Corporate sustainability a shift from shareholder model to long-term value creation

Corporate sustainability a shift from shareholder model to long-term value creation

INTRODUCTION

In a world where companies are constantly under the pressure of climate change and unpredictable future business disruption, the need for sustainable practices in business operations has become necessary for companies’ long-term survival. This requires the rethinking of the business model from short-term profit maximization to long-term value creation by being socially and environmentally responsible. To achieve these goals, companies need to shift from the traditional business model or the business as usual to long-term value creation through sustainable business practices.

The 2007-2009 financial crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Climate Change have served as a wake-up call for corporations to rethink and adopt sustainability in their business model. Now more than ever, corporations are beginning to realize that focusing on the shareholder model of business (i.e. short-term profit maximization) puts them at risk and prevents them from capturing opportunities to make them more resilient in the face of climate change and other unforeseeable future disruptive events.

“Investors and financiers increasingly want to understand which long-term plans they have in place to prepare and adjust their businesses to future disruptions and to a world where their performance on climate change, consumer trust, and employee satisfaction is becoming equally important as their short-term financial performance”[1]. Corporations need to maximize shareholder value and keep profit in the long term while also incorporating social and environmental objectives in their business operation. This way, corporations will therefore realize the goal of achieving sustainability.

 

THE TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE IN CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY

The triple bottom line is a measuring parameter that determines companies’ social and environmental impacts in addition to their financial performance rather than solely focusing on generating profit. The term is often referred to as the 3Ps which are Profit, People, and Planet. “Each of the three dimensions of TBL is in line with sustainable development principles: Profit which is linked to economic prosperity refers to the quality of life achieved through the productive capacity of organizations; environmental integrity is linked to the limited capacity of an ecosystem to regenerate; and social equity concerns the right of all stakeholders to access resources”[2]. All these three dimensions if measurable, give companies the ability to choose a pathway to determine sustainable business practices.

Profit dimension

To be sustainable, an organization is said to have to maintain profit in the long term to satisfy the interest of its shareholders. “That said, profit cannot trump the other dimensions, profit at any cost is not what the economic pillar concerns”[3]. However, there is a direct link between “companies improving their sustainability performance and having talented managers who achieve greater returns on profit”[4].  This way, companies can achieve the interests of all their stakeholders while also contributing positively to society and the environment.

Social dimension

The social dimension enables the company to make positive social impacts and it also has a direct link to the competitive advantage a business can have based on how much it impacts positively to the society. This dimension refers to the company’s relationship with its employees in terms of providing a healthy work environment, good wages, and the opportunity for professional growth. This dimension also extends to the supply chain of companies to ensure that their suppliers comply with the minimum safeguard of human rights and avoid heinous practices such as child labor. The social impact is also determined by the company’s interaction with the wider community regarding social initiatives such as projects and other community engagements.

Environmental dimension

The environmental dimension reflects the capacity of companies to transition from high carbon intensity to lower carbon operations and it also refers to the capability of the company to minimize waste and reduce its carbon footprint. The environmental dimension has a direct and indirect link to the economic dimension since customers are now very much aware of climate change and are more willing to do business with companies that are conscious of their environmental impacts. This is evidenced by a survey that shows that “55% of global online consumers in 60 different countries said they would be willing to pay more for products and/or services if the company was committed to positive social and environmental impact”[5].

 

HOW CORPORATIONS CAN ACHIEVE LONG-TERM VALUE CREATION

“Sustainable business growth is not just about making money; it is about making a positive and lasting impact on the world. By embracing innovation, environmental and social responsibility, strategic partnerships, and a long-term vision, businesses can create a roadmap to success that benefits not only their bottom line but also the planet and society at large”[6]. To achieve long-term value creation, companies need to develop their transition pathway to mitigate risk and capture opportunities based on societal and environmental trends. This will require companies to fix purpose, targets, and timeline to transition to long-term value creation.

Companies need the necessary skillset and mindset to be able to develop a transition pathway to achieve long-term value creation. The skillsets concern the companies’ ability to develop a two-way relationship often referred to as the double materiality to enable them to assess the relationship between economic value and societal value creation. This relationship should however be measurable to determine the companies’ operational impact on the community as well as the community’s impact on the company. The mindset requires the company’s “willingness and awareness to balance short and long-term company performance by investing, for example, not only in tangible assets, but also in intangible ones such as social, human, natural, and intellectual capital”[7]. Creating long-term value and achieving sustainability at the corporate level also requires sector-specific strategies for companies to develop their transition pathway towards a sustainable business model.

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References

 

[1] Lars Kurznack, Dirk Schoenmaker & Willem Schramade (2021) A model of long-term value creation, Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, DOI: 10.1080/20430795.2021.1920231

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/370029243

[3] Andrew beattie the 3pillars of Corporate Sustainability

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/370029243

[5] https://elearning.scranton.edu/resources/article/triple-bottom-line/

[6] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sustainable-business-growth-strategies-long-term-success-nada-jamal#:~:text=Implementing%20eco%2Dfriendly%20practices%2C%20reducing,expected%20to%20be%20socially%20responsible.

[7] A model of long-term value creation by Lars Kurznack, Dirk Schoenmaker & Willem Schramade