by: Idris Mootee
Whether we are talking about innovation, technology or public policy, we often come up with solutions that creating more problems than they are supposed to solve. Given the enormous complexity and almost un-manageable challenges ahead, what do we need to do? What seems to make sense doesn’t do it anymore.
How do we make the 4Ps of working in harmony? People, Planet, Purpose and Profit is rapidly becoming the new mantra of a new generation of managers, they are now challenged as never before to deal with a myriad of issues that go far beyond creating shareholder value. What good is shareholder value when we are selling our future short? What good is shareholder value when there are no jobs? Some argue that outsourcing to some lower cost countries can help a company to make money. When there are no jobs, there won’t be any pension funds to provide capital for these corporations? When we run out of natural resources there won’t be any customer or markets?
The 4Ps are the framework to a more sustainable world, corporations are beginning to understand the importance of adapting this new “sustainability” business paradigm—one that focuses on creating a better balance between social, environmental and economic factors for short- and long-term performance. Innovation is not creating more products that no one wants or brand extensions that only the brand managers know what it means. Innovation needs to be about new business model; new partnerships and new social behavior.
Our economic system is not designed that way unfortunately. How can a "sustainable" business climate ever be possible in a quick return capital driven economic system? Do we continue to reward those who design and manufacture products that only serve the purpose of making money at any costs or laughing at those who design “green” products that no more than a quick green wash?
We need to start at the shareholders level. Here’s a story. When Jeff Bezos was addressing shareholders in Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting this week, the sustainability issue was raised. They questioned some of Amazon's business seem very un-eco: It's an online retail company that sell products with lots of extra packaging to prevent breakage and it relies on delivery trucks to deliver to people's homes. But Bezos was well prepared and he was quick to show the company's greener sides:
Second, Amazon's investment in the Kindle – and it is indeed still in investment phase, he confirmed – is one that could lead to less paper printed later on.
And finally, Amazon has dubbed hundreds of employees as "Earth Kaizens" who identify waste and look for more energy-efficient practices. As a result of the Kazien recommendations, Bezos said, the company eliminated light bulb in its food vending machines company-wide, saving $20,000 per year on energy costs.
Bezos was giving a lot of funny one-liners during the meeting, I’ve seen him doing that in the past. When he was telling about his company's philosophy… "Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service…” That was a good one. He made the comment during final part of addressing a question about Kindle's competitors.
Sustainability is a wicked problem, with high energy and food prices, the debate about biofuels, water stress, agricultural subsidies, deforestation, and environmental degradation is proving too difficult for anyone to handle. The short-sightedness of some some government and big institutions money continue to push us down the wrong path.
And for businesses, we need to stop thinking more products. Let’s think better products. Better means products that are socially responsible. It starts with planning, not with marketing. Decisions such as what to make, where and when to make it and where to locate inventory are focused on profit or revenue maximization, it needs to extend to include carbon emissions and exploring options to education customer to participate-even means doing more work. I think consumers are happy to do that provided we can put a compelling case together. This is the future of business. As least I hope it is the case. Have a great weekend.