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The long-term game: sustainability
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The long-term game: sustainability

Article by Greenfleet CEO, Wayne Wescott - Originally published by Family Business Australia


With their eye on future generations, sustainability is at the heart of every family business. When a company – however big or small – is focused on the long-term game rather than the short-term gain, sustainable practices make sense.

Family businesses know that sustainability is more than a marketing opportunity or a line in a corporate mission statement – it’s an integral part of how to operate. Family businesses understand the practical aspects of long-term thinking – financial forecasting, risk analysis, succession planning – that rise to the top of the agenda when short-term profits aren’t the number one priority.

Embedding sustainability into business practices is just an extension of this long-term thinking – and many members of Family Business Australia are ahead of the pack. Take Melbourne-based McCloud Shoes. Three generations of Parkinsons have guided the business since 1949, and today the brand is synonymous with high-quality men’s footwear.

The McCloud team is proud to have offset their emissions with Greenfleet since 2002, and have supported a range of other organisations building a better future for Australians, from bushfire recovery to animal welfare.Greenfleet has a wide range of supporters – from single families wanting to offset their annual car use to companies with a commitment to corporate social responsibility. Together, these commitments have helped us plant more than 8.5 million native trees in 400 native and biodiverse forests.

"We believe being a family business makes us more committed to socially responsible and ethical practices," says McCloud Shoes’ owner, Paul Parkinson.

"As traditional businesses pass down through the generations, so should the skills and ethics. We have third generation customers who appreciate our product quality, personal service and family approach. They also appreciate our time-honoured values – which include being careful with resources and looking after the environment," Paul explains.

Paul says this ethical approach to business has many benefits – and is particularly important when attracting new customers.

“We find that the younger generation wants to deal with companies with strong ethics, and that our efforts to be environmentally-responsible have helped us attract the best staff and great new customers,” Paul says.

"The way we see it, we almost have a duty of care to represent good ethical values – our customers look to us to set a good example."

While all companies underpinned by strong values are looking at sustainability issues, there’s a unique difference with family businesses: the next generation of owners is sitting around the decision-making table.

"As a family-owned business, we place a high value on people and environment," says Dana Dupere, Director of Benedict Industries, a family business that has grown from a small haulage contractor in 1966 to become the largest producer and reseller of quarried, recycled and landscape products in New South Wales.

"We understand that our longevity and sustainability requires products and services that address the needs of the community and the environment," Dana, who is the daughter of Benedict Industries’ founder, adds.

Benedict Industries has been offsetting its carbon emissions with Greenfleet since 2010, partly because, as Dana explains, "we want to be recognised for leaving the land in better shape than when we found it in."

Leaving the land in better shape involves a number of smart strategies: minimising waste and pollution through process refinement; developing innovative recycled product solutions; investing in projects that improve water quality, reduce soil degradation and provide habitat for wildlife; and carbon offsetting by creating native forests with Greenfleet.

"When you sell to other businesses, your environmental performance becomes their environmental performance," Dana explains.

"We believe our environmental commitment enhances our company profile and adds weight to tender submissions."

Benedict also recognises that environmental responsibility has commercial benefits that lead to competitive advantages – such as improving business practices, optimising production processes and reducing energy consumption and waste. "We see sustainable business practices as a way to reduce costs and boost sales, build a stronger corporate image and brand equity," Dana adds.

"And it’s just the right thing to do."

While not every family business is a leader in sustainability, they are uniquely positioned to make a valuable contribution to many of our global challenges – from supply chain management to product innovation, and from resource management to driving a clear social purpose.

Perhaps the greatest value that family businesses offer is their ability to foster an abiding sense of stewardship over generations. It will be people who find the solutions to our greatest challenges – and people are the greatest asset in any family business.

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