What is a responsible business?
The pattern these days that I see is that organizations have created processes that have dehumanized the communities they engage with. I doubt if the aspect of `conducting responsible business’ is correctly understood.
Responsible business is the process of developing the set of stakeholders it deals with rather than taking on a patronizing approach. For e.g., if you have a driver you should develop him/her to earn a proper livelihood that supports their family rather than lending him/her temporary money for support. So, organizations that are ethical and make sustainable profit that helps societal causes uniquely qualify to being responsible.
Why should organizations be responsible?
Businesses must be responsible, period. There is no other option. They must strive to make the world a better place to be through their workings and profits.
However, if we need to look at this from the lens of `What is in it for me’ it improves the brand image of the organization, society approves the business, and they earn the goodwill of customers and naturally increase profits.
Who is a responsible business leader?
A responsible business leader is one who goes beyond the aspect of profit making and sets a vision for the company to function as an ethical business unit completely circumspect of its environment.
These leaders should work to build a work culture that is in tandem with society, provides equal opportunities and is inclusive. Having appropriate systems in place to give back to the society in meaningful ways and not just allocating funds for corporate social responsibility initiatives, is what makes responsible leaders.
QUOTE IN FOCUS
“Responsible business is the process of developing the set of stakeholders it deals with rather than taking on a patronizing approach.”
What are the traits of a responsible business leader?
- More Empathy and Less Sympathy
- More Compassion and Less Kindness
- More Law Abiding and Less Managing Laws
- More Sensitive to Human Suffering
- More responsive to Environmental Impact
- Evolved understanding of rights and entitlements which lead to respect for human rights
- Power to demonstrate resilience and non-negotiating attitude on moral and ethical values
- Lead by example
This briefly summarizes the must have qualities of a responsible business leader.
Who are the key stakeholders in this type of responsible business?
There are three levels of stakeholders in a responsible business, especially if you want to engage with all of them and be sensitive to their needs.
- Board Members
- Policy Makers & Government
- Market Regulators
- Business Associations
- Environment Organizations
- Civil Societies
How does being responsible as an organization help customers?
Definitely, it does. As an informed customer, one would wish to buy products or services of a responsible company. Since, customers these days are exposed to social and environmental issues, they would like to go with only responsible brands. Therefore, an organization being responsible is giving customers options to remain responsible. It is mutual.
Responsibility does not lie only with Corporations and government, every one of us as a citizen and customer must consciously shift to responsible buying as well. Today we may not be there yet, but certainly as a society we need to move there. This helps organizations and governments see the positive shift in their people towards being and becoming responsible.
What is the message for millennials in this context?
I am proud to see the young people of today, they are confident, achievement centric and extremely ambitious. And I can see their willingness to be responsible. However, when it comes to building a responsible organization, size and age of the entity do not matter.
Be a start-up or stabilized organization they must have a DNA of responsibility. There should be moderation in their approach and while building businesses they need to seamlessly integrate the responsibility into the business vision and strategy.
How does women empowerment come into this scenario?
One of the main tenets in building a responsible organization is including women friendly policies, putting them on par with men in terms of wages, developing more women leaders, and inculcating an ambience of equal opportunity workplace.
How can women leaders handle challenges in a male-dominated society?
Here, I would say we have a come a long way. We are comfortable being driven by women pilots and sending them to space. And women have also evolved much in the passing years, they are lot more confident, and they ensure their voice is heard.
So, from a responsible organization standpoint if we just let them be and encourage them every now and then, that itself would do a world of good. And as the saying goes if you educate a woman you educate a society.
What are Mahatmaji’s principles valid for the businesses of today?
Yes, coming to my favourite aspect, Gandhiji encouraged businesses and involved them fully during the freedom struggle. But he was a strong advocator of need vs greed, and never wanted businesses to over consume society resources and wanted them to stay within the threshold. He propagated the concept of Trusteeship – which means organizations are only trustees of the profits made. And he strongly urged businesses and societies to coexist in harmony, peace, and growth.
PROFESSOR, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) & FOUNDER DIRECTOR, Centre for Sustainability and Responsibility Inc Pvt. Ltd. (CSR Inc.)
A true Gandhian, Sudhir Sinha is a leader who speaks from his heart on how important it is to conduct an organization that is completely responsible to every one of its stakeholders. His commitment to be a responsible business leader comes through clearly and it is obvious that he means every word of what he says. Happy to introduce Sudhir Sinha, Professor, IRMA, who is leading a Centre of Excellence for Responsible Business Management & Corporate Philanthropy.