Sustainability Inspiration to Nibble On

Sustainability Inspiration to Nibble On

What today's business leaders can learn about sustainability from the chocolate magnates
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What #business leaders 2day can learn from the #chocolate giants of yore via @TheGreenTie

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Alex Pollock

Monday, October 20, 2014 - 8:30am

By Alex Pollock

One of my fondest childhood memories was getting my favorites all in one box at Christmastime. The thought of a Cadbury’s “selection box” containing a Flake, Dairy Milk, Crunchie and Curly Wurly still generates a warm glow that I relived recently as I digested the prose in a delightful book entitled  "Chocolate Wars" (2010) by Deborah Cadbury.  This book detailed the 150-year rivalry between the confectionery makers Cadbury, Rowntree , Fry, Mars, Nestle and Hershey.

I followed the passion, creativity and dogged determination of the founders of the Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry companies with interest as they struggled to keep their businesses alive.I was struck by the motives that fueled them. They knew why their enterprises existed. For them making money was a means to an end. Making a profit was important because a failing business didn’t meet the needs of either owners or employees. The idea that wealth creation was only for the business owners was clearly unacceptable. Ethical and humanitarian decisions really did matter. Doing good was much more important than looking good. In 1895 the creation by George Cadbury of a model village near his factory in Bournville, England, for employees to live and thrive is but one example of this holistic thinking.

As I reflected upon the durability dimension of “sustainability” it is amazing to think that more than century after George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree and Francis Fry launched their companies, the products they introduced still have a global presence. In her book Cadbury advocated that there is a link between the values of the company founders and long-term success of these enterprises. These men didn’t have the “advantage” of Lean Manufacturing tools or philosophies like “lowest cost to serve” and “existing for the customer”, and  yet their legacy lives on. As Deborah Cadbury concludes, they “illuminated a different work ethic on a more human scale between master and man.”

Some questions kept gnawing at me as I read this book that I’ll share with you to ponder with your colleagues. Grab a chocolate bar and muse.

Do you think the organization you work for has what it takes to be around a century from now? Why? Why not? What are the key factors that you feel will determine the long term future of your organization?  What are the “sustainability” practices that can best contribute to long term enterprise viability? How can you best be an effective advocate for these practices?

This article originally appeared on NAEM's Green Tie blog.