March 27, 2011 Leave a comment
March 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Earlier Today, I attented the presentation of the book “Sustainable Innovation Strategies – Exploring the cases of Danone and Interface” by Marc Vilanova, a Lecturer and Researcher at the Institute for Social Innovation at ESADE Business School, that organized the event, and Pax Dettoni, an independent consultant for social and human development projects.
The event was broadcasted live on the Social Innovation Institute website and on Twitter.
Here’s a summary of the key points of this interesting event, supported by some of the tweets that were shared on the Internet and my personal comments.
- The introduction speech was delivered by Antonio Fuertes, the Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Director at Gas Natural Fenosa, sponsor of the project and event. One of the reasons companies like Danone and Interface are successful, he said, is that sustainability and innovation are part of their DNA, that’s been achieved through teamwork, by “touching the heart of their people”, by accepting that sometimes you have to loose in the short term, in order to find solutions to complex problems.
Antonio Fuertes made also a very interesting point about innovation: what matters is not “what” to do but “how” to do it.
- Miriam Turner, Innovations Director for InterfaceFLOR EMEA, explained how sustainability is part of the company’s core business, present in any innovation, in order to achieve its “Mission Zero” by 2020. This ambitious plan, in an industry that was among the main negative contributors to the environment few decades ago, is based on product innovation, a culture of “successful failure”, biomimicry, and a strategy of “Open Innovation”.
This is particularly remarkable, because if the outcome of innovation is often at the center of companies’ communication efforts & marketing strategy, the process that leads to innovation is usually a company’s best kept secret. By “sharing the innovations so they can reach their potential”, InterfaceFLOR is creating a successful ecosystem based on mutual trust with its partners.
Employees are at the heart of the strategy, as their employer is actively helping the internal entrepreneurs “to get out of the closet” and become Ambassadors, a program that supports the 2020 mission goals.
- Franck Aimé, VP HR at Danone, shared the success story of a company that is a pioneer in Corporate Social Responsibility since its funder Antoine Riboud said at the beginning of the 1970´s that the responsibility of a company didn’t stop at the gate of the factory. Since then, the #1 world leader in dairy product has developed a 5 pillars strategy to support Health, People – its employees, Local Communities -particularly those who can’t afford the products, Nature & Life – the children.
A project that the company can be particularly proud of is their collaboration with Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microfinance”, in Bangladesh, creating a network of small production units, providing employment to women and ensuring that children can access to dairy products. This project was challenging for the company as it had to think “out of the box” to address challenges such as the size of the factory (typically a Danone factory produces 500 000 tons a day, there it was only 500), the milk (difficulties to get fresh milk) or the distribution model. In any case Franck Aimé insisted that this was not charity and that there was a business goal, even if the profitability was limited.
It’s interesting to note that the current economic downturn has not diminished the sustainability efforts of both companies, as they are convinced that sustainable innovation is an essential part of their business model.
- Marc Vilanova closed the event with the presentation of the key findings of the book, that you’ll be able to access soon in a pdf version on the Institute website. Enjoy!
A successful sustainable innovative strategy requires:
Inspiring leaders that know how to engage employees and senior executive, and develop an organization that is both competitive and sustainable.
Leaders who are non-conformists, such as Ray Anderson, the founder of InterfaceFLor, and who are able to create a sustainable culture within their company, with sustainability being part of the business strategy, not just a nice accessory.
Sustainable products and services, with a long term product strategy.
An “innovative innovation” process.
An organization that allows “successful failures”.
More importantly: a genuine organization. Honesty and Transparency.
A sustainable innovation strategy is no longer a “nice to have”, it’s a must have.
March 19, 2011 2 Comments
Don’t we ever learn? Aren’t B-Schools able to see their responsibility in the trouble we got in the last years? And take the necessary steps to correct their past mistakes, going back to the original premises of their curriculum?
MBAs were originally designed at the end of the 19th century as a “professionalization” instrument to prepare managers of large corporations to lead those for the public’s good, not for short-term gains. Unfortunately, the dominance of economics by the neoclassical school in the 1980’s imposed the idea that managers are free agents who should continually seek their highest incomes with no loyalty to their employers and no social responsibility.
Ignoring or laughing at the teaching of ethics and values-based leadership is the type of thinking that got us into so much trouble today. Will we ever learn?
