29 May Corporate Sustainability—For Ourselves, Our Companies & the World
Corporate sustainability is one of the buzz words of our day, especially in the corporate world. Titles such as Chief Sustainability Officer and Corporate Responsibility Director are becoming commonplace. Adopting a culture of sustainability is paramount if a company wants to thrive by staying on the leading edge. Yet sustainability is really about choosing the right balance—whether in our personal lives, our companies and communities between the present and the future.
Corporate Sustainability: Moving Beyond The Business
Sustainability isn’t just applicable to corporate sustainability and our communities—we need to be mindful of how it plays out in our personal lives as well. Recently, I was in a meeting with a group of entrepreneurs, all of whom were talking about how busy they were leaving little time for exercise, reflection, or time for the self. One of them joked that we treat ourselves an awful lot like we treat the planet. We push ourselves week after week with the same disregard that we have eating endangered tuna as a sushi restaurant. I have been addressing these issues through sustainability keynotes for many years and about how we need to think about sustainability as more than just about the environment. It is about finding the balance between choices.
Nurturing Our Body and Spirit
If we don’t take time to nurture our bodies and spirits, then our lack of self-care becomes a reflection of what we do in the larger sphere in our outer world. By carelessly pushing ourselves to near burnout, we extend that behaviour by squandering resources without any regard to the long term consequences.
Whether in our personal lives, our community or as a company—sustainability is about choosing the right balance. We can’t sacrifice one for the other. Our work is important but it can’t overwhelm our personal lives. Profits are important in a business but decisions must be balanced against what is good for the long-term sustainability of a business. Economic growth is important but when it diminishes the capacity of the planet to provide what we need in the future, the balance must be addressed.
This idea came to light when I spoke to 300 leaders at the University Health Network in Toronto last week. It was admirable to see such a hard working health care team but like many of us, they failed to take care of themselves. I told them it wasn’t only important for their well-being, but it was their duty to take care of themselves in order to effectively support those that they lead. And there is another spinoff. If leaders take care of themselves, their people are most likely to mimic their behaviour and follow suit. As a result, their self-care translates into stellar customer care.
Fortune Magazine recently featured an interview with me in an article on corporate burnout. One study of IT administrators revealed that 72% of respondents were stressed, 67% considered switching careers, 85% said their job interfered with their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work. Even more alarming many employees in the IT and other industries are quitting their jobs because of the pressure. They feel forced to choose either their job or their personal life. This either/or thinking proves there is a desperate need for a holistic approach to sustainability.
Balance is the key to corporate sustainability and sustainability in other aspects of our lives. We can’t sacrifice the future just for the present. Any present benefit or gain should also benefit the future and visa versa. We must master the power of “and.” Here are some key points.
- Nurture myself and be successful at work
- Be mindful of the environment for the future and create sustainable wealth for today
- Take care of the short term needs of the shareholders and make decisions for the long-term interests of the company