In any serious company, business sustainability is not limited to the issues of the environmental impact that the company’s activities produce, or to exercising corporate social responsibility, but rather it is integrated as a fundamental part of the structure of the organization’s code of ethics.
The sustainable development of businesses forms part of the broad concept of organizational governance. In a corporation, the term governance is simply the good governance of the company, in accordance with moral principles, including fair objectives and using means which are good for itself and for society.
Business sustainability consists of the optimum use of all the organization’s assets (capacities and resources) in order to meet the demands and expectations of its interested parties, managing the risks which may threaten it, so that it can prevail over time with its own means.
In my point of view, a company’s capacities and resources are what traditionally and broadly speaking we call its “assets” (whether or not tangible, physical or of another kind; associated with procedures, with own employees or even residing in suppliers or customers). Sustainability is also, therefore, an issue of Asset Management, which must be integrated with the other aspects of business management.
From the global village to the Internet of Things
It is an undeniable fact that the world is advancing at an ever-increasing pace, at the same time as its effective size is becoming smaller, progressing toward a “smart global village”. That is to say, it is moving from the global village advocated back in the 60s by the philosopher Marshall McLuhan in The Gutemberg Galaxy, to the Internet of Things which is currently being defined.
For an individual or an organization to survive in this globalized and interconnected environment, they need to develop and maintain proactive attitudes. Each one must take the initiative, in order to generate improvements which go beyond their environment, with creativeness and audacity, but also with responsibility. Today it is already a serious risk not to innovate, not to create. If one day it was enough to follow, now this is no longer sufficient; it is necessary to take the lead. The name of some companies has been linked to the idea of innovation from the beginning. This is the case of Aqualogy, the heir of a tradition going back more than 150 years at the same time as a young and dynamic company, highly valued by its customers precisely because it combines these two aspects.
Due to this evolution of the environment, marketing will become even more important in the medium term, boosted by the popularization of access to information and by technological innovations. Concern for one’s own reputation can already be observed today, because both individuals and companies are taking actions more actively than ever in order to improve it. Professional profiles dedicated to projecting each either personal or corporate brand have proliferated for the last couple of years on the social networks. This situation was also anticipated by McLuhan when he predicted that the global village would be followed by a global theatre, in which we would all be actors without spectators or a stage… The actors are obviously much more hyper-connected than what he could foresee then, thanks to applications which help us with anything you can imagine, even lightweight decisions such as – to give just one example – how to choose the best beach to spend the day, like ibeach. Technology is even beginning to let us wear technological extensions of our senses, with devices which supplement our memory and capacity for calculation, such as the most recent wearables.
After the global village
Today’s ease of access to information, together with the greater exposure of people and organizations due to their presence on the social networks, means that the creation of artificial public images involves ever-increasing risks. If it was once enough, it will no longer be enough to appear; it will be necessary to be. I believe that this will be the new stage which will follow the global theatre that McLuhan reached… The departure from this theatre must necessarily involve an open and global reality. This reality will be different to the one that we have known until now, and will include “accomplished virtual presences” of actors with cognitive and sensorial “extensions”. This virtual personalization of individuals through the media and the information and communication technologies will be real because it will be verified, subject to immediate and continuous contrasting offered by the possibilities of massive data analysis using Big Data technologies. This will represent a reduction of privacy, which will require an in-depth reflection on the values of respect and transparency, but it will also probably allow a better world.
The new environment will continue to become more dynamic. In it, coherence will be required, and the sustainability of each company will become its greatest challenge. In the new reality, even if a track record can be verified, or is even demanded, the success of one day will not guarantee that of the following day.
Society and the market will demand tangible results; they will no longer be satisfied with the image projected. To ensure that their demands are met, organizations will have to integrate creative visions, which are also capable of carrying out rational planning, and to follow it through unceasingly and resiliently, projecting their effort in relation to others as a differential advantage of credibility of the organization. It will be essential to demonstrate these skills passionately through collaborative environments, both to realize the full potential of all the company’s assets, and to create new solutions and technologies to meet current or foreseeable needs. It will also be necessary to be coherent, even when this means adapting their organizational structure to new challenges, as Suez Environnement has just done in the face of the challenges of the circular economy and the extension of the scarcity of resources.