March 17, 2011 2 Comments
“Every soldier should be a warrior first”…
“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”…
Before the first peacekeeping mission was launched in 1948, a soldier was often regarded as nothing more than a warrior. With 98,582 uniformed peacekeepers deployed in the world at the end 2010 (United Nations), the military role has shifted from warrior to peacekeeper, and soldiers have been given new tasks involving assisting local populations, training police, restoring governments, supporting rescue efforts or reconstruction.
The “Warrior Ethos” still has supporters though. General Peter Schoomaker, the US army chief of staff, expressed alarm in 2003 that soldiers in Iraq “considered themselves to be support troops — cooks, mechanics and supply staff — rather than fighters”. He’s wrong.
As for the second quote – do I really need to mention the author? – although it’s the title of an article that was initially published in The New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, this theory still has some strong supporters too. They’re wrong. The same way the military role has evolved to meet the needs of the last century, the role of business has changed too.
In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Akhila Vijayaraghavan, a Justmeans staff writer for CSR and ethical consumption wrote an amazing article: “Beyond Business, CSR: Help Pouring in for Japan From Companies.”
UPS, Bayer, Abbott Laboratory, Walt Disney, Microsoft, VISA… the big names, the multinational corporations, the very ones that should be applying without mercy “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” mantra, “are opening out their hearts and their wallets” wrote Akhila.
“Even small businesses are pitching in” she added, writing that “The Extreme Pita restaurant in Riverside (sister city to Sendai) is donating a portion of sales. The Takami Sushi Restaurant in downtown LA is donating 100% of all restaurant profits. In Phoenix, Stingray Sushi has created a Recovery Sushi Roll for $12, all of which will be donated to the American Red Cross.”
Akhila Vijayaraghavan´s article reminds me how wrong my 2 opening quotes are.
Support the Red Cross.
March 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Here’s an interesting conversation about brands, sustainability and consumers behaviours in this 14 min video provided by Environment Leader.
As their concerns about the environment are growing, consumers require more information about the products they purchase. Relying on buying habits is not a strategy. Companies that proactively provide information about their products, through advertising, detailed labels, sustainability goals and reporting etc. will do better in the long run that others. Transparency is the right way to go.
Brand itself is an essential piece of information. If customers don’t get the information they need to make responsible buying decisions, about, for example, the carbon footprint of products all along the supply chain, they will use the company’s reputation as a purchasing criteria. Companies that perform well in sustainability will have a competitive advantage.
Most of SMBs however can’t rely on the power of their brand or reputation, but still, they should aim to create success by ensuring long-term sustainability and communicate about it. That’s one of the reasons why I believe that SMBs should be encouraged to produce sustainability reports and learn how to strategically engage their stakeholders and particularly their customers. They need support for that.
Instead of dedicating more resources to control and validate the larger corporations sustainability reports, as established in the recent law for a sustainable economy, the Government in Spain – and the EU for that matter – should rather support financially small and medium businesses sustainability planning and sustainability reporting initiatives.
March 11, 2011 Leave a comment
The BBC reported on Thursday a massive misleading sales in the UK. Nearly 15,000 people who registered with Groupola , a group buying website, to purchase an iPhone 4, “were not told that only eight phones were on sale at the discount price of £99”.
Most people were left disappointed, but the business consequently had thousands more people’s details available to it when sending out daily e-mail alerts. The good news is that the company, run by Marcko Media, has been censured by the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and consequently had to apologise and said those responsible no longer worked there. The same investigation also revealed that an employee of the group, pretending to be a consumer, had posted on social media positive feedback and comments about the “bargain”.
Markco Media, created in 2006, is a startup company, that apparently doesn’t have the skills, the experience, the idea or more likely the strategic objective to develop responsible business practices. I’ve met many similar companies, especially startup companies. To be fair with them, the problem was not necessarily that they didn’t want to engage in responsible business practices but they simply didn’t know “how to” or failed to see the importance or ROI to do so. Most of them didn’t consider Corporate Social Responsibility a strategic priority, seeing it as a domain reserved to large companies only, that seem to be more under public scrutiny anyway. The recent CSR law in Spain, that makes CSR reporting “mandatory” for companies with more than 1000 employees, sends unfortunately the wrong message. In my opinion, CSR is not just for large corporations. Developing responsible business practices and taking in consideration stakeholder concerns and interests in the overall strategy is essential to any business.
So, what do you think? When it comes about CSR, does size matter?