Thinking of others is the key to business success and a sustainable world
“Smart companies shape the future by giving people additional options and choices” according to Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas who delivered a special address to business leaders and policy makers attending the world congress on environment management in New Delhi, India. He argued that “the more successful boards help their customers to adjust and adapt.”
Coulson-Thomas told congress delegates he would shortly be visiting an annual event: “Two years ago after the event, and while waiting for a train home, I noticed a scruffy pigeon on the platform. It was watching me eat a sandwich. Only when I had eaten the last crumb did I realise the pigeon only had one good leg.”
He continued: “Last year when I went to the same event the same pigeon was on the same station platform. It was still having great difficulty getting about. But this time I shared my sandwich with the pigeon. If a pigeon with one leg can adapt and survive, surely mankind - with all that we have going for us - ought to be able to adapt and survive.”
For Coulson-Thomas “A moral of this story is to think of others. Smart entrepreneurs succeed by helping other people to achieve their dreams. If you only think of yourself profits can elude you. Some directors just consider how environmental developments will affect their businesses. For example, how will Government regulations impact on us?”
According to Coulson-Thomas, “Smart directors consider how environmental developments will impact upon others. For example, how might they affect our customers and prospects? More importantly, how could we help them to cope? Smart directors also think about the impact of their companies’ activities upon others. They look for imaginative and cost-effective ways of reducing any negative impacts. For example, recycling waste can save disposal costs.”
Environmental challenges are creating some of the most lucrative business opportunities in history. Coulson-Thomas challenged delegates: “Are we up for it? Do we look the other way? Or do we say bring it on?”
The Professor’s research looks at what top performing people and boards do differently. His findings suggest that many less effective boards may just look for quick fixes: “Some insecure boards see environmental and social concerns as a threat. When challenged, they try to ‘pass the buck’ and avoid responsibility. Otherwise, they keep their heads down. They work in isolation to protect their interests.”
In comparison, Coulson-Thomas finds: “the more effective boards respond positively. They assume responsibility for making a positive contribution to the environment. They also work with public bodies to achieve both corporate and social objectives.”
In Peterborough, the Professor’s local city, public and private organisations work together to build a healthier and more sustainable city. He explained that with much of the city only a few feet above the high water mark: “For us environment management is not a fashion or a fad. It is not just an interesting subject for a conference. For us environment management is an urgent necessity.”
Coulson-Thomas believes: “Confident boards are proactive and more likely to collaborate. They look for opportunities. They are responsible - they do not just jump in. Direction is about thinking as well as doing. They explore alternatives before developing new approaches.”
The Professor emphasised that “As directors we should have regard to the interests of our stakeholders. We can help our customers to take more environmentally responsible decisions. As organisational leaders we can all strive to do more with less. New ways of working and learning can benefit both people and organisations. Many of us could also lead simpler, healthier and more sustainable lives.”
The 13th World Congress on Environment Management was organised by the World Environment Foundation and India’s Institute of Directors. It was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Leela Palace in New Delhi, India. Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas gave a presentation on collaboration to create more sustainable cities on the first day of the congress, and he gave his special address during the valedictory session on the final day of the congress.
Dr. Colin Coulson-Thomas, an experienced consultant, board chairman and academic at the University of Greenwich, has helped over 100 boards to improve director, board and corporate performance, and spoken at over 200 national and international events in 40 countries. He can be contacted via http://www.coulson-thomas.com. The author of over 40 books and reports, including “Shaping Things to Come”, “The Knowledge Entrepreneur”, “Developing Directors” on building better boards and “Winning Companies; Winning People”, details of his most recent publications can be found on http://www.policypublications.com.
Company Contact Information Adaptation Ltd Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas Mill Reach, Mill Lane, Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, UK PE8 6LY +44(0)1733361149