I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the 2018 Texas Corporate Responsibility Summit in Houston. Corporate responsibility leaders from businesses and organizations around the state and country gathered to discuss best practices and efforts on topics including diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, and supply chain integrity.
As I listened to the presentations and conversations throughout the day, I was reminded of two important things one of my mentors shared with me:
- Never underestimate what someone else will do with your ideas. The conference was a great example of this. We all came to the table with novel and interesting ideas, things that have worked at various organizations or we think could work in other applications. I went away with several ideas that I planned to test in my day-to-day, and I spoke with many others at the conference with the same intention. That is the power of ideas leading to innovation.
- Organizational change—the change we’re trying to drive as leaders, starts with personal transformation. Until we are committed to doing our work differently, we can’t expect others in our organizations to do their work differently--so nothing changes. We need to lead the way, in our families, in our organizations, and in our work.
I think of these two tenets often, particularly when discussing the role businesses play in solving complex problems. In a recent Deloitte survey of millennials worldwide, less than half said they believe businesses behave ethically or are committed to improving society. More than half also said they believed generating profits is a priority for businesses, while just a quarter described improving society as a goal for businesses.
At Koch, we see this as a tremendous opportunity to prove ourselves again and again. We believe the role of business in society is to create shared value. And while it is critically important, profit is simply a measure of how well a business does this over time, compared to their competitors. That’s why Koch seeks responsible partners that are focused on mutual benefit. Collaborating with employees, customers, suppliers, stakeholders and others helps us create the products and services that people use every day, using fewer resources. That creates value for everyone.
As a speaker at the summit, I had the opportunity to share a few examples that demonstrate how Koch Industries strives to create shared value:
- Project Green Fleet, an effort among businesses, nonprofits and government, including Flint Hills Resources, has helped install pollution control equipment in thousands of Minnesota school buses, heavy-duty trucks, construction equipment, and other diesel vehicles.
- The Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation will serve as a collaborative space for leading supply chain businesses in Atlanta. The center, launched by Georgia-Pacific, works with organizations ranging from multi-national corporations to emerging startups and academic institutions, to tackle some of the supply chain's most pressing challenges, including retail models, network efficiency and data visibility.
- Koch Membrane Systems (KMS) develops and manufactures some of the world’s most innovative membrane filtration systems for water and wastewater, as well as industrial life sciences. In 2014, the Alto da Boa Vista (ABV) drinking water plant in São Paulo, Brazil, installed the first ultrafiltration system in South America using KMS membranes.
To truly create value and be a responsible company, we must also work to create the conditions to lift people up and provide opportunity for them to achieve at their highest potential. As I shared at the summit, Koch’s End the Divide campaign is a key component of driving societal change. We are working with partners to make necessary reforms to our criminal justice system, including the need to unlock second chances for individuals who have paid their debt to society and want to become productive members of our communities upon release.
Many complex issues face society today, as has always been the case. What’s different today versus years past—and what I saw at the summit—is that technology has allowed us to communicate and collaborate with an interconnected world of passionate people with new ideas about how to meet the challenges. It’s up to us as leaders to create the environment for connecting the ideas and the energy so that we can develop solutions.
Sheryl Corrigan is the director of environmental health and safety for Koch Industries. Read more about her experience here.