The future must be sustainable, by definition

this is also about expressing a belief system. Do you believe that organisations need sustainable goals to have a chance to survive?

I do. 

There are plenty of examples proving the exact opposite: take a company like Monsanto, target of world-wide protest last couple of weeks.

Monsanto has been dominating the world food chain in the last decades; when gaining market share and attracting investors became more important to them than generating a healthy profit, red lights should have come up on the mental dashboard. By focussing on competitive growth & market share – they have engaged in tactics that may have been sustainable for shareholders, but not so for the rest of the world, such as the farming community in India.

Still, sustainability can be found on the front page of the Monsanto annual report. Maybe they just hope to attract fresh investments that way – who will tell? (Actually: PwC will: “Do Investors care about Sustainability“)

Now, what could be a potential sustainable goal for a company like Monsanto? What could anyone who has such control over the food chain do to make the world a better place? What goal could the world player in food pick up as sustainable added value to society? What if the next KPI for Monsanto would be related not to market share, not even to profit margin? And why should they even care?

I found a hint on the  website.

Professor Hans Rosling visited the Swedish pav...
Professor Hans Rosling visited the Swedish pavilion on Monday, May 31. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the idea’s contained in these talks are close to reality, as I believe they are, the Monsanto Business model simply does not make sense. Take for instance the talk from Hans Rosling, who uses the link between religion and babies to prove that the global world population will grow to reach about people, but no more. If nothing else, it gave me some hints as to the limits of growth.

Growth is depending on certain factors (such as population growth) – and must be finite/constrained to some extent. Constraints have to do with resources. To grow any further would mean finding ways to grow outside of the constraints (like finding a new planet), or by replacing one resource (oil) for another (sunlight).

But that would just be avoiding the essential issue: growth is not a sustainable factor by itself.

Hence: any business model or proposition that stems on (unlimited) growth is doomed to fail, like a business model based on the unlimited availability of cheap oil. Growing your market share depends on growing faster than the competition. If we agree that growth has its limits, and is unsustainable over time, then why even bother looking at “Growing faster than the other Growers”?

Monsanto simply needs a sustainable goal. A sustainable Business goal must be one that adds value over a really long time frame and for many stakeholders, within but also outside the organisation. Implementing sustainability does not take marketing effort, it just takes Business Awareness and guts. It also makes perfect Business Sense.

Focussing on the rest of the world, instead of on ourselves may not come natural, but it may be the only way to secure longevity. I truly believe that every field, including my own domain (Business Intelligence) can and should play a role. If not only because, as more organisations will need to focus on sustainability, so their partners and service providers will need to. Business Intelligence providers such as timeXtender (the company where I work), could offer to help work out and monitor sustainable KPI’s to sustainable customers & achieve sustainable goals. 

For instance eliminating famine from our planet. The KPI would be simple: count the number of children dying of famine and work on reducing that number.

Chances are you will sell some seeds in the process.




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