Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Elephant In The Room

There’s no place like India, and to visit is to be surprisingly uplifted. So too is a recent report on Lessons for Corporate Sustainability from India, produced by Saatchi & Saatchi S, and arising from some intrepid exploring by two of our S men, Adam Werbach and Andrew Bryson.

Adam says up front “I felt like I had brought a glass of water as a gift to the ocean” – which sets the tone for a refreshing look at sustainability.

What makes India a teacher for a sustainable world? Plenty - not least the inherent diversity of society, deep social roots (go Gandhi), innate entrepreneurism, a caring for sustainability, values-driven business leadership, and creative companies who have to keep up with smart and collectivist consumers, and companies that are adept at Jugaad in the face of striking challenges.

The S report lays down five lessons for companies from India, with some inspirational examples:
  1. Hire people, not machines; there’s the e-commerce company with its own army of couriers doing point of purchase, putting more people to work, saving money, improving quality in line with customer preference, online commerce done personal.

  2. Cultivate self-reliance; there’s the paint company that solved the problem of being prohibited from discharging more effluent, by eliminating all effluent from their plants. Don’t wait for government move forward.

  3. Think in Whole-Systems; there’s the vertical integrator that reaches farmers as both producer and consumer, and helps connect the farmers to the world, while reducing net environmental impacts.

  4. Align with Natural Forces; there’s the power company that with gasifiers uses rice husks, a big source of waste, to run a whole power system.

  5. Plan First, then Jugaad; there’s the innovative impulse of a revolutionary refrigerator that is tested in small markets before going nationwide.
There are some gems in this short story of past, present and future. Check out the report.

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