Sustainability is a term that is often used in reference to environmental responsibility. This is the most common use of the term that many people have come to associate with "sustainability." Seldom do people consider sustainability to be associated with other areas of the business environment. Upon reading the article by Swartz (2010), two different connotations of sustainability stood out in my mind. The issue that Swartz addressed which created his very long day was accusations that Timberland was engaging in corporate irresponsibility concerning the environment. This is the only definition of sustainability that many people consider.
Swartz's reaction to 65,000 emails made me think about what I would have done as a CEO, if I had been the one to open my own e-mail inbox to find 65,000 angry emails. Upon reflection of Schwartz's response, I feel that he acted in the best way possible. First, he knew that his own business had to go on and that he had to be able to separate out normal emails from the 65,000 angry ones. These 65,000 emails had the potential to take his business down right then and there by not being able to fulfill current client or vendor obligations. His response of separating that issue by having the IT department reroute those emails was an excellent move because it allowed his company to have uninterrupted functioning, yet to be able to respond in a way that would defuse the situation. It also bought him time to formulate a response that would have the greatest impact on creating a positive out of a negative.
Porter and Reinhardt (2007) address the issues of environmental sustainability and brand image. Porter and Reinhardt address environmental sustainability as an issue that is no different from any other threat opportunity. It is recognized that carbon usage can represent a threat for companies that fail to address the issue and that take a defensive stance towords it. However, if one looks at the issue from the consumer's perspective, if the issue is important to the consumer, then it should be just as important to the CEO. Taking a defensive stance to environmental concerns that are expressed by the public and by consumers is counterintuitive to other business marketing strategies. A defensive stance that treats environmental complaints as a threat is likely to have a damaging effect on brand image.
Porter and Reinhardt made the point that environmental issues can be an opportunity to enhance the brand image and that environmental sustainability can lead to business sustainability. It is the handling of the issues that is important. Environmental issues are a part of our business world and are business reality, whether anyone wants to accept it or not. Treating environmental issues and social responsibility as a threat is like treating a new marketing opportunity and emerging markets as a threat as well.
Friedman demonstrated that social responsibility can have a real impact on the bottom line. This made the issue of environmental sustainability more than just a theoretical concept, or something that was nice to do. Friedman's article demonstrated to me that environmental sustainability and proper attention to social concerns goes beyond philanthropy and makes its way into the accounting books. Friedman's article tied the rest of the readings together in terms of the importance of paying attention to environmental sustainability and your company's response to it.
Of all of the readings in the course, Swartz's response to 65,000 angry emails from environmentalists had the greatest impact on shaping my attitude towards how to handle environmental responsibility issues. There many other actions responses that Swartz could have taken. It would have been very easy for him to take it personally and to reroute the emails and delete them. It would have been easy to immediately issue a press release angrily rebuking these claims. However, Swartz immediately realized that this was not a personal attack on himself and the attack was not really against his company. He understood the concerns of the emails.
The most impressive part about the response was that Swartz was immediately able to look at the larger picture and what it represented in terms of his customer base. He realized that if he did not respond to this issue correctly, then he would either be seen as a Greenpeace victim or a corporate bully. He knew the greater impact that would have on his business sustainability. He also saw the person behind each and every e-mail. He did not see 65,000 emails as if they were one body. He was in touch with the fact that behind every one of those emails was a person who had a voice and you could affect others with that attitude. He knew they were likely to talk and spread the word about Timberland. This was a very big step for any CEO to take, but one that is essential if one wants to survive in this new world of environmental sustainability and social concerns.
Swartz's response to the problem represents a strategic response, rather than a reaction to the problem. The first thing that he realized was that he had the potential to let his anger take control and realized that this type of response would be bad for his company. The ability to step back from one's feelings and its impact on the decisions that were made stands as a great lesson for anyone who wishes to take the reins of any business, whether it is large or small. It made me realize that reacting on initial emotions can have a negative impact on my career and the ability of my business to thrive or to fail when crises arise. I realize that there is a difference between a strategic response to a situation or an emotional reaction to a situation and that they both can have a significant impact on the future of the business.
The careers workbook activity helped me to understand how my personal emotions, interests, and abilities would have an impact on the type of manager that I would become. It is easy to get caught up in learning all the formulas, analysis techniques, business theories, and strategies that are taught in other areas of the course work. We often forget how important what we bring to the job is to our success in the future. I think the focus of the workbook was on the development of an understanding of our own assets and abilities that go beyond math and science.
I felt that the activities in the workbook did help to conduct a self-assessment and understand myself and the role that I would play in the success or failure of myself and of the business that I would eventually operate. Prior to taking this course, I was so caught up in learning other aspects of the business, that I failed to realize that there was more to running a business than just an understanding of the principles and theories. This course helped me to understand that there was another aspect to running the business and to success. It also taught me that this other aspect is not as intangible as I once thought.
My own personal development and ability to understand my own decision making processes and how my personality affects those processes will have a real impact on the accounting books and the profit margins of my business. However, one of the aspects of this exploration that I feel was incomplete is that how to apply those concepts in a real world situation were lacking.
I know that it is impossible to come up with a contingency for everything will happen in your life and are business career. However, we still must be able to develop a way to apply the knowledge that we have learned in a rare world situation. It is nice to know that you should be thinking strategically and these should be able to place your own emotions aside and to be able to formulate a proper strategy that takes into account sustainability issues and brand issues.
I think the activities are missing real-world practice that puts you in a difficult situation and makes you apply all of the information that one has learned. Just thinking about yourself and a situation in third person is different than actually being there. One example of this is how we are taught to respond to the event of a natural disaster. In elementary school, we all had to go through lessons where the teacher talked about what to do in case the building was on fire. We all learned the information and colored pictures and all of that.
However, the teachers knew that even though we theoretically knew what to do in the case of a fire and that we had all been taught what to do in case of a fire, when that fire alarm actually sounded. They knew that there would be many differing reactions to the fire alarm when it actually sounded and…