Sustainability is more and more widespread in public debate mainly because of global climate change. By this interview with Jane Adshead-Grant we want to talk about the relationship between sustainability and organizations, both private and public. This specific topic is often for experts only but it is important to engage the audience. Today many people are not happy with their job and lives, several companies are not able to take care of their development: maybe we should enlarge the concept of sustainability if we want to include items concerning human beings in holistic perspective.
Jane, how would you define sustainable organizations and their main characteristics?
“In my experience a sustainable organisation is one that generates value. Long-term value for all stakeholders; employees, customers, shareholders and the community. Sustainable organisations take into account the impact they have on the lives of others, the ecological, social and economic environment. An example is Barry-Wehmiller a global capital goods manufacturing organisation, with its head-quarters in Missouri USA, a company of more than 100 years old and has grown from 200 to 12,000 team members generating value for all its stakeholders. It’s uniqueness is being ‘the way we measure success is by the way we touch the lives of people’. An example is in Phillips, Wisconsin, a small town of about 1,500 people, 500 of whom are employed by Barry-Wehmiller, generating a sustainable community. A predominantly family owned business, they have generated 18% compound revenue growth since 1987, based upon a thoughtful and sustainable business model providing job opportunities for their team members around the world.”
We often think of sustainability in terms of saving natural resources. What about human sustainability inside a company? How to improve the business culture today in order to implement sustainability that takes into account the relational dimension in workplaces?
“This is a great question! When we think of what business is, it is all about people. Team members, customers, suppliers, shareholders. In my experience a sustainable business is one that focuses its attention on people, purpose and performance. Where people know who they are what they do matters. They are inspired by a meaningful purpose about which they know how they can contribute their gifts and talents. Together with a thoughtful business model enabling growth and sustainability generating security and stability in performance for all involved. Improving a culture is the responsibility of leadership. As a leader you set the tone, model the behaviour and close the gap in relationships. It’s not easy. It requires commitment, courage and compassion.”
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