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Sustainability through Profitability: The Triple Bottom Line

Today’s highly competitive, globalized world requires organizations and businesses to think differently about how they are going to stay in business. Businesses can no longer afford to focus on profits as their sole purpose for existence. Organizations must instead think about the “Triple Bottom Line” and its implications for their ability to grow their brand, customer loyalty and profits.

The three components of the Triple Bottom Line are people and community (social responsibility), planet (environmental sustainability) and profit (the bottom line). Successful 21st Century organizations must consider how they are going to actively engage in each of the Triple Bottom Line components, and this requires many organizations to adopt a more innovative approach to business while constantly communicating with current and potential customers. Why should any of us care about incorporating a Triple Bottom Line approach to business? Consumer demands combined with the world’s rising population, unstable economic situation and environmental struggles have created a new global climate that no organization can afford to ignore.

It is important for any organization, whether large, small, profit or non-profit, to develop strong relationships with their customers in an effort to build brand loyalty. Relationship building is no easy task. It requires a commitment to communication and detail. The information age has enabled consumers. They can research companies and decide which businesses they are going to (or not going to) support.

How should a business build its competitive advantage? They must “rethink” their business strategies. Considering the bottom line is important; however, organizations cannot ignore the importance of society and environment when implementing business strategies, building brands and focusing on customer relationships.

Times are tight for most consumers, and they have become very conscious about spending their money. Research shows that consumers want to spend their money on products and services that they need, and they want their purchases to make a difference.

Consumers are becoming more aware of environmental issues and want to spend their money on more eco-friendly products and services. This trend makes the environmental sustainability aspect of the Triple Bottom Line an important issue for organizations to address.

Social responsibility has also become an important issue for consumers. Again, they want to “invest” their money into companies that are giving back to individuals and communities.

The Triple Bottom Line is not an easy thing to incorporate into an existing business. Many times, it requires a fundamental organizational change as well as a plan for continuous innovation. Translation: individuals within the organization have to change the way they typically think and behave. We all know how difficult change can be. Have you ever tried to lose weight or break a bad habit? Now, imagine this multiplied by everyone working in the organization. Entrepreneurial leadership and innovation must also become part of the organization’s paradigm if Triple Bottom Line approaches are going to be sustainable.

True change is built over time, fits the organizational culture and leads to some type of return on investment. This approach to business is demonstrated in Esty & Winston’s (2006) book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage:

“The capacity for innovation-bringing imagination to bear to solve problems and respond to human needs-lies at the heart of success. Companies must find new ways to break out of the pack. Those that don’t will struggle to keep up in the marketplace.”

Organizations must create a plan that includes the three elements of the Triple Bottom Line in order make it work. Included in this plan should be ways in which each of the three Triple Bottom Line concepts will be carried out and measured as well as a plan for continuous innovation. Organizations working towards integrating the Triple Bottom Line into their business strategy should also be careful not to “greenwash.” Greenwashing occurs when organizations make claims of environmental responsibility when in reality they are only implementing minimal actions in an attempt to improve their image and enhance their bottom line.

Ecological and social business strategies can be expensive to implement, which is an important factor for organizations to consider. The investment may never realize a direct return on investment but may be essential for the long-term success of the organization. Further, organizations must remember to communicate their positive impact on the environment and society with current and potential customers.

Building Triple Bottom Line strategies into businesses is not a simple task; yet, these practices are critical components of successful 21st business strategies for organizations to consider.

Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D. is the Chief Innovation Officer of Wild Innovation (wildinnovation.org), faculty member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and coordinator of the Inventors, Investors and Entrepreneurs Club (I2E) in Southeast Nebraska. Ask Dr. Connie your questions about cultivating your leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation skills by e-mailing her at dr.connie@wildinnovation.com.

A Case Study: Lungun Dankande Village Part II

We toured many of the fields of Lungun Dankande Village on our second day. Some of the fields were maybe an acre or two. Others were more like garden plots. Keep in mind, I am from Nebraska. The fields in our great state stretch as far as the eye can see!

As we toured the fields, we noticed some Fulani who lived temporarily in Lungun Dankande Village. Fulani are typically nomadic, and in this case herded cattle. The men herded and tended to the cattle from day-to-day. The women were very entrepreneurial and made their own money by selling a unique product made from cow’s milk.

Fulani women milked the cows and then cooked the milk and let the milk sit overnight in bowls made from gourds or mettle kettles until it became a gelatinous sort of consistency. They would bring the bowls to the fields and add sorghum and sugar to the gel-like milk substance. They would then sell their recipe as a meal to the farmers who were working in the fields. The farmers, who were a long way from the village, could have a short lunch break so they could get back to work. The entrepreneurial Fulani women would make their own money by selling a convenient lunch to the farmers.

After discussing and studying this entrepreneurial endeavor, I tried to talk to the Fulani women who were selling their food. They would not look at me. Our guide told us they were typically very shy and leery of strangers. I was intrigued but had to wait until day three to talk with the Fulani women.

When we came back the next day, one of the young Fulani women told our guide that I was now her friend and that she wanted to give me a gift. I did not want to take a gift from her because it was really me who should have been giving the gift! Instead of taking a gift from her, I asked her for a picture of the two of us together. She agreed. I had my picture taken with a hard-working, beautiful, and enterprising young Falani woman. She wanted a copy of the picture but I had no way of getting it to her at the time. So, if anyone knows how to get a picture to a Fulani woman who does not have an address, let me know! Even after all the years that have passed, I would love to get the picture to my Fulani friend in Nigeria!

What amazed me most about many of the people in Nigeria was either their ability to be self-sufficient or their reliance on others to help them. It appeared that there were two extremes in culture and people. The Fulani women were especially enterprising and made me realize the importance of helping individuals develop their own entrepreneurial capacity.

This trip truly changed my life and the way I view leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. Nigeria was a large part of my desire to conduct research designed to help develop the entrepreneurial capacity of individuals while inspiring innovation. Thus, Wild Innovation was born and wants to help make the world a better, more entrepreneurial and innovative place for everyone and everything!

2 Major Global Leadership Challenges: Innovation and Sustainability

We are going to take a break from our Nigerian case study to think about another issue (which relates to Nigeria as well as the rest of the world).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population increased from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion by 1999. These figures indicate that the world’s population doubled in a 40 year period. The Census Bureau’s latest projections imply the world population will increase to 9 billion by 2040, which is a 50 percent over the next 41 years.

Why is this important? Natural resources are in limited supply, which means the global leadership challenges associated with environmental and social issues are vast. Degradation, alteration and contamination of natural resources, issues related to food security and quality as well as threats to human health and wildlife are causing critical concern. The growing population combined with issues related to quality and quantity of natural resources in problematic. There is a need for leaders around the globe to work together and create a collective global vision designed to motivate individuals, communities and organizations to greater levels of social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Further, most of the projected population growth will occur in the poorest and least developed regions of the world, which are already experiencing shortages of quality food, soil, air and water as well as lack of access to education, worker rights, healthcare and global political capital.

More developed countries face many of the same but also different issues. Agriculture has been so successful that many people living in the developed world enjoy a high degree of food security but are separated from the primary production of agriculture. Most see only products in attractive wrapping on their grocery shelves. For these people, it is difficult to understand the roles that agriculture and food security play in political stability and comfortable living standards as well as the cultural and educational achievements they enjoy.

Significant changes, including mechanization and the introduction of chemical pesticides, have helped increase agricultural production over the last century. However, global food shortages, increased contamination of natural resources and rising rates of consumer consumption continue to threaten the welfare of natural resources, wildlife and humankind.

Pressures on farmers to produce higher yields from their land to feed a growing population has accelerated the adoption of technologies that are less labor intensive but require higher levels of energy and natural resources. High input agricultural practices contaminate water and soil. Some health concerns (such as cancer) are linked to chemicals people use everyday, including those used to produce food. We all eat and wear agriculture everyday. Successful, sustainable agriculture is critical to the well-being of us all.

Innovation in both thought and technology is needed to change current trends causing environmental degradation as well as concerns related to human health and the well being of wildlife. As the population grows, more food must be grown on a smaller amount of land using less water and fewer inputs.

Buying trends also impact food production. Some individuals in more developed countries are beginning to demand more organic and locally produced foods free from chemical inputs such as hormones and pesticides. However, these production practices traditionally require intensive human input, including labor and time. They also sometimes require a greater land mass.

Rapid increases in consumer consumption and waste production must also be addressed. The environmental, educational, political and socioeconomic disparities between people around the globe creates a leadership challenge that must be approached from a holistic perspective unlike the world has ever experienced. It’s time for individuals and leaders to realize that we are all in this together. We must also realize that our agriculture and natural resources are critical factors related to both our success and failure as a global community. The world is truly a global community, and everything we do impacts one another.

World leaders must change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors on a global scale. Scientists, politicians, business and community leaders must work together to create a global vision of agricultural and environmental sustainability that can be achieved in short order. This type of innovation requires entrepreneurial leadership. We need leaders who are willing to create an atmosphere of innovation while encouraging others to become more entrepreneurial themselves. This will require leaders around the world to change. They must be willing take some calculated risks in an effort to pioneer new paradigms that benefit the global good.

Green for Good Conference: Profitability through Sustainability

Green for Good Conference: Profitability through Sustainability
Being “GREEN” for Good Conference: Profitability through Sustainability
Thursday, May 21, 2009 9:30 AM- 12:30PM
UNL Kimmel Education and Research Center5985 G Road, Nebraska City, NE 68410

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Kimmel Education and Research Center will host the “Being GREEN For Good” Conference on Thursday, May 21, 2009. The conference is designed to help small business owners, community leaders, and entrepreneurs “grow profitability through sustainability” by learning more about how environmental and social responsibility impacts the bottom line.

Speakers:
9:30 AM: Sustainability through Profitability: The Triple Bottom Line By: Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D.

9:40 AM: Defining Green: What is it and how does it Impact Businesses? By: Robin DiPietro,Ph.D.

10:40 AM: Energy/Water Efficiency at Work By: Shirley Niemeyer, Ph.D.

11:40 AM – Panel and Round Table Discussion with Local Businesses and Leaders Implementing Green Practices

Panelists:
Karen Houser, General Manager, Lied Lodge & Conference Center

Shawnna Silvius, Marketing and Program Coordinator, River Country Economic Development Corporation in Otoe County

Jeanna Stavas, Inn Keeper and Owner, Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast in Nebraska City, NE

12:30 PM: “Free” light networking lunch featuring Nebraska products and video interviews. During lunch, participants will have the opportunity to record video interviews focused on gathering information regarding their “best practices” and future goals of implementing additional green practices into their businesses.

Space is limited, so register today!!!

RSVP by Monday, May 18, 2009- Email- dheidzig5@unl.edu or Phone 402.873.3166
For additional information log on to http://
http://www.kimmel.unl.edu/

Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation: The How!

Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation are supported by:

  1. Creating and communicating a relevant vision
  2. Motivating and empowering individuals
  3. Investing in and leveraging human (the what we know) and social capital (who we know)
  4. Developing a global mindset in organizations that embraces change and values diversity
  5. Cultivating continuous innovation.

Entrepreneurial individuals and leaders are needed to address the complex global issues associated with the evolving knowledge economy, which is now often referred to as an innovation economy.

So, how do leaders accomplish #1? How do they create and communicate a relevant vision?

Many leaders admit that developing and communicating a vision, which is relevant to others as well as the organization itself, is one their biggest challenges (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). Vision should be a component of a community and/or organization’s trategic planning model and is an essential element of leadership. Entrepreneurial Leaders must develop and communicate a vision is such a way that it becomes a powerful tool used to achieve common goals (Peck, 1991).

Creating a vision involves going through a vision process or session (Note: Wild Innovation does this for both communities and organizations!). Leaders must work with individuals in communities and/or organizations to develop a vision that provides a credible and attainable futuristic picture of where the organization is headed. Leaders must also talk about the vision often and coach others to help them see how their dreams and aspirations fit into the vision of the organization (Hall, Barrett & Burkhart-Kriesel, 2005). Physical and cultural reminders should also be used to effectively and continuously communicate the vision (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).

In order to effectively communicate vision, a leader must communicate and share their vision in a variety of ways. Environmental and cultural reminders repeatedly convey a vision. Vision statements should be physically present in buildings and on web sites. Individuals should be provided with materials that convey the vision of a community and/or organization in an effort to create a sense of belonging and personal fulfillment, which intrinsically inspires and motivates individuals.

How do We Turn the Economy Around? With Entrepreneurial People and Innovation of Course!

How do we lift ourselves out of the current economic situation? We become more entrepreneurial and focus on innovation (notice I did not mention getting in line for a check). Entrepreneurial individuals and continuous innovation are vital components of successful organizations. Therefore, the public and private sectors must develop the entrepreneurial characteristics and actions of individuals with a focus on innovation. Institutions of higher education have an especially important role in the development of entrepreneurial individuals because innovation is and will become an even more essential component of success to employers, employees and business founders in the emerging entrepreneurial economy. Further, educational institutions must become more entrepreneurial themselves in order to complete in an increasingly competitive industry. This requires entrepreneurial leadership.

Research has shown that entrepreneurial individuals, learners, educational institutions and leaders are needed to address the complex global issues associated with the continuously evolving knowledge economy. Entrepreneurs are needed to establish new ventures and to employ others while developing new products, services and solutions. Entrepreneurial individuals, who may or may not start a business, are needed because they are innovators who behave or act in a proactive manner and move organizations forward. In general, entrepreneurial individuals have the ability to recognize and capitalize on opportunities, innovate, take calculated risks, adapt to rapid changes and marshal resources to achieve their goals. Entrepreneurial leaders are the individuals who have the ability to create dynamic, competitive organizations where innovation and change are as common as employee, clientele and stakeholder support.

Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial individuals are vital components of 21st century communities and organizations because they have the ability to advance themselves, other people, their businesses or places of employment and even the economies and societies in which they live. Therefore, countries, communities and individual organizations as well as educational institutions benefit by developing the entrepreneurial learner and leadership capabilities of individuals.

Inventors, Investors and Entrepreneurs Club (I2E Club)

We had another great meeting Inventors, Investors and Entrepreneurs (I2E) Club meeting last night…..Doug Damme, founder and owner of Eco-Green Enterprises, told us about his business and gave us some great entrepreneurial insight!

Deb Heidzig, Office Manager for the Kimmel Education and Research Center, Farmer and former cooperative founder, totally made us think with her awesome “Under Your Nose Trends” session.

It was an amazing meeting! Two familiar faces were back in the crowd and joined as members! We also had 3 new faces. Everyone added some positivity to the meeting.

And, we have our first corporate sponsor!! Thank you to Lora Damme, President & CEO, of Tri Valley Bank. Your generosity keeps I2E moving forward!!

The video recaps will be available for our members soon.

Mark your calendars for our next meeting….March 11!

Thanks for the great night….I am feeling truly inspired today!!
-Dr. Connie