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Last year, I went to our board with the idea of joining the 1% Pledge, a global movement to support investment and philanthropy in our community. The big idea is to commit 1% of our employees’ time, 1% of our products and capabilities, 1% of our profits, and 1% of our entire capital. Our goal, as the first Canadian public company to launch this major initiative, is to inspire, educate and empower all businesses to leverage their assets forever.
It was in the run-up to our IPO, so we were asking a lot by traditional business metrics. But without hesitation, our board and investors were on board. Together with our leadership, they understood that investing 1% of our company’s profits, time, product and capital to support charities and causes in our community will pay its own dividends. And that’s okay, because what’s good for business can be great for society, for the planet, for people and for prosperity.
Corporate success is no longer measured in dollars and cents alone. The market value of an organization is still measured by its share price, or determined by its valued assets, its market position, its unique distinctive competence, the value it brings to its customers and its potential to market However, investors and employees, and customers, are paying more attention to how you do business, along with how well you do it and what you bring in.
Increasingly, non-financial or environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors standards are used to assess companies for cultural fit and identify risks and/or opportunities for growth. To ensure that your organization meets these new standards, you must start by instilling a sense of purpose and responsibility in your people—a sense that is genuine and purposeful.
Related: Why ESG-aware companies are resilient companies
When you instill a purpose, everything else follows
If you think about two bottom lines, let’s call them EBITDA and ESG, how do you find a middle ground that ensures both expectations are met? You can do this by instilling a purpose-based set of values.
All over the world, companies have made billions of dollars simply by connecting people, inspiring them to work together and caring for them. You cannot build an effective organization without mobilizing people around a common purpose, one that is meaningful to them and to society, and ideally one that goes beyond what the company does all day , every day. Employees shine brightest when they share common goals and beliefs beyond their day-to-day roles.
Of course, making ESG a sustainable corporate competency means making it central to your company’s culture. You can’t achieve this with a slogan or a slide. You must demonstrate, often on a daily basis, your commitment to doing well by doing well. The goal is for employees to feel that working together to support the goals of their community and not just the company is not only encouraged but expected. Shared purpose builds cohesion and commitment, driving loyalty, innovation and growth.
Related: Why ESG reporting matters to companies of all sizes
Make a lasting impact on our community
Part of the challenge is finding a sense of purpose that fits your company and culture and unites your team. Finding that shared sense of purpose can and should be part of the journey.
When my company took the 1% Pledge, it started as a commitment to philanthropic leadership and supporting a global ESG initiative. This helped us quickly find our focus: the democratization of knowledge through education and technology.
Equal, accessible and unrestricted access to knowledge is a key lever for human well-being, fighting poverty, reducing inequalities and strengthening purpose. Now we roll up our sleeves and start working with local programs that put this ideal into action. Our goal is to open new doors in our community by democratizing businesses with access to technology and using educational and employment opportunities as tactics to combat inequality. We truly believe that when everyone has access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in business or education, we all benefit.
Related: When you adopt this mindset, everything else follows
The benefits of engaging with ESG
I care about being a good citizen and the well-being of our people and customers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to use our company’s success to make the world a better place. Paying back and being part of the solution unites our company and shapes our culture, and increasingly our customers agree and commit.
But adopting an ESG strategy requires commitment. Setting metrics, measuring them regularly, and sharing progress publicly is key. You have to make sure you walk. The good news is that ESG success has a positive impact on many levels: for the community, the planet, the employees and the company.. We’ve found that adopting an ESG strategy, underpinned by the 1% Pledge, has been an important way to attract talented people, clients and partners who share the same desire to build a better world. And that helps us build a stronger business and a brighter future.