(Originally published on TriplePundit.com, a leading publication and voice for business sustainability and corporate social responsibility)
I want to share an insight with you.
Before I do, you should know this about me: I am not an expert in sustainability. For most of my life, I never gave it much thought, nor did it interest me. I may have even smirked at the idea once or twice.
You should know this about the company I work for: it is a mundane business. We are not superstars in the sustainability movement. Our name certainly wouldn’t escape from your lips should you be asked to name a fashionable triple bottom line company.
I sit on the board of advisors for a new and unique sustainable entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) at the University of Vermont because my company wrestles with this new business paradigm every day.
A few years ago, we had a moment of clarity. Suddenly, we realized our entire existence was based on a business model that was simply unsustainable.
We had to ask ourselves a very important question: what will the world — the planet, our markets, our customers, our communities — expect from us in twenty or thirty years? What will we get paid for?
You should know we came to this simple conclusion: we’ll get paid by helping to solve the problem of the world’s limited resources. At that moment, nearly everything changed — the way we hire, build, and treat people, the investments we make, the way we work with customers, the risks we embrace.
Simply put, all our problems are centered around resource limits — natural, environmental, people, time, capital, and so on. All of our opportunities — profit, growth, contributing to society, creating shareholder value — come from our ability to solve those problems better than anybody else. To do that we have to embrace sustainability. We have to become a different kind of company.
And that transformation calls for a different kind of leader.