Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sustainable Growth: A Few ideas on the future of Business

Mother asks the son, ‘what use are thee?

Slay thy womb for riches, has it been decreed?

With knives of steel piercing my bosom,

Dipped in the poisons of thy greed.’

Businesses have been known to operate for the bottom lines. Through centuries of unbridled slaughter of the resources, we have steamed ahead on the path of ever-increasing gains. However, we stand at crossroads today, with a choice between the established path of blissful living, and yet eventual extinction, and a more mellow, conscientious disposition towards our Earth.

As business leaders of tomorrow, it is imperative not to focus just on the myopic margins of operational profit but to instill a greater, graver sense of sustainability and longevity. And if the purists scorn at this as altruism then let them be aware that this makes solid business sense. With increased awareness amongst the society and a watchful government, no business can succeed unless it conforms to the sustainability framework. Besides this, the positive correlation between financial performance and sustainability has been amplified by the growing energy costs and lack of viable alternatives for current energy sources. These factors make sustainability a completely business driven idea.

There are two specific things that can be mentioned in this regard.

One is that there has been a general rise in the number of engineering students in B-schools of India. This gives the future managers a techninal orientation in their approach of business. The onus therefore lies on us the techo-preneurs and techno-managers to "engineer" a path towards sustainable businesses and reliance on sustainable systems and products. Thus, I hope that India will be at the forefront of the technological and sociological revolution for sustainability. The key to this, however, lies in educating the business leaders towards this goal and making the current crop of practitioners (and students) sensitive to the future eminence of this topic, so that we don't miss the bus this time around.

Another thing that crossed me in the past week was a term called the Triple Bottom Line. Its an interesting concept which captures the holistic effects of a company's activities on the society. The method tries to capture the effects of the company's economic activities on the 3Ps, namely, People (human capital), Planet (ecological) and Profit (businees). Though the basic concept may sound similar to the emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility in India, this platform provides a lot more quantitative basis for evaluation of company performances and could act a key determinant of corporate performance in the time to come. I am not sure how many companies in the country are actually aware of this method of cost accounting but a legislation in this regard will go a long way in improving the accountability of corporates towards societal and ecological responses.

Sustainability has long been contemplated and negotiated, both in business circles and on geo-political forums but unless the tangible effects of these methods are not visible to the corporate world, it would be altruistic to expect overnight transformations into sustainability evangelists. Thus, I see the development of the TBL concept as a major mvoe in that direction. As is widely quoted, “We have not inherited the earth from ancestors, rather we have loaned it from our children”. And we would be wise enough to remember that.

“Loathe me not, for I had been blinded,

With lust of gold and greed unknown.”

He spoke of love to “wash away thy pains of yore”,

Oh Mother!! Be resplendent again with glories galore!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment