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Last year, I went to our board with the idea of joining the 1% Pledge, a global movement to support our community investments and philanthropy. The big idea is to pledge 1% of our employee’s time, 1% of our products and capabilities, 1% of our profits and 1% of our entire equity. Our goal as the first Canadian public company to launch this major initiative, is to inspire, educate and empower all companies to leverage their assets for good.
It was on the run-up to our IPO, so we were asking a lot by traditional business metrics. But without hesitation, our board and investors were on board. Along with our leadership, they understood that investing 1% of our company’s profits, time, product and equity to support charities and causes in our community will pay its own dividends. And that’s okay, because what’s good for business can be great for society, for the planet, for people and for prosperity.
Corporate success is no longer measured just in dollars and cents. An organization’s market value is still measured by its stock price, or determined by its valued assets, its position in the market, its unique distinctive competence, the value it brings to its customers and its market potential. However, investors and employees — and customers — are paying closer attention to how you do business, along with how well you do it and what you deliver.
Increasingly, non-financial factors or environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards are being used to evaluate companies for a cultural fit and identify risk and/or growth opportunities. To ensure your organization meets these new standards, you must start by instilling a sense of purpose and accountability within your people, one that is genuine and purposeful.
When you instill purpose, everything else follows
If you think in terms of two bottom lines, let’s call them EBITDA and ESG, how do you find a middle ground that ensures both expectations are met? You can do this by instilling a set of purpose-based values.
Around the world, companies have made billions of dollars by simply connecting people, inspiring them to work together and caring for them. You can’t build an effective organization unless you mobilize people around a common purpose, one that’s meaningful to them and society, and ideally one that’s beyond what the company does all day, every day. Employees shine brightest when they share common goals and beliefs beyond their day-to-day roles.
Of course, making ESG a sustainable corporate competency means making it core to your company’s culture. You can’t achieve that with a slogan or a slide. You have to demonstrate, often daily, your commitment to doing well by doing good. The aim is for employees to feel that working together to support goals for their community and not just the company is not only encouraged but expected. The shared purpose builds cohesion and engagement, driving loyalty, innovation and growth.
Make a lasting impact in our community
Part of the challenge is finding a sense of purpose that fits your company and culture and unites your team. Finding that sense of shared purpose can and should be part of the journey.
When my company took the 1% pledge, it started as a commitment to philanthropic leadership and supporting a global ESG initiative. This helped us to quickly find our focus: the democratization of knowledge through education and technology.
Equal, accessible and unconstrained access to knowledge is a key lever for human wellness, combats poverty, reduces inequalities and bolsters purpose. Now we are rolling up our sleeves and starting to work with local programs that put this ideal into action. Our aim is to open new doors in our community by democratizing business with access to technology and using educational and employment opportunities as tactics for combating inequality. We truly believe that when everyone has access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in business or education, we all benefit.
The benefits of committing to ESG
I care about being a good citizen and the wellness of our people and customers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to use our company’s success to make the world a better place. Giving back and being part of the solution unites our company and shapes our culture, and increasingly our customers agree and engage.
But adopting an ESG strategy requires commitment. It’s key to establish metrics, measure them on a regular basis and share progress publicly. You have to make sure you walk the walk. The good news is that ESG success has a positive impact on so many levels: for the community, planet, employees and company. We’ve found that embracing an ESG strategy, substantiated by the 1% pledge, has been an important way to attract talented people, customers and partners who have the same desire of building a better world. And that’s helping us build both a stronger business and brighter future.