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Last year I went to our board with the idea of joining the 1% Promise, a global movement to support our community investment and philanthropy. The big idea is to spend 1% of our employees’ time, 1% of our products and capabilities, 1% of our profits and 1% of our entire assets. Our goal as the first Canadian publicly traded company to launch this important initiative is to inspire, educate and empower all businesses to leverage their assets for good.
It was in the lead up to our IPO, so we asked a lot based on traditional business metrics. But without hesitation, our board and investors were on board. Along with our leadership, they understood that investing 1% of our company’s profits, time, products and stock to support charities and charities in our community will pay dividends of its own. And that’s okay, because what’s good for business can be good for society, for the planet, for people and for prosperity.
Business success is no longer measured in dollars and cents alone. An organization’s market value is still measured by its share price, or determined by its valued assets, its position in the market, its unique distinguishing competence, the value it offers to its customers and its market potential. However, investors and employees — and customers — pay more attention to how you do business, how well you do, and what you deliver.
Increasingly, non-financial factors or environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards are used to assess companies for a cultural fit and to identify risks and/or growth opportunities. To ensure that your organization meets these new standards, you must start by instilling a sense of purpose and responsibility in your people, a sense that is genuine and purposeful.
Related: Why ESG Conscious Companies Are Resilient Companies
If you teach a goal, everything else will follow
If you think in terms of two bottom lines, let’s call them EBITDA and ESG, how do you find a middle ground that ensures that both expectations are met? You can do this by entering a series of target-based values.
All over the world, companies have made billions of dollars simply by connecting people, inspiring them to work together and taking care of them. You cannot build an effective organization unless you mobilize people around a common goal, one that is meaningful to them and society, and ideally one that goes beyond what the company does all day, every day. Employees excel best when they share common goals and beliefs that go beyond their day-to-day tasks.
Of course, to make ESG a sustainable business competency, you have to make it the core of the company culture. You cannot achieve that with a slogan or a slide. You have to show, often on a daily basis, that you want to do well by doing good. The goal is for employees to feel that working together to support goals for their community, not just the company, is not only encouraged, but expected. The shared purpose builds cohesion and engagement and drives loyalty, innovation and growth.
Related: Why ESG Storytelling Matters to Businesses of All Sizes
Make a lasting impact in our community
Part of the challenge is finding a purpose that fits your business and culture and unites your team. Finding that sense of shared purpose can and should be part of the journey.
When my company took the 1% pledge, it started as a commitment to philanthropic leadership and supporting a global ESG initiative. This helped us quickly find our focus: the democratization of knowledge through education and technology.
Equal, accessible and unrestricted access to knowledge is an important lever for human well-being, fights poverty, reduces inequalities and supports the cause. Now we roll up our sleeves and get to work with local programs that put this ideal into practice. Our goal is to open new doors in our community by democratizing business with access to technology and using education and employment opportunities as tactics to fight inequality. We truly believe that when everyone has access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in business or education, we all benefit.
Related: When You Adopt This Mindset, Everything Else Follows
The benefits of betting on ESG
I care about being a good citizen and the well-being of our people and customers, and I am grateful for the opportunity to use the success of our company to make the world a better place. Giving back and being part of the solution unites our company and shapes our culture, and increasingly our customers agree and engage.
But adopting an ESG strategy requires commitment. It is critical to establish statistics, measure them regularly and share progress publicly. You have to make sure you walk the walk. The good news is that ESG success has a positive impact on so many levels: for the community, the planet, the employees and the company.. We have found that embracing an ESG strategy, underpinned by the 1% pledge, is an important way to attract talented people, customers and partners who share the same desire to build a better world. And that helps us build both a stronger company and a brighter future.