Managing People at Work
In the contemporary field of business management, strategies, and concepts of corporate management constantly change, requiring the modern manager to be agile and flexible. The latest development in the field of management is business sustainability, a relatively new concept that seeks to integrate corporate management and environmental conservation. Essentially, business sustainability emphasizes long-term over short-term thinking in business operations and management. Though relatively new, the concept of business sustainability has received growing recognition in the corporate environment and is deemed to intricately impact modern-day business management.
Since corporate sustainability is a new trend in the field of business management, it has been trending in various publications. According to the New York Times, it is imperative for businesses towards achieving sustainability to enable them to survive the competitive corporate environment (Bhanoo, 2010; Ewing, 2019; Gronewold, 2010; Merced, 2020). Corporate sustainability is the future of modern businesses (Whelan & Fink, 2017). the concept is also being pushed and agitated for by well-known business professors and environmental activists, such as Professor Knut Haanaes of the International Institute for Management Development (Haanaes, 2018). Hollender (2015) and Winson, 2019) also attest to the importance of modern businesses adopting corporate sustainability and investing in environmental sustainability interventions. Most multinational companies and businesses, such as Adidas, HSBC, and Nike, have already recognized the necessity of sustainability and are reforming their corporate management strategies to make them sustainable by reducing their carbon footprint.
Corporate sustainability focuses on achieving long-term business profitability, environmental conservation, and social justice. Sustainability is defined as the process of economically exploiting natural resources to preserve them for future generations (Antolín-López et al., 2016; Benn et al., 2018; Grant, 2020; Hahn et al., 2015). Therefore, corporate sustainability refers to the adoption of business strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders while protecting and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future (Clayton & Radcliffe, 2015). Sustainability is made up of three fundamental aspects, including economic, environmental, and social aspects (Cavagnaro & Curiel, 2017). Therefore, corporate sustainability has to deal with both economic and environmental issues without disregarding the social aspect of a business (Ioannou & Serafeim, 2019; Jo et al., 2015; Schwab, 2017). As such, the concept is a delicate balancing act.
Corporate sustainability is a revolutionary concept in the field of business management that relates to various concepts of business administration. For example, the incorporation of sustainability into businesses impacts their governance and management as well as organizational behavior (Lozano, 2015). The concept massively impacts business management as it changes the traditional methods of business administration (Alarcón & Cole, 2019). Moreover, corporate sustainability introduces modern concepts of business administration that are focused on long-term thinking, openness, gender equality, and ethnic diversity (Edgeman et al., 2015; Engert & Baumgartner, 2016). Engert and Baumgartner (2016) argue that corporate sustainability relates to business management as it challenges the traditional principles of administration that focused on generating short-term value without much thought and concern for the environment. It has also revolutionized business ethics and the relationships between employees of a company and its customers (Spiliakos, 2018). Business ethics is concerned with the morality of business operations and governance and how a business relates to its stakeholders, such as customers and society at large (Fuisz-Kehrbach, 2015). Therefore, business sustainability relates to the concepts of business ethics and public relations.
Corporate sustainability poses numerous challenges for modern-day corporations and managers. According to Cai, Cui, and Jo (2016), corporate sustainability challenges the management thoughts and practices of short-term thinking and orientation through its emphasis on long-term business thinking. The concept also poses a problem to businesses as they have to measure and report their progress on issues sustainability (Kudłak & Low, 2015). Annual sustainability reports are now required of companies to check their sustainability record. The annual sustainability reports pose a challenge to companies as they are expensive to produce and publish. Another challenge that corporate sustainability has brought is the massive investment companies have to make towards funding sustainability programs (Upton, 2017: Rahim, 2011). Indeed, sustainability programs are quite expensive as they entail both environmental conservation initiatives and humanitarian programs, which are costly (Billingsley et al., 2018; Benn et al., 2018; Vos, 2019; Solow, 2019). Corporate sustainability emphasizes the need for organizations to be open and transparent, which is an issue of concern for firms that have a history and policy of secrecy and confidentiality. Corporate sustainability challenges the business ethics and public relations of firms that cherish confidentiality as it advocates for openness and transparency.
