10 Dec PROOF – Sustainability Built into “Purpose” makes Businesses Unbeatable
I conduct meetings with clients, current & prospective, every week. Most follow broadly similar appointment patterns; we discuss all things sustainable and the positive impact sustainability can have on;
- their business
- on the planet
- the people in and around their business
It’s a great job that motivates us and the clients we work with.
But, once in a while, we are confronted by a business leader who, as a force of nature, turns the familiar on its head. Svend Wennick of Wennick–Lefèvre is just such a leader and thinker.
First, a little background. Svend heads a Copenhagen firm sourcing uncut sapphires, predominantly from Madagascar, which they then transport to Sri Lanka where skilled crafts-men & women polish them to perfection. From Sri Lanka, Wennick–Lefèvre’s finished sapphires make their way to high-end jewellers across Europe.
When we met recently at the end of phase one of Global Impact’s involvement with Wennick–Lefèvre, we sipped tea on the roof-top terrace, which acts as the company’s open-air meeting space, and allows a fine view of Copenhagen’s magnificent city roofscape.
After chatting about future developments and the way the business has grown, Svend re-ran a recent presentation he made in Paris to an eminent jeweller, which mirrors several I’ve witnessed over recent months.
With the formal meeting over, the jeweller poured coffee, offered compliments about the quality of the gems and the craftsmanship put into their preparation and agreed to continue their relationship, a relationship rewarding to both parties. With the scent of ground coffee filling the early-evening air the jeweller remained complimentary. “You will be remembered here for the quality of your beautiful stones Svend. What a legacy.”
To those who know Svend, his reaction was predictable. “Our gems come from a planet that is naturally beautiful & our people enhance glorious sapphires with skill & love, but for myself and our business I hope only to be remembered for the trees I plant. A tree for every gem we sell.”
For all Svend’s clients, be they large or small, the message is consistent. “Trees, hopefully millions of them; they are our purpose, and without being true to our purpose, our sapphires are just beautiful things hanging from someone’s finger!”
Svend demonstrates an interesting truth; in a growing number of businesses, “purpose” has been transformed into something other than profit, sales, growth or survival & an expanding number of the high-quality businesses think this way. They have products & services to sell, and do so successfully, but neither the product nor the profit contained within it, define the business’s purpose. For these businesses, success & profit are what flows from the business’s purpose. For many this is not only different but irresistibly compelling.
In a recent interview with Mika Koopmann, Co-Founder of The German/Swiss logistics business ‘ImagineCargo’, the same clarity & originality-of-purpose quickly became apparent. For Mika, that profit flows from the sale of products and services is a truth which sits comfortably with him but the business’s purpose, to aggressively insert bicycle-couriers into ‘same-day, next-day’ parcel delivery, exists for specific reasons;
“Our purpose is broader than delivering faster and less-expensively than diesel-powered only deliveries”. Said Mika. “We apply environmentally positive solutions to environmentally disastrous parts of the logistics chain, while also seeking to benefit the interests of the cycle-courier community, an environmentally-committed community which delivers dramatic reductions in diesel emissions; a cause of urban pollution & urban health issues.”
Just like Wennick-Lèfevre’s model, ImagineCargo have built their own combination of People & the Planet benefits into the core of their business on the implicit understanding & acceptance that profit will flow from;
the company’s successful delivery of its products & services
the company fulfilling its self-assigned purpose(s) which is, in turn, the glue binding customers, colleagues & investors tightly together
These are two classic, but not unusual, businesses successfully reaping substantial dividends from setting their unique ‘sustainability purpose’ at the core of their brand, & what comes out the other end is no green-washing charade; it is what these businesses are and their customers warm to their model, as do Investors, Stakeholders, Suppliers, Colleagues & Potential Recruits.
A recipe for a great business in anyone’s book.