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David White - Beyond the bottom line

David White - Beyond the bottom line

It is quite incredible how our perception of business success has changed over the past few decades. I recall well the learnings early in my career, where success was lauded through the outcome of gained profit, power, and influence.

These attributes of profit, power and influence were regarded as paramount from as early as the 1970s throughout the 1980 and 1990s, in large part courtesy of the Friedman doctrine. At this time in our economic history and point in evolution, less care and consideration were given to societal and environmental impacts. And the primary purpose of a company was to make as much profit as possible for shareholders – while also complying with current legislative and regulatory equirements.

World over, the term sustainability has become a buzzword, an ideal to focus on, and a positive step forward for business, our economy, and the greater good of mankind. We are, as most will agree, nowhere near to where we would like to be as nations and inhabitants of the world. However, there is progress, and day by day more and more people and business entities are aligning themselves with organisations and service providers that demonstrate respect and care for other people and the environment itself.

Responsible Service Providers

DRG and Green Lights Sustainability Initiative (GLSI) are relatively small contributors in sustainability endeavours in relation to many other larger organisations, who have made exceptional strides. However, we recognise that as service providers in a fragile economy, no matter our size, we have a responsibility to ensure that we meet the expectations and hopes of our stakeholders (which include employees, customers, suppliers, government regulative authorities, communities, and the environment). Further, we aim to meet the principles and outcomes of best practice governance, which include ethical and effective leadership and organisational culture, optimised productivity, risk management and legitimacy.

Today’s benchmarked organisations are those that are able to hold in harmony each of the many desirable components within an Environment, Society, Governance (ESG) framework. ESG is a business framework helping entrepreneurs and business leaders more thoroughly consider environmental and social issues in the context of corporate governance, and in relation to the success and sustainability of their organisation. ESG can therefore be used as an internal measurement tool, helping organisations better consider the effectiveness of their operations in relation to each dominant perspective detailed in the six capitals of value creation – as defined in the integrated reporting framework.

The six capitals include: financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship, and natural. Capitals have the capacity to produce flows or economically desirable outputs, and as such are essential for sustainable economic development. By taking the six capitals into account when reporting on performance, an organisation provides a fuller picture of the way in which it creates value. The integrated report’s aim is to explain to providers of financial capital how an organisation creates, preserves, or erodes value over time.

The principles of integrated reporting include characteristics such as: reliability, balance, freedom from material errors, completeness, cost/benefits, competitive advantage, and future orientated information, which are helpful in guiding our activities and creating aligned norms.

The adage, “to sow an act reaps a habit, to sow a habit reaps a character, and to sow a character reaps a destiny”, describes well the importance in creating norms that support effective and ethical leadership. These norms help to create organisational cultures that ensures the likelihood of an outcome of a successful and sustainable business, meeting both operational and stakeholder measures.

A Call to Action

Sustainability in itself has many interpretations, from the simple definition of, “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, to the all-encompassing consideration of how humanity manages to thrive as a species, without destroying ourselves, our planet, and all of nature around us. Sustainability in the context of survival of our planet and all who live here has been a central theme of governments and business since the early 1980s, gaining massive attention and momentum since 2015. Then 190 countries around the world contributed to the formation of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

DRG and GLSI recognised that one of the largest barriers to organisations and individuals supporting the outcome of coherent sustainability endeavours is the knowledge and understanding of their ability to contribute. Hence, the deep drive within DRG and GLSI to help to transfer the knowledge and understanding of sustainability best practice considerations, and to encourage organisations and individuals to step forward in their endeavours to reduce their own negative environmental impacts, including carbon contributions in daily living.

Incredibly positive is that most business leaders agree that as soon as the knowledge and understanding of, “how we protect our planet from the harm we often unknowingly create”, is shared and understood by the majority of people, we as the business community will have significantly reduced the probability of a world unable to recover from plunder, pollution, and destruction.

Strive Together

Business leaders in our current times have the added responsibilities of helping to restore balance in how we:

  • Use raw materials

  • Help to create the opportunity for growth and development of our staff and teams

  • Support communities and their specific needs

  • Contribute towards rewilding and growing natural areas for the prosperity of all living creatures

  • Support opportunities to minimise the gap between income differentials

  • Instil the importance of values and ethics in our work environments and day to day living

  • Support enterprise and supplier development initiatives and encouraging growth and prosperity within the SME business sector.

  • Support the creation of new employment opportunities

In our personal views, as DRG and GLSI, we believe this is the greatest time in the history of the world for humanity to recognise their commonality, linkage to nature, and for us to strive together for the safe and prosperous world we imagine is possible. Business leaders especially need to recognise their critical contributions in helping to create the cultural norms that will lead us towards a caring and inclusive world, where nobody is left behind.

Should you wish to be supported in anyway with your ESG or sustainability initiatives, please contact David White for any further information.

Standard Bank, DRG, and GLSI will be doing an ESG Convention in August 2023, and look forward to sharing their knowledge with KZN entrepreneurs and business leaders. Please confirm your seat by emailing


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