And, as importantly, how you can integrate these resources and relationships into all aspects of you business.
Business is about people.
The chances are that the main if not the only definitive and enduring difference between you and your competitor…
are YOUR stakeholders.
So who are these mysterious and invaluable resources?
Stakeholders are :-
Customers – Employees – Resources – Shareholders – Community – Environment
Put simply, if you haven’t any customers you haven’t got a business you have a cause, a charity or a hobby; possibly a very expensive hobby. In fact, even in the charity and causes sector, Ethiconomics principles apply even though the absolute definition of “customers” may require some flexibility.
For a sustainable business you need customers. They fund your business operations; they effectively pay your salaries, expenses, overheads and provide the daily lifeblood for your cashflow. Too often, however, I see, and experience personally, the increasing trend towards isolating customer engagement and increasing “exploitative” activities.
If there was one single maxim that represented brilliantly the
Ethiconomics approach to customer satisfaction it is this; “Do Unto Others . . . “. We are all somebody’s customer at some juncture. Treat your customers as you would expect to be treated – with honesty, respect and fairness
Just about every executive and entrepreneur worth listening to will tell you that a “happy” workforce is a more productive workforce. But in real terms, how many put as much time, energy and investment into supporting and developing their staff as they do their profits?
Your business culture is a key component of performance and influences the business policies, procedures and measures. How democratic is your business? Give employees a share in risk and rewards, allow them authority with responsibility, create a culture of trust and respect.
Additionally, it is important to engage your employees in terms that are valuable and meaningful to THEM and not just to you. Even in times of frugality and recession, money is NOT always the main component of employee satisfaction and motivation.
We are all part of some business supply chain. We are both customer and provider, buyer and seller. Ethiconomics considers these external suppliers as ‘resources’ in order to differentiate them from your internal suppliers (or employees).
However, our role within this exchange it is rarely an isolated one. Our suppliers may have other suppliers; we may sell on to other sellers. The point is this; our part is only one part of a chain. Far too frequently, however, we isolate our link in this chain and disregard how many links there actually are.
You have your standards, values and culture so encourage your suppliers, and theirs, and theirs, to work with these values. If you are only interested in the best price then that is all you will receive (and not even that always!) but if you integrate the supply chain into your whole value-system and work with them in ways that becomes mutually beneficial
Working with more links in your chain encourages trust and honesty and, in pure commercial terms, allows you to integrate your overall strategy with these resources in the knowledge that the relationship is based on similar values with a shared ethic
Treat your suppliers with respect, and integrity; they are running a business too and if you cannot agree on sustainable, ethical practices the answer is simple, find another supply source.
Your shareholders have invested in your business; in you. They fund and support your business and “expect” certain returns, usually financial. You can, however, potentially offer and deliver much more. Social change, community support, diversity, 3rd world supplies, fair trade etc are just some examples of what else may be required in return in their investment.
Incorporating ethics and values, Ethiconomics, into your business vision and mission will attract whole new range of potential investors. The same holds true for an increasing number of business grants and loans, incidentally, with measurement of “social returns on investment” being given equal merit as the fiscal business results.
You do not have to compromise your values to return their investment. By aligning your shareholders with your values you will encourage a mutual development of wealth, and remember,sustainable business will develop sustainable wealth. In Ethiconomics, it is not about how much money you make, its about how you make it and what you do with it. This is true for the source of your funds as well as your re-distribution of them!
You can define your community in your own terms but in Ethiconomics it is generally your family, friends, colleagues and your local community as a whole. These are the most “local” resources available to you, be that by blood, friendship, work or location.
What is potentially missing, however, is like-mindedness. Just because you are “related” does not necessarily mean that they either share your values or that you share all of theirs. Balance is important so it is essential that you meet like-minds as well as supportive souls. Kindred spirits that inspire you, motivate you, train and develop you; a sustainable community supporting your sustainable business.
This community are your fans, customers, cheer leaders, debating chamber, inspirers and inspired. If you are authentic with your intent and show integrity with your actions and words, in deed as in thought as it were, then your community will grow and expand. They will become your strongest asset (along with your employees) and probably won’t cost a fortune – just honesty, authenticity and integrity. Not a bad community to be a part of!
I stated earlier that in Ethiconomics terms, sustainability is not simply about green issues. Sustainable business, however, DOES require you to consider the environment.
There are increasingly available new re-cycling technologies, renewable energy provisions and carbon-aware solutions. The big picture, whilst being a concern for any truly ethical person, may seem just too complicated or indeed expensive to concern you and your business. Maybe, so, look closer to home.
A Rumi poem may put this best:
“Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the World, today I am wise and am concentrating on changing my self.” (paraphrased)
Could you be more environmentally aware? If you cannot invest in new technology then review your policies. Do you source locally enough? Can you re-cycle more waste? Do you use the best energy-saving products? Do your staff travel when they could connect “virtually”? Do your management and measurement practices measure environmental elements? Can you build the environment into your vision?
Even the largest retailers and global energy companies are considering their impact to the environment and as they say, every little helps.