Response to Challenges
Organizations and managers are responding in diverse ways to the challenges posed by corporate sustainability. Most companies have responded to the issue of measuring sustainability practices and publishing sustainability reports in a positive manner regardless of the difficulties involved. According to Robertson (2017), most companies are responding to the demands of corporate sustainability regardless of the high costs involved by providing their own sustainability progress reports to their stakeholders. Modern companies in a bid to please their stakeholders are spending millions of dollars to measure their sustainability progress and to report the progress in their annual reports (Maas, Schaltegger, & Crutzen, 2016: Rahim, 2011). Nike and Adidas, two of the world’s biggest apparel manufacturers, have adopted sustainable practices despite the high costs involved and are publishing annual sustainability reports to document their sustainability progress. Nike responded to the challenge of the high costs involved in publishing sustainability reports by allocating funds for measuring and publishing its sustainable reports in its annual budget (Nike, n.d.). In 2016 Nike released its first annual sustainability report that documented its programs aimed at reducing its waste footprint (Nike, n.d.). On the other hand, in 2017, Adidas released its sustainability report that documented how it is creating a greener supply chain as part of its sustainability program (Adidas, n.d.). Prisecaru (2016) asserts that companies seeking to be in business in the near future have to come up with alternative ways of funding the measurement and publication of their sustainability reports regardless of the high costs involved. The sustainability reports and measurements are essential as they are what customers and stakeholders use when making their decisions. Other companies that have overcome the challenge of high costs involved in making sustainability reports include Nestle, Unilever, Walmart, British Petroleum, and Coca-Cola and now publish annual sustainability reports.
Companies are dealing with the challenge of short term-thinking and orientation by changing their policies and operation modules. Most companies have shifted their policies and operation standards to foster long-term thinking and orientation that is emphasized by sustainability (Ioannou & Serafeim, 2019; Jo et al., 2015; Schwab, 2017). According to Network for Business Sustainability (2016), the long-term policies are aimed at ensuring that a company inculcates long-term thinking and orientation in its governance and operations and public relations. Car manufacturing companies, such as Toyota and BMW, have long term strategies that ensure that their businesses are sustainable and profitable for years (Alarcón & Cole, 2019). For example, BMW has a ten-year manufacturing policy that enables its workers to work on futuristic car designs and plans (Alarcón & Cole, 2019). However, the practice of using long-term management policies, such as that used by BMW, is not used by most banking institutions. Banking institutions provide their shareholders and customers with data-based evidence to assure them of their long-term plans (Maas, Schaltegger, & Crutzen, 2016; Solow, 2019). Modern banks rely on strategic plans that contain current financial data and future projections to inform customers of their sustainability policies and long-term plans. For example, the HSBC issues an annual report that presents its strategic plans for their future and how they plan to increase their grip hold on matters of international banking (HSBC, n.d.). The convincing strategic plans and reports by HBSC are aimed at making its customers and shareholders buy into the long-term plans of the company.
The major challenge of corporate sustainability is financing environmental sustainability programs. According to Krüger (2015), companies need billions of dollars each financial year to finance their environmental and humanitarian projects money. For example, Nike spent 2 billion dollars on its corporate social responsibility programs in the year 2018 (Nike, n.d.). The corporate social responsibility program of Nike, just like numerous other companies, is built around sustainability. Companies are collaborating for sustainability purposes to combat the challenge of the high costs involved in the funding of sustainability programs (Smith, 2019). A good example is current collaboration between British Petroleum (BP) and Exxon Mobil, which is aimed at the funding of environmental conservation programs in more than 25 countries (“BP Sustainability Report,” 2019). The cost of providing humanitarian and environmental conservancy projects is quite high that if not well managed, can lead to the financial ruin of a company. The spending on sustainability programs by companies reduces the size of financial interest shareholders receive from their investments in companies (Kudłak & Low, 2015). Some companies organize for donations and charities to cover the huge costs involved in funding sustainability projects to tackle the issue of funding sustainable projects (Leach, 2016). This, however, is not a long-term solution for tackling the issue of the high costs of sustainability.
Companies are tackling the corporate sustainability issue of business ethics and public relations by being more transparent in their operations. Winston (2019), argues that modern firms are making their operations and management systems more transparent to achieve sustainability to build trust with the company’s shareholders and stakeholders. Many companies, such as Whole Foods, Buffer, and Zappos, that previously had business ethics characterized by confidentiality, have now changed their operation models to those based exclusively on transparency (Lloret, 2016; Leach, 2016). According to Motyka (2019), corporate sustainability has also made modern companies to change their business ethics and public relations strategy. Most enterprises now focus on establishing customer-oriented public relations where the customer’s needs and demands are given priority (Network for Business Sustainability, 2016). Amazon, which is the world’s largest online retailer, has one of the best public-relations strategy in the world (Network for Business Sustainability, 2016). The public relations strategy of Amazon is aimed at building customers’ trust and loyalty, which are set to ensure a continued market for the corporation’s products and services.
