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For many businesses, focusing on the revenue and profitability numbers trumps all other factors of success. After all, increasing revenue and being profitable is important to growing the business and having a healthy bottom line. However, some businesses expand their focus on those numbers to consider another important element: stewardship.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Stewardship refers to a company taking responsibility for the business and the effects it has on the world around it.
How to Define Stewardship
Often thought of in biblical terms, the stewardship definition also plays a critical role in today’s business environment. In the world of commerce, stewardship refers to taking responsibility for the business and the effects it has on the world around it. This involves considering more than just the bottom line and looking at elements such as values, ethics and morals. Stewardship examples include corporate stewardship, environmental stewardship and service-oriented stewardship.
Many business leaders are seeing the negative effects of their companies on the world around them and are actively working to alter their business practices and to take more responsibility for their actions. This is called corporate stewardship or corporate social responsibility.
As a result of business practices in the past, the world is now faced with such threats as climate change, decreasing local biodiversity, water contamination and shortages, social unrest and the unequal distribution of wealth. As a result, many of the biggest companies in the world are focusing on corporate stewardship in the interest of their current and future stakeholders.
For example, Starbucks has realigned critical aspects of its organization so it can help to find solutions for societal issues. This includes encouraging customers and employees to get involved with local community programs, providing clean water to children in developing countries and providing grants to youth leadership programs.
For some businesses, focusing on changing their business practices to include more sustainable and environmentally friendly initiatives is a key driving force of their brand. The effects of climate change are becoming clear around the world, and many organizations are starting to align the way they operate with new values that center around sustainability.
Patagonia started the 1 percent for the planet movement, which is an organization that inspires other businesses and individuals to support environmental causes. Unilever has stated that its mission is to decouple its environmental impact from its growth. It is working to alter its manufacturing processes so it can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water abstraction and total waste.
Managing the interactions between individuals within the company and those outside of the company, such as customers, suppliers, partners and local community members, is also a part of stewardship in business. Businesses need to establish agreed-upon codes of conduct and communicate the importance of these rules to all of their employees.
Having a clearly stated company mission, vision and set of core values and ensuring that all company members are aware of them is also a way to ensure that employees of the business interact with others with stewardship in mind. These actions help individuals to act with the kind of decorum the company values, which translates to its teams and the organization as a whole.
In many news stories, it’s common to see companies distancing themselves by cutting ties from employees who have behaved inappropriately. This sends a message to the public that the business doesn’t condone the behavior of the employee.
Stewardship for Small Business
Stewardship in the corporate sector doesn’t need to feel out of reach for small businesses. There are many simple actions small businesses can take to act as stewards for their companies. For starters, developing a company mission that takes into account the impact of the business on the community can help to inform other actions.
If your company’s mission is to reduce your environmental footprint, for example, you can start by going digital instead of printing out documents. Similarly, composting and recycling materials from employee lunches can also help. The actions your small business takes to be a steward don’t need to rival Fortune 500 corporations. Look at the community around you and how your business affects it and work together to improve the areas that require attention one step at a time.
- Forbes: Corporate Stewardship
- The New York Times: What is Stewardship, and Should All Great Leaders Practice It?
- Inc.: Serving People First: The Lesson of Stewardship
- Michel A. Bell: What Does Stewardship Mean Today For Businesses?
- Starbucks: Community
- One Percent for the Planet: Home
- Unilever: Reducing Environmental Impact
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.