Making business sustainable and humane

Tuesday, 12. November 2013

Making business sustainable and humane

‘Where do we begin’ and ‘how’ were the questions which were delved on in the first formal session of CIB 2013. ‘To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed’—participants were struck by the words of a song presented in the morning.

While guiding the session on exploring inner governance, Dr Amit Mukherjee observed that 'while all of us are born with gifts, or have developed gifts, some of us hold back in giving those gifts out.' Delegates took time in quiet to consider this, before a gentle buzz filled the hall as people shared their thoughts with each other.

‘You can turn the search the searchlight in on me… I can face the future boldly from today’— a touching performance from the AP Chorus of the song Images provided the audience with the setting to pause and reflect. 

Being the Change

The tone for the first plenary was aptly set by its moderator, Mr Mike Smith, as he echoed Mr Amartya Sen’s emphasis on the symbiosis of economic growth and participatory growth. The Head of Business Programmes, IofC UK, quoted from the Nobel Laureate’s latest book, An Uncertain Glory, to stress on the importance of participatory growth.

Development with Justice

The change in Bihar since 2005 was described by Mr Anup Mukerji, former Chief Secretary of the state in eastern India. The IAS officer, who has just retired, shared his conviction of working in the field of primary education. 'Good persons work in isolation; we must build a virtuous network,' he affirmed.

While commenting that most domestic problems did not have a technocratic solution, he sought a better understanding of the impact of economic processes on the communities that relied on them. The need of the hour, Mr Goyder intoned, was ‘humane capitalism’. 'The sacrifice of those who steward the businesses is the key towards creating a culture of value in business,' said the author. 'For the past five years, we’ve noticed that listed companies have a lack of ownership responsibility while families that see their destinies attached to their businesses tend to act responsibly and in the interests of their employees and the communities that are impacted by them.'

‘Be the change that we want to see in the world’—the session concluded with a song amplifying Mahatma Gandhi’s message.

Bringing Hope

The second plenary was chaired by Dr Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous of Lebanon.

According to Mr Shishir Joshipura, MD of SKF India, profit is not just a set of figures, it is a set of values. Describing the Swedish multinational’s initiatives in India, he stated that four facilities built in the last four years were LEED Gold certified, illustrating the company’s commitment to environment. The operating costs were lower, contributing to a healthier bottomline despite the higher initial costs. 

To make the company more humane and inclusive, crèches were started, employees were allowed to bring kids up to four years to office, women were given a year’s paid leave post child-birth. Thanks to several such steps, attrition dropped, profits increased, and the company was recognised as the most admired company in the sector last year.

'CSR is not a waste of money, it gives tremendous returns,' said Mr Sarosh Ghandy, while citing an instance involving Tata Motors, Jamshedpur.

'We learnt that we cannot manipulate people or manage them, we need to lead them,' the company’s former Resident Director added.

Ms Dorothy Nditi of Kenya and Dr Hasan Youness of Lebanon shared their perspective during the discussions that were held in North East Room.

Know Your Workers

Stressing that actions from the heart make a difference, she laid out three broad recommendations for the leadership: (a) connection with employees; (b) creating a healthy culture and (c) providing them with challenges in their work—avoiding monotony and giving autonomy. Mr Arun Wakhlu, Executive Chairman, Pragati Leadership Institute, Pune, quoted from the Swedish and Norwegian connotation to the word ‘work’—nourishing lives. Mr Mrutunjay Singh, CEO, Persistent Systems, Pune, shared his perspective on the subject.

Beyond the Bottomline

Meanwhile, Prof. V. Shukla moderated a lively discussion on corporate social responsibility. Mr Suresh Vazirani, CMD, Transasia Bio-Medicals, spoke about the contributions that companies can make to society. Mr Shishir Joshipura After dinner, following cups of mint tea, participants saw videos on business philosophies of two enterprises, an Indian and a Malaysian. More than 150 delegates from over 20 countries, including Kenya, Lebanon, Norway, Romania, South Sudan, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States, are attending the five-day event. The main conference was preceded by Round Tables in Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Jamshedpur and New Delhi. 

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