Family-owned businesses are driving worldwide economic growth and employment. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the biggest retailer in the world, is also the most successful family enterprise. After the passing of the founder, Sam Walton, in 1962, the company passed onto the wife and children. Sam Walton’s son, Rob, became the new chairman of the company, while his sibling, John, came to serve on the company committee.
In Belgium, the majority of businesses are family businesses. The economic importance of these corporations can’t be denied. Organizations like Bekaert Group, Colruyt, and ABInBev have made a significant contribution to employment and gross domestic growth. The question now is: Are family-owned businesses kinder to our planet? Well, they do have a sustainability advantage. If you would like to find out more, please continue reading.
What sustainability really means
Sustainability is particularly important for family firms because they’re more connected to the community. However, before getting into any further details, it’s important to understand what sustainability actually means. The term has several definitions, so it’s easy to become confused. If you look in the Cambridge English Dictionary, you’ll find the following definitions:
The second definition is of interest to us. Being sustainable means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This implying natural resources so that they aren’t depleted or permanently damaged. The notion of sustainability is made up of 3 main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. Alternatively, we could sum up this idea using three words, namely planet, profits, and people.
Organizations have to pay attention to certain aspects when making decisions. More specifically, they need to take a step away from earnings and concentrate their attention on sustainability goals. Doing good needs to be at the center of the business. Unfortunately, when it comes down to doing good, entrepreneurs don’t look for options that bring maximum results.
Corporate social responsibility should be adapted as a business model. Why? Because it helps organizations become socially accountable. Contrary to popular belief, consumers genuinely care if a company takes eco-friendly initiatives. Doing the right thing can help firms connect with people on a deeper level. It’s not about selling, but about how you can help.
Family-owned businesses don’t pollute
It seems that family enterprises are kinder to the planet as opposed to publicly-owned enterprises. They’re just as unique as the families that run them. These companies bring forward a business model that benefits as many individuals as possible, not to mention the environment. The shorter chain of command is precisely why family-owned businesses can make life-changing decisions and express solidarity with the environment.
Since the organizations don’t have to deliver exceptional financial results to investors and stakeholders, they can be dedicated to more than profitability. No pressure is attributable to earnings results, not to mention that there is no question of excessive debt. This explains why most family-run businesses are able to survive for such a long time. They don’t focus so much on profit-orientation. They do everything possible to increase their sustainability and raise awareness regarding environmental issues.
Family enterprises understand that they are responsible for present and future generations. In Belgium, the approach is underpinned by local, environmentally-responsible philosophies that are applied at every stage. While the environmental performance of the country has significantly improved with time, it’s still necessary to invest in eco-innovative activities. The private sector in Wallonia, for instance, has developed skills and expertise in composting of organic matters from the agribusiness industry. It’s just an example.
Getting back on topic, family-owned businesses put the Earth first. They wish to do things differently; they actually sacrifice profits to preserve what is called the surroundings. It may be challenging to find the necessary resources to bring about change. Collaboration is of the essence. This is because small organizations aren’t powerful enough to request supply-chain information or determine suppliers to make a change in the way things are done.
Companies that have embraced sustainability may not outperform financially, at least not for the time being. However, let’s not forget that the future economic model is based on sustainability. To be more precise, sustainability is at the heart of the company of the future.
Steps to sustainability in family-owned businesses
It’s paramount to take corporate social responsibility seriously. The community depends on you, after all. There are several environmental actions that you can take. These are the steps that you can take when there is good communication among family members:
Let employees work from home
Chances are that many of the family members are on the payroll, making a serious contribution to the success of the organization. You don’t need your relatives by your side all the time. Why don’t you let them work from home? Working from home contributes to all important areas of sustainable development, including environmental, social, and economic. Benefits include less electricity used, a reduction in carbon footprint, and fewer office supplies. Plus, there won’t be so many disputes.
Reduce waste to do more with less
Become efficient with resources. Waste reduction can improve your company’s image, not to mention that it will increase the number of potential hires. Do more with less. If you don’t dispose of large storage areas, invest in a waste baler or compactor. Maybe you use cardboard, like any other organization. If there is simply not enough room, compact the recyclable material. An air-powered baler or compactor reduces the volume of the cardboard by 90 percent. Quite the environmentally-friendly solution. The devices are great for other types of recyclable materials such as plastic and paper.
Develop community partnerships
Make sure to have a clear idea about what is happening in the local community. The revolution takes place around you and you may not even be aware of it. Be present and gather stories. Pay attention to community-focused companies and partner locally, if possible. You can make a change at a local and even national level. You just have to be willing to take action.
Maybe you won’t transform the market or entire sectors. Maybe not, but at least you know you’ve done your bit for the environment. That’s the most important thing of all.