The real bottom line? Businesses acting responsibly and with care

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Business coach Derek Osborn considers posts’ long-term roles and responsibilities with regard not only to business sustainability but also to their contribution to society and to people’s lives.

What imperatives drive our business decision making? In practice, the main drivers are often short-term and financial. But if we stand back and reflect on this, even the captains of industry are only caretakers and we all have ‘temporary’ roles – what are we going to hand on to our successors and to the next generation? We only have to witness the banking crisis’s ruinous effect on jobs, housing and the broader global economy to see the impact of short-term financial gain.

So how can industry sectors re-calibrate their strategic directional drivers to act more responsibly for longer-term business sustainability and also to contribute positively to wider society and improve people’s lives? Surely it must be about working together, across sectors, to maintain economies for the longer term, provide more sustainable jobs and livelihoods and use the earth’s resources carefully, minimizing harmful impact so that we can hand it back to the next generation in a good condition as a ‘going concern’.

All sectors have their challenges and the postal and logistics sector is a major provider of jobs and sustainer of economic activity, but it is also a heavy consumer of resources and has a huge environmental ‘footprint’ – what are the strategic choices to be made? The current rapid growth of e-commerce is mostly a positive opportunity for the sector but how do unfettered consumption and additional transport and logistics trips for ultimate recipient convenience fit with environmental responsibility? Can the sector play a much stronger role in the circular economy and show leadership around consolidation and more careful use of energy and resources, as it has done in curbing emissions from large transport fleets? What is ‘responsible logistics’? What role can postal providers play in society and improving social and financial cohesion and inclusion? The postal sector has been a long-term success story, with strong roots that go back hundreds of years in most cases – can it rise to the challenge of continuing to adapt and evolve so that it can maintain its value and purpose for hundreds of years to come?

These are all topics which will be discussed at the international benchmarking workshop Driving Sustainability through Leadership, which we are holding in Paris, France, on April 26-27, 2016, hosted by La Poste. It is mainly for the wider postal and logistics sector but we also welcome other sectors to come and share their experiences and insights. It is not too late to book to take part in this workshop; please email me at for more information and to find out how to take part.

The real bottom line is not the profit that is made but business taking responsibility for what it does and the impact it has in the longer term.

Derek Osborn is a business coach, a management trainer, and an international facilitator who focuses on strategy, human resource development, innovation, leadership and change management. He spent 22 years working as a senior manager for Royal Mail and more than 16 years working internationally across the postal industry. He has collaborated with businesses and organizations, including governments and national postal operators, to improve operations and efficiency, develop greater customer focus and innovative strategies, and implement transformation.

April 8, 2016

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