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The Q's of Qlick: Corporate Social Responsibility
‘The Q’s of Qlick’, is a series of interviews in which we invite inspiring business leaders for a conversation on leadership. We consciously chose these leaders because we believe they each have a particular skill in the different competencies of 3D-leadership.
Today I am interviewing Alain Van Echelpoel on Corporate Responsibility with regard to sustainability.
Alain has been involved with this topic since many years in different roles and has always tried to bring it as close as possible to his own ‘backyard’.
The topic is very broad so we focus mostly on what a leader can do to increase awareness and take responsibility to shift him/herself and the company to the next level in the area of creating a more sustainable business.
How do you deal with this topic as a leader?
Alain talks about how this topic starts from within. He explains how he started to apply some principles to himself for example by eating mostly food produced in his own garden. The next step is to bring it to a larger business environment such as buying a hybrid car and encouraging the company to install corporate policies. Alain explains that as long as you apply your principles to your own (home) environment it is still relatively easy. The bigger the company, the more difficult it becomes to integrate this topic. That is because there are often conflicting priorities such as Financial Returns on (non-sustainable) Investment.
‘I have experienced that very few companies dare to invest in something that does not produce short term profit’ he says. Maybe this is the result of an established economic model that needs some rethinking?
How does a leader balance this topic with other priorities?
Now is the time to no longer find the balance but to prioritize and put it on top of the agenda, Alain says. Crisis is also opportunity… For example, the local economy tripled during covid times.
Whatever we do as leaders, we should contribute to societal and positive impact.
We are seeing more and more nice examples of this such as more bio farming. Alain gives the example of the wine agriculture where the quality and value of the product increases the more you link it to the local biosystem or ‘terroir’.
The difficulty, however, is that your business still needs to play by the rules of the game. Those rules are not necessarily fit to accommodate even if you put it on top of the agenda. So, we also have to start thinking about the need for systemic changes and the economic models we use. We need to be aware of the limitations and impact of current rules of the game and not being discouraged by it. Alain also explains that Covid times have shown us the non-sustainability of a global health system. We need to start looking at how we collectively organize healthcare and bring personal responsibility to this.
What is the importance of our personal ‘health’ in this regard?
Personal health is extremely important towards leadership and entrepreneurship. Change starts from within.
‘I see a big gap between how I experience health and how we collectively organize our health system’ Alain says. This is a challenge and a huge opportunity.
Some key takeaways and additional input on the topic of corporate responsibility for sustainability
At Qlick, we are very much aware of the importance of sustainability. In fact, it is part of our self-assessment questionnaire for 3D-leaders. Therefore, I totally support Alains’ appeal for more awareness while adding my own suggestions to put this into practice:
- As a leader, increase your awareness on the topic of corporate responsibility with regard to sustainability. For example, familiarize yourself with the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations.
- Check what your company is doing with regard to these goals and decide on which goals you want to focus to take some action.
- Check your own ‘sustainability’. Particularly during and post pandemic times, your own health is a micro cosmos of the health of a larger system.
- Ask yourