness of today’s corporate activities. Their perceptions are globally relevant, acute, timely and dynamic, gratis of the Web and the popular groundswell of interest in, and concern for, social and ecological issues.

To further facilitate tracking the impact of commercial activities, the triple bottom line (TBL) monitoring regime has been introduced into the business world. The TBL is sometimes known as ‘people, planet, profit’, and is a commercial measurement and reporting approach that is intended to capture a new set of values and criteria for measuring organizational success in social, ecological and financial parameters. TBL monitoring is directly related to OSA™, and is more rigorous and inclusive re: people, planet and profit than has so far been achieved via Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting.

In essence, the triple bottom line expands the traditional accounting framework to truly include and give equal weight to the new ecological compliances and social responsibilities, as well as traditional financial performance. In the past, in the private sector, a commitment to CSR has only incurred commitment to some form of ecological and financial reporting; however, research has shown that CSR has typically been used as a smoke screen behind which companies carried out “business as usual”. TBL measurement and reporting are intended to provide more rigorous and robust monitoring of a corporation’s demonstrated desire for accountability and transparency in regard to people, planet and profit, and its progress toward attaining OSA™.

To ensure and encourage the necessary organizational climate of innovation and TBL focus, monitoring and reporting, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] has led the way in creating an easily understood seamless performance-based process that an organization can morph into as it begins to navigate the transition from Sustainable Competitive Advantage to the triple bottom line driven OSA™.

This process reduces the organizational complexity typically involved in such a large scale change; promotes formation of a fractal organization; fosters common TBL OSA™ understanding and values across all organizational levels; nurtures a culture with innovation at its heart; encourages collegial, participative, open business systems; promotes and leverages networks and social interaction; and provides systems to measure and report progress continuously. We will expand on this process in Blog # 6 of this series.

In the upcoming sixth and final Blog of this series, practical processes will be described that are used by The Leadership Alliance Inc. and its partners to assist client organizations develop triple bottom line OSA™ capability.