Recommendations for Skills
Modern-day organizations can tackle the challenges caused by corporate sustainability in numerous ways. First, the business needs to comply with the numerous regulations and policies that are aimed at making businesses sustainable. Companies should follow sustainability regulations on issues such as waste management, human rights, and pollution first before seeking competitive advantage (Randel et al., 2018: Winston, 2019). Compliance with rules on sustainability makes it easier for companies to switch their management and operations from traditional methods to sustainable ones. According to a recent study by McKinsey, more than 45 percent of business stakeholders and shareholders are more likely not to do business with a company that does not comply with sustainability policies (Randel et al., 2018). Refusal to work with corporations that have not complied with sustainability policies is an excellent way of persuading them to observe these policies, thus not lose business. Secondly, companies need to align their strategies with their sustainability policies. According to Fuisz-Kehrbach (2015), good alignment of a company’s strategies and sustainability policies makes the achievement of sustainability goals quicker as they are easily incorporated in the company’s processes. Mandating businesses to comply with the sustainability policies could encourage them to collaborate with other businesses to ensure they achieve their sustainable goals. As mentioned, achieving both corporate and environmental sustainability is quite a complex and expensive affair (Antolín-López et al., 2016; Benn et al., 2018; Hahn et al., 2015). The costs of achieving sustainability can be mitigated by a collective effort whereby various companies come together. As seen in the collaborative efforts of BP and Exxon Mobil mentioned above, collaboration is key to achieving massive and effective environmental sustainability programs. Businesses should also quantify the return on sustainability investments. According to Benn et al. (2018), many companies fail to quantify their sustainability investments, which makes the investments seem like wastage of resources. Companies, such as Coca-Cola and Nike, save millions of dollars each year due to their long-term investments in sustainability (Parsa et al., 2015). Investments in sustainable practices and policies are quite profitable to a company in the long term and should not be disregarded.
I faced numerous challenges in the completion of the numerous seminar tasks given during the course of the semester. As the chairperson of the group, I was tasked with the responsibility of making the group operate as a team for the purposes of completing the seminar tasks we were assigned. The main challenge I faced was how to organize the group members into a working team where everyone’s opinions and ideas were respected. The group also lacked any clear objectives or goals, and this caused a lot of disharmony and disengagement among the group members. Moreover, due to the fact that the group was made up of individuals hailing from different cultural and racial backgrounds, I had to ensure that cultural diversity was respected and individual members of the group could trust each other.
All my life, I have always subscribed to the servant leadership school of thought. Servant leadership is defined as a leadership model centered on the concept of service (Gotsis & Grimani, 2016; Choi et al., 2015; Hernandez & Fraynd, 2015). I have always held true the concept that a leader should serve his or her subordinates. As a servant leader, I knew that I could only tackle all the challenges I faced in the group through an inclusive approach in which all group members were involved. First, I had to make all the group members feel included, respected, and trusted. Trust is essential in a group set up more so where people hailing from diverse cultural and ethnic groups are involved (Hernandez & Fraynd, 2015). I organized a team building activity for the group members: they had to work in teams to ensure success, to inculcate trust and inclusivity in the group. The team-building activity enabled the group members to interact and form close ties, which are essential for the development of trust.
I handled the challenges encountered during the group work through an inclusive management approach that sought to inculcate harmony and unity among the group members. I inculcated the need for inclusivity and respect among the group members to tackle my main challenge of maintaining active and respectful participation of the group members. According to Parsa et al. (2015), inclusive leadership is essential in breaking ethnic, racial, and cultural barriers and differences in organizations. It involves the incorporation of every member of an organization and making them feel important (Gotsis & Grimani, 2016; Choi et al., 2015; Hernandez & Fraynd, 2015). Drawing from the teachings of Hernandez & Fraynd (2015) on inclusive leadership, I talked to my group members, informing them of the need to respect each other’s opinions. Randel et al. (2018) also argue that inclusive leadership is an important tool for inspiring teamwork. Upon implementing an inclusive and co-operative leadership strategy to administer the group, I got the group members working towards the achievement of the group’s objectives as a team. I insisted on the creation of procedures and rules to govern our group operations, which made our work easier as a group as we had set down procedures for doing assignments. The group rules helped me successfully tackle the challenges of absenteeism and lack of seriousness that threatened to cripple the group’s operations.
The mentioned methods of managing align with my management values and beliefs. I believe in an inclusive, open, and co-operative leadership where everyone is entitled to an opinion. There are numerous advantages of inclusive and open leadership as it encourages transparency and teamwork, which is important for the success of any organization (Ye, Wang, & Guo, 2019; Theoharis & Scanlan, 2015; Randel et al., 2018). I would not change my management beliefs or style in future seminars. Instead, I will only build and improve on some of the finer details of my management style, such as my speech and demeanor as a leader.
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