In a recent report from Deloitte, Barry Parkin, Global Sustainability Director for Mars, affirms that we have reached “a turning point in the private sector; soon companies will be valued just as much for their ethics as for their growth and profits”.
One thing is very clear in the world of management: sustainability can no longer be ignored. Consumers are increasingly conscious and it is not hard to find statistics demonstrating that sustainability plays an important part in consumer choices. According to data from Accenture, 72% more consumers now buy environmentally friendly products than just five years ago. Some 81% of those surveyed are planning to make changes over the next five years. A further 42%, especially in the food and beverage sector, are boycotting products that do not show consideration for their environmental impact.
The United Nations poster 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) can be found on many company walls in this present pro-sustainability climate. Achieving all 17 objectives is, simply put, impossible, but failing to take responsibility for any of the goals leaves companies on rocky ground in front of consumers, not to mention employees. The question is, aside from decorating their walls with posters, are organisations really addressing the potential for improvements expressed in the SDGs? The consumers, it would seem, have already started taking action.
A recent Harvard study links companies with a strong sense of purpose, the second key element for businesses wanting to motivate consumers and employees, to a 5-7% increase in results. The same study isolated an important matrix for achieving the positive results: the correlation between purpose and results is only possible if the board of directors is able to transmit the purpose to their management teams, and through them, to the rest of the organisation.
Unilever and Luker Chocolates are two examples of how different purposes can play out. In 2017, Unilever was invited to an event at EADA, where representatives presented the growth plan for the sustainable products range. They shared that over the last 4 years, the rate of growth in sustainable products had overtaken that of the company in general, and that sustainable products represented 70% of overall growth for the year. Today, Unilever is not only held in high regard by consumers, but by employees as well, nominated as “Best Employer” in 44 of the 52 markets in which it actively recruits.
In Colombia, we can find another fascinating example of a company with a clearly defined purpose: Luker Chocolates. Luker Cholocates is a family business from Casa Luker, located in a politically complex region of Colombia in which just a few years ago the drug industry was the leading employer. Luker grew with the purpose of changing lives through the dream of chocolate.
The company, winner of prestigious awards such as Business of the Year from la Universidad del Rosario, has achieved a distribution across 42 countries and an expansion from 5 to 150 employees in just 5 years. Director Sergio Restrepo confirms his vision like this: “Companies do have the power to help make the world better”. Does that sound like purpose to you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordi Díaz received his bachelor’s degree in Management from the University of Wales and holds a Master in Human Resources Management from EADA and a degree of the Authentic Leadership Development & Disruptive Strategy Programme from Harvard Business School. He is a doctoral candidate in Business Administration at the Ecole des Ponts Paris Tech specialised in Disruptive Innovation.
Currently, Mr Díaz is Associate Dean for Programmes & International Relations and member of the Executive Committee at EADA. He has also served on the Board of Trustees at the Executive MBA Council and EPAS – European programme accreditation. Since 2017, he has been Director of the Executive Academy of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD Global Network, Switzerland).