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How can core purpose influence leadership in sustainability?

Otto Scharmer says that leaders need to shift their consciousness from an ego-system awareness to an eco-system awareness in order to serve the well being of all rather than benefiting the few.  It’s a shift that requires us to expand our thinking from the head to the heart.

New research published by MIT Sloan Management Review, BCG and the UN Global Compact – Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership in Sustainability  shows that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations — with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors — to become more sustainable. Their research found “that as sustainability issues become increasingly complex, global in nature and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t make the necessary impact acting alone.”

The report states that to do sustainability well requires multi-stakeholder collaboration both externally to an organisation and internally, if it is to succeed.

Adding essential nutrients to food is not something governments can do, because they don’t produce food,” said Andreas Bluethner, director of food fortification and partnerships at the German chemical company BASF. “The private sector can’t do it alone, because public health is not their core purpose. NGOs can’t do it because they do not have all the necessary technical expertise. Making nutrition affordable for poorer population groups requires partnerships between all sectors on a global scale.

We applaud this collaboration wholeheartedly and have been involved in many multi-stakeholder interventions in the past.

public_healthBut how can a company’s core purpose influence leadership in sustainability?

What if the food industry did have public health as their core purpose? How would that change the way they view the world; their attitudes to the source of ingredients, their ability to partner with farmers, their commitment to cutting down sugar and palm oil content of food? What would be the change in relationship with consumers? How good would that make employees feel about their employers?

Collaboration from many sources would surely follow.

What if the pharmaceuticals industry’s purpose was to keep people healthy with minimum recourse to drugs, rather than to treat the sick?

Which other industries could completely change the way they operate, still remain profitable, and have a social purpose at the core?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook has taken the plunge with his Internet.org initiative. He believes that connecting the, as yet, unconnected parts of the world to the Internet is a social challenge and has enormous ramifications for almost every type of business or service you can think of. He believes that Facebook has a role to play in making this happen.

How does your Organisational Purpose address the sustainability issues we face?

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