by Mark Polet
When it comes to running a good business, cleanliness really is next to godliness.
I want to explore with you why you who are pursuing excellence in business need to weave good environmental practice into your operations.
Messy Site, Messy Company
Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company. Because poor environmental practice is often quite visible in a disorderly site and disorganized operations, it is often the most evident warning bell to any investor or customer that something is wrong with this firm.
Why do I stay that? After over forty years of assessing companies for environmental excellence, including Kingdom-Oriented firms, there is one correlation in my experience that always holds.
If the site is a mess, the accounting is a mess.
Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company.
A messy site means messed up books. I have reviewed firms across a score of industry groups. At times I will come across a company that has an unkempt site. Sometimes it is debris lying around; other times it is far worse, with spills contaminating the soil. In all cases, I find as I continue my audit that their financial records are equally messy, and their regulatory compliance is spotty at best. The management of their supply chain was poor. The amount of waste they generate, both in lost productivity and actual, physical waste, is evident.
Overwhelmed Entrepreneurs vs Chronic Issues
I am not talking about short-term problems. An overwhelmed entrepreneur, under capitalized and under resourced, struggles to keep his or her hand on all aspects of the business, but eventually brings things under control. That’s not unlike many of us letting our house get messy when things are busy, but catching up later.
In contrast, long-term messy companies have chronic issues. In all cases, a lack of discipline is apparent. The sites show a chronic, consistent mismanagement. The books show the same lack of management or analysis of cash flow. The approach to employee-care and safety is ad hoc. Often the firms are unaware of regulatory requirements, let alone complying with them.
A Four-stranded Rope
What advantage do we have as a Kingdom company? We believe in a wholistic Gospel, that our service and gratitude for what God did for us compels us to excellence in all aspects of life. As Stewards, we do not want to mess up what God has given us. We also want to be Light. The Light does not shine brightly when muck covers the bulb.
As proclaimers of a wholistic Gospel, we often split our outcomes into four bottom lines: Environmental, Social, Spiritual and Financial. But these bottom lines are not discrete. They are more like a four stranded rope, if one frays, the whole rope breaks.
With proper financial reporting, Terri was able to work with the owner to resurrect the board and improve governance. The board members were able to see in part how the company was doing because they had good financial records to review.
Here’s how it can work in practice. My wife Terri and I work as operational contractors for Kingdom businesses in challenging places. This means we stay for extended periods to help strengthen their four-stranded rope. In one company we served, the critical issue was the state of the financial books. Two years of hard work finally brought the books into line. With proper financial reporting, Terri was able to work with the owner to resurrect the board and improve governance. The board members were able to see in part how the company was doing because they had good financial records to review. They could then provide better guidance.
The guidance from the board led in part to a new approach on the ministry plan where the focus shifted to employee-care. That resulted in developing a health plan, bringing people on as employees from being contractors so that they could receive benefits, and developing a human resources manual, policies and formal assessment programme so that each staff could blossom.
Having a focus on employee care meant we could improve safety and occupational health. Having good books means we could know what was in inventory. We cleaned up the physical space and started recording the hazards of the chemicals used while developing safe practices for their use. Cleaning up the warehouse meant a safer, cleaner place to work, and staff and the environment were protected from spills and misuse of hazardous chemicals. This combined effort on financial, social, spiritual and environmental issues was not sequential, but very much like braiding, where lifting one strand allowed us to weave in another one.
We saw tangible results. One benefit was increased staff loyalty, one staff member stayed with this company rather than accepting a better paying job with a major international organisation because, she said, ‘you (the company) take care of me’. The Kingdom business showed love, care and concern by providing a clean, safe, caring environment in which this person could blossom. She had a firm rope to grasp, with strong social, environmental, spiritual and financial strands. She saw the Light shining.
This combined effort on financial, social, spiritual and environmental issues was not sequential, but very much like braiding, where lifting one strand allowed us to weave in another one.
Our hope in the BAM Global Creation Care Group* is to make good environmental practice good company practice; that Kingdom companies do not see four strands, but one rope. As we prepare for the BAM Global Congress 2020, we will continue to provide Kingdom companies with maxims and practical advice.
Whether you are a business owner, mentor, governor or investor, you have a responsibility to keep the company clean, and in so doing keep the earth clean. There is joy of being a good Steward and a wise businessperson committed to sharing the Light. A clean company is a well-run company.
Read more on the topic of Environment and Creation Care in BAM:
*A BAM Global Creation Care Consultation is currently underway which will present its findings at the BAM Global Congress in 2020.
Mark Polet is a professional biologist with over 40 years of experience. Working on four continents, Mark and his wife Terri bridge cultures and traditions with people of good will to serve those who are spiritually and materially impoverished. Mark is passionate about bringing engineers, scientists, and business together to develop solutions to challenging environmental issues. Mark has the privilege to coordinate the BAM Global Creation Care Consultation. Prior to working in the impact business space, Mark & Terri owned a number of companies, including an environmental services company and an environmental consultancy.
Profile photo by Lucie Leduc