A Perfect Storm For Business: Sustainability, Human Capital Management, and Purpose


Part I of IV

“How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whiskey? Do they cry?”  ~ Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm

The Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway.  Meteorologists predict there is a 70-80% chance we will enter a La Niña weather pattern which means we can expect an “above-normal” hurricane season.  Experts forecast 14 named storms for the Atlantic basin, of which 4 are predicted to become major hurricanes.

I believe another storm of epic proportions is taking shape in the global business community; resulting from the convergence of 3 powerful megatrends: Sustainability, Human Capital Management, and Purpose. This storm threatens to massively disrupt Business-As-Usual and, if my forecasts are correct, may even help save the planet (don’t go grab that bottle of whiskey just yet)!

Megatrend #1: Business, Globally, Leading The Way To Sustainability


Sustainability in business is nothing new but, ever since the signing of the Paris Agreement on Earth Day, 2016, the world has been abuzz with efforts to turn signatures into action and sustainability into business opportunities.

This summer, while we batten down the hatches and prepare for hurricane season, the United Nations Global Compact will be convening leaders from around the world to translate the Sustainable Development Goals into business action and innovation!

So far over 8,000 businesses and 4,000 non-businesses from over 170 countries have committed to the world’s largest sustainability initiative to align their strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.

There is no shortage of opportunities for businesses to be both highly profitable AND generate abundance for humanity and the planet, rather than being focused solely on profit at the expense of these other valuable stakeholders. “Either/or” is no longer acceptable.  Today, businesses lead with “AND”.  I believe one of the greatest opportunities for businesses to maximize the value, ROI, and impact of their sustainability efforts is to integrate them strategically with their human capital strategies and programs.

Megatrend #2: The (R)evolution Of Human Capital Management

Deloitte HCM trends

Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends 2016 Report indicates that Human Resources’ role in organizational change is rapidly transforming.  Human Capital Management (HCM) is increasingly valued as a key driver of business success.  After all, human beings are a business’ most expensive and valuable asset.

The top four trends identified in the report are:

1) Organizational Design

2) Leadership

3) Culture

4) Engagement

How a business engages employees, develops leaders, and instills values into its culture should be considered integral to organizational design and a core part of the business strategy. And what better way for businesses to thrive than by entering the eye of this perfect storm and looking at their HCM strategy through a lens of sustainability and purpose?

Megatrend #3: Millennials And The Rise of Purpose At Work

2016-06-03 (4)

Numerous studies (including this PwC report) show that Millennials place great importance on having a sense of purpose, more than any other previous generation.  They seek fulfillment and meaning not only in their personal lives but also in their work lives through the relationships they develop and their positive impact on the company, society and the planet.  They want to know that there is alignment between their values and the company’s values and they are either joining or leaving companies because of it.

As the US Chairman of PwC, Bob Moritz, says in a recent HBR article, “PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose—its reason for being—but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.” Social and environmental responsibility is a powerful set of values that resonate with stakeholders today including talent, customers, community members, suppliers, and investors.  Aligning purpose with sustainability and human capital management strategies can be a powerful way to increase stakeholder engagement which in turn can lead to higher profitability and impact.

Sustainability, Human Capital Management, and Purpose are taking the world by storm.  Are you ready?

SEED Strategies can help guide you through the eye of the storm to give you peace of mind and clarity of purpose on your sustainability journey.  We work with you to understand your opportunities and design human capital strategies and programs that will help you pivot to maximize the value, ROI, and impact of your sustainability initiatives and investments.

Stay tuned for future Insights that will dive deeper into each of the 3 megatrends highlighted above.

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