Corporate history is replete with instances of business organisations that have endured the test of time and the challenge of change to emerge stronger and more successful. There are also stories of those that have faltered and faded away, irrespective of their size or ownership. To my mind, the most critical factor in the success and longevity of an organisation is its capacity to remain relevant and contemporary, its ability to anticipate and proactively manage change and its agility to continuously reinvent and reinvigorate itself.
Y.C. Deveshwar, Chairman, ITC Ltd
These are enduring qualities for any organisation - large and small, family-owned or professionally managed - and often define success over the long run. Sustainable corporations continuously strive to be future-ready to meet the emerging needs of their stakeholders.
How do you create a corporation of the future that will outlive generations with its utility and relevance? It is my strong belief that an organisation's potential for sustainable wealth creation for all its stakeholders is defined by the amalgam of its vision, values and vitality. An inspiring vision is the soul of an organisation and defines its unique corporate character. It serves to impart a larger purpose and meaning to individual endeavour.
Such an abiding vision is strengthened by deep-rooted and unshakeable values that drive thought and action. Vision and values are complemented by the robust vitality of an organisation that enables excellence in strategy formulation and execution. This vitality is manifest in the passion of its leadership and human resources, in its capability to identify and seize opportunities, in its culture of innovation and R&D, in the creation of powerful trademarks and brands, and in its ability to produce and deliver world-class goods and services.
The integration of vision, values and vitality in a distinctive blend enhances an organisation's potential for longerterm wealth creation for the benefit of a larger society. Today, the challenges that confront businesses go much beyond those posed by competitive markets and dynamic consumer preferences. We live in a world threatened by deep-rooted poverty and widespread environmental degradation.
On the one hand, social unrest and even terrorism are consequences of the wide income disparities. On the other, rapid environmental degradation aggravates the threat of global warming. Such unsustainable environments make societies unstable, and can severely impact the future of business and the economy. Business, as an integral organ of society and in enlightened self-interest, can illafford to ignore these serious concerns.
Competitiveness as well as profitability will increasingly depend on a company's ability to adopt sustainable business practices. Growing civil society awareness and tougher regulations will drive this change. The challenge for corporations of the future will be to deliver unique customer value propositions and at the same time enable a twin impact - of ensuring a positive environmental footprint and also sustainable livelihoods.
This is a challenging task indeed, but our own experience at ITC shows that it is eminently possible to craft unique business models that can deliver triple bottom line performance by creating economic, environmental and social value. ITC's focus on creating a sustainable corporation of tomorrow has enabled it to become the only company in the world to be carbon positive, water positive and waste recycling positive, besides creating livelihood opportunities for more than five million people.
I am confident that more and more companies will begin to recognise that sustainable business practices are an additional source of competitive advantage. They will innovate, ignite creativity and discover new ways to deliver larger societal value. The future can be more secure as they become the torchbearers of a corporate journey that transcends the 'good' to the 'great'.
Buy the Business Today January 9
edition for more such columns by business leaders like Subash Chandra, Azim Premji and Nandan Nilekani.