People, planet, and business – True sustainability can only be achieved when all three of them work together.

People, the planet, and the economy are intricately connected. We need to understand that doing well in one area cannot compensate for failing in another. It is not sustainable if a company «only» cares about profits, neglects its employees and does not pay taxes. It is equally unsustainable to pay owners, management and/or employees so lavishly that the business ends up going bankrupt. And at state and society level it is not sustainable when government measures are so high that they need to be financed in ways that breed inflation.

The human dimension

My leadership philosophy rests on one basic rule: people first. That’s kind of a given. The moment you assume responsibility for something that you can’t do all by yourself, it’s the people on your team who are working on your behalf that really matter – your eyes, hands, and voice in every customer encounter and every interaction with suppliers, internal and external stakeholders, government agencies – in essence, they represent you in interactions with anyone you don’t have to deal with yourself. So, what could be more important than the people on your team or in your organization? Also on the outside it is the same: business and negotiations are always made between or with people, no legal entity, no association, no authority and no NGO does anything by itself, it is always people who deal with each other.

The environmental dimension

When it comes to our planet, we need to acknowledge the ongoing debate around climate change, and the fact that by 2100, the world’s population is expected to grow by roughly one-third from its present eight billion to some 11 billion people, before stagnating at that level. One thing that is not stagnating is the level of prosperity: No rational argument can be made, whether morally, ethically or economically, against granting emerging societies the same prosperity enjoyed by today’s «first world» societies. In other words, we need to do our share to conserve resources across the board, and not just indulge in «green washing.» Regardless of where you stand politically, or what industry you work in, we only have this one planet. It is about the sincere and intrinsic environmental stewardship across all functions and processes, not treating the issue like a project that can be delegated or outsourced to one department. What, if not the corporate capacity for innovation, will step up to tackle this task?

The business dimension

On the «Business» side, achieving lasting success depends primarily on the company’s core business. You can only generate a sustainable profit if you have compelling products. And without profit you not only won’t last, you also miss the funds to invest in environmental and social initiatives. This must be understood by everyone, and especially by people who are not active in the core business themselves. Beyond this, there are two other considerations that are pivotal to what’s happening in our world right now.

Technology: Your company might still survive without a digital strategy, but if you forgo the benefits of digitalization and ignore all the advantages the future of work can offer, you’ll reap inefficiencies and lose your appeal on the job market. The strategic question faced by every business that doesn’t have a digital business model or isn’t in the tech industry itself: Does being an early adopter of IT give the company a way to generate a competitive advantage, or is it better to wait and see what goes mainstream first? Neither choice is out of the question.
Here about AI, ChatGPT and Spatial Computing and how loudly the digital future is knocking on our door!

Globality & Diversity: These are nowadays everyday realities in most societies. Or is there a local consumer or labor market somewhere that consists only of «native» people? Therefore, decisons made in a leadership team that reflects the diversity in which the company operates lead to more comprehensive, more broadly informed, and ultimately better choices (here more about it). While gender parity and eliminating other forms of discrimination is a good starting point, more important is the degree of diversity in terms of core-competences, skills, motivations, talents, and personalities. The «right» level of diversity is when the management team most closely reflects and exemplifies the organization and its cultural environment. When will the time come for you to embrace the topic of diversity actively and constructively, and to leverage its potential for your company?
Here I describle how diversity acts as a glue between business and true sustainability. 

What makes any strategy truly sustainable is how effectively it incorporates and aligns all three of these dimensions. If you then ensure that all your teams and divisions are moving in the same direction and striving to achieve the same overarching goals, you have arrived in the Champions League of sustainable leadership. And that goal is what drives me as Global Strategist and supportive sparring partner.