What makes a good company?

There’s a lot being written about the responsibility a company has in doing good.

Good can mean several things and it’s a topic for a much longer discussion, but in essence let’s talk about two main things: producing and operating in a way that benefits people and the planet. There’s a lot of detail in between those two words, people and planet. It has to do with existing as a company at an intersection with several routes that provide a choice to do good or prevent good from happening.

What are the ingredients of a good company? There’s a lot being written about Patagonia, it might be an overused reference by now and there’s new examples coming up all the time. But let’s highlight their ability to do good on a consistent basis and evolve their doing good over time. How have they sustained this endurance effort? It might be within several of the books on how they operate, one of which is named “The responsible company”. It’s a collection of insights and stories from what they refer to as their first forty years. There’s a checklist in this book that is one of the most comprehensive lists of what makes a good company. It includes all aspects such as business health, workers, customers, community, and nature. Here’s a link to find out more about the responsible company.

And then there’s scaling to create impact. Readers with experience in large companies might say; yes but small companies can’t match the ability of large companies to create scale and impact. It’s true to a certain extent, and yet we know how many compromises are made within large scale operations. It’s hard to get it right, with too many intersections creating deviations from the original goal of wanting to do good. Readers within smaller companies might then say; we can do good and control good to a certain extent but struggle with impact. The truth is somewhere in the middle and is a mix of both large and small efforts that have potential to create impact.

As I follow the progress of the Circulove team, the topic of impact comes up right from the beginning. Impact for them is rooted within their values as a company. Their company values aren’t listed independently as values. It’s embedded within how the company operates as a whole and is linked with the impact they wish to create. They believe that their actions matter. They’ll be transparent with their use of ingredients in their products. They’ll work to use less waste. Support local communities. And question as a company how many products people really need. Any new employee or collaborator signs up to this because it’s the way that the company operates. It’s a commitment and there’s no going back. When they reach the intersection of making new choices as a company, they can check back on their principles as actions and ask themselves; are we doing good?

The ability to create impact doesn’t necessarily have to be a daunting and paralyzing project. It can come from a series of small activities. Large-scale impact is relative to activities over time. It’s not a one-time occurrence. Whether it’s a large or small-scale company, the impact is made through the influence that small actions have over time in different markets, industries and with a variety of audiences. In this way both large and small-scale companies have a critical role to play in creating multiple small activities that come together over time. Designing a company to do good is an endurance effort and it needs to evolve and adapt over time regardless of what intersection a company is at.

by Jeremiah Tesolin

December, 2020

Photo credit to Henry & co @pexels

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