Aron Cramer is the CEO of Business for Social Responsibility. Aron is an authority on corporate responsibility by leaders in business and NGOs. He advises senior executives at BSR's 250 member companies and other global businesses, and is regularly featured as a speaker at major events and in a range of media outlets. Under his leadership, BSR has doubled its staff and significantly expanded its global presence. Aron is co-author of the book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World, about the corporate responsibility strategies that drive business success. Cramer defines a sustainable business as one that not only delivers value, but also treats people fairly, improves the living standards of its employees and community, and uses natural resources wisely.
Aron Cramer: The only way to have a truly successful enterprise in the 21st Century is to think about business as a steward of natural resources, an engine of innovation, and an institution that can help to build thriving communities. There’s huge business opportunities for companies that achieve that kind of vision for what business can do. That’s the right direction for any company to head.
One of the most interesting stories of the last ten years is the turnaround of the largest company in the world—Walmart.
A company that not that long ago was considered to be on the wrong side of a lot of issues—environmental issues, labor issues, etc. But today, Walmart has made sustainability one of the central elements of their business strategy as they continue to grow.
As they like to put it, waste equals waste, so they’re relentlessly taking waste out of their system. Doing things ranging from creating new kinds of trucks that get products to the marketplace in a much more energy-efficient way, to changing the way their factories operate to radically reduce energy usage.
Walmart is also stoking a great deal of collaboration, bringing together a lot of other very large businesses, along with NGOs to come up with solutions that they all create and they all share in to help deal with everything from the jewelry that’s sold in Walmart to finding more locally-sourced food that gets sold in Walmart.
This is a company that has become an immense catalyst of change using its market power to achieve social environmental purposes that we used to think were the responsibility of the government. But today, this very large retailer is trying to create an immense amount of change by looking at every single inch of its business and finding ways that it can be done more sustainably.
Listening to voices who may be outside the mainstream, actually is a crucial way to succeed in business in the 21st Century.