My father made a point of sharing that, as a member of a multi-generational business, my role―like his―was to act as custodian for the next generation. Now that I have a daughter, I remember his wise words each day as I go to work. His insight has helped me take my responsibility very seriously, so, like him, I take every action possible to ensure that our company’s legacy continues.
But it isn’t only family businesses that must consider the legacy their company will leave. As founders and leaders, we all understand the value in building something to outlast ourselves. Each entrepreneur is responsible for developing our companies so that they can make a lasting, positive impact on the world. Whether you provide good jobs, contribute to the community, solve social problems or make life better through the ingenuity of your products, we are all creating legacies. And it’s up to us to create the best legacy we possibly can.
A Legacy for Planet
On 8 October, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on climate change revealing that we have only a small window of opportunity—perhaps 10 or 12 years at most—to take action to prevent a major climate catastrophe from which there may be no plausible recovery.
As you consider this news, ask yourself how your company will help lower our planet’s collective carbon dioxide emissions.
We have done our small part as a company. In 2008, we completed construction on a custom-built, LEED Gold Certified, eco-friendly apparel factory, which we named “Mihila”—meaning “earth.” It was designated as Asia’s first carbon neutral apparel factory in 2011.
More recently, we installed solar panels on all of our facility rooftops, which will reduce 10,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to removing 2,200 vehicles from our roads each year.
A Legacy for People
As leaders, we must also consider how our companies impact the people and communities in which we operate. In the Hirdaramani Group, we regard company associates as members of our extended family and thus hold a deep sense of responsibility for their continued growth and happiness.
One way we address this responsibility is through an internal social initiative that I am extremely proud of: our Wonders of Wellbeing (WOW) program. WOW is a comprehensive, engaging program focusing on five dimensions of wellbeing among our associates: economic, relational, physiological, mental and environmental. The ultimate aim of the program is to help all of our associates enjoy healthy, wealthy, happy and meaningful lives. In addition, WOW is a “train the trainer” program so not only are we able to implement it in all parts of our organization in a relatively short time, but it also allows our associates the opportunity to teach others—both inside and outside of the company.
The Evolution of Sustainability as Legacy
In the last decade, my understanding of the definition of sustainability has changed. When we started planning Mihila 12 years ago, I was under the impression that sustainability was mostly geared toward the environment. Over time, the definition of sustainability has evolved to include the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
Fortunately, my role in the company is overseeing sustainability, which not only is a personal passion but also allows me to formalize strategies to mitigate many of the challenges that future generations will face. While sustainability was historically regarded as good practice and has always been ingrained in our company’s DNA, now it is considered essential. Today, a company must adopt sustainable and ethical practices in order to stay in business.
Sustainability is now an inherent aspect of running a business. And since its concept has expanded to include social as well as environmental considerations, it encourages entrepreneurs to diversify and expand our potential positive impact.
A Legacy of Supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
As you develop your company’s sustainability strategy, it’s a best practice to consult the UN’s comprehensive list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN SDGs are wide-ranging: On the social side, from alleviating hunger and poverty to promoting well-being and peace; and on the environmental front, from addressing climate change to reducing waste. These 17 goals for improving our world make an ideal starting point for corporate sustainability strategies.
As a business leader, I encourage you to choose SDGs that parallel your personal “why” and your company’s core values. In my organization, we have decided to focus on six goals that are very relevant to our future. Here’s how we address them:
- SDG No. 3: Good Health, for employees and our community, through our WOW program
- SDG No. 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, by instituting energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy projects such as solar rooftops
- SDG No. 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, through adherence to global compliance standards
- SDG No. 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, by investments in innovative technologies and automation
- SDG No. 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, by adopting LEAN manufacturing and recycling practices
- SDG No. 13: Climate Action,through our carbon-neutral factory, carbon reduction measures and investment in projects for reforestation and renewable energy
Values, Vision and Legacy
While I am incredibly humbled and honored to be part of my company’s heritage, I also know there is so much I need to do in my role to enable it to continue.
Legacy and core values go hand-in-hand, and I strongly believe we would not have existed for 120 years without well-established core values passed on by our founders through the generations. Maintaining these values during periods of growth can pose challenges, but the WOW initiative provides a natural channel for educating and communicating the values that define our culture. Being able to share our beliefs and practices with a wider audience is essential to not only our future legacy but that of our global community.
As entrepreneurs, we find ourselves in the unique position to create lasting social change across multiple industries worldwide by embracing sustainable, ethical business practices. As increasing numbers of entrepreneurs commit to such initiatives, these life-enhancing changes will grow in scale and transform our world for the better.
So, what practices and programs will you adopt to define your lasting legacy?
Additional posts on legacy and growth:
Five Rules on Transitioning From Business Birth to Rapid Growth
Leave a Legacy that Lasts
How Are You Creating Your Legacy?
Make a Mark: EO Supports UN SDGs
A Powerful Resource for Business Growth
Accelerate Your Commitment to Growth
Adversity Inspired my Business Idea
Empower Top Team Members by Sharing this Executive Perk
The 90-Day Review How-To
10 Podcasts for Entrepreneurs on the Grow
EO 360°: A PODCAST BY THE ENTREPRENEURS’ ORGANIZATION John Bly on Growth Thru Acquisition