It truly requires a mind-set shift towards a long-term perspective to leading organisations of the 21st century from one that is narrowly focused on financial growth to one that is conscientiously aware of the long-term social, environmental and economic role they play in the community.
It requires organisations to find their purpose
The real question is: What are we “on fire” about? The problem we are trying to solve has to be a cause the organisation is truly passionate about. It has to be the biggest motivation for why employees come to work every day and the existence of your business.
For example, Olam was named in Fortunes 2016 ‘Change the World’ list in recognition of their leadership in a sustainable business model. Their core belief of “doing well by doing good” is evident in the way they organise their environmental initiatives among their key players.
There needs to be a real investment on the employee’s part through intrinsic motivation so that they would wholly devote their energy to a cause that aligns with their personal values. There are their key elements to achieving this:
- Provide a purpose
- Provide autonomy & enable people to be in self-directed teams
- Providing opportunities for employees to master their skills
I am convinced about the importance of a sustainable business model. How can I build one?
There are five lenses to view sustainability at Olam. They are:
- Planetary boundaries
- Developmental challenges
- UN sustainability development goals
- Forms of capital (financial, natural, social, human)
- Standards and regulations (emission standards, Rain Forest Alliance, Global Report Initiative [GRI] etc.)
Despite the variations in the details of these five frameworks, they all are similar in the way they focus on the long-term viability of resources and the contributions a company has to focus on to achieve these goals.
Changing the world by Metasystems: GAA Case Study
Imagine that you are the leader of a powerful MNC. Would you be powerful enough to create the change needed to save the world?
The Global Agri-business Alliance (GAA) is a voluntary CEO-led coalition of 45 agri-businesses from the private sector with Olam as a core member. The mission is to address sustainability, social, labour and environmental issues where the agriculture sector is involved. They aim to forward UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 with the focus on the second goal to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This is because food security, water security and climate change are core concerns of agri-businesses. Led by Olam, Mitsubishi Corporation, Musim Mas, Pure Circle, Cargill, Groups Mimran, Wilmar and Reliable Cashew are partners of this alliance.
This ties in with the concept of an ecosystem
A key player can only catalyse, shape and lead an ecosystem. One can rarely solve any large problem by oneself. Thus, industry players looking to genuinely make a real difference on the global stage with their sustainable business model need to:
- Pinpoint the extra value for customers/users
- Stimulate ongoing investment by complementing partners
- Reduce transaction costs
- Lower barriers to participation
- Control a “tollgate” such that they are value-adding to the ecosystem
The long-term future of business depends a lot on collaborations towards a common goal. The synergy gained from the organic flexibility of an ecosystem and unleashed learning potential in an uncertain environment is beneficial to any business leader of the future. Thus, Olam’s message is: look beyond the current model and rethink your value proposition to your employees and the generations to come.
This article was written after observing the Singapore Business Leaders Programme. Click here for more information about this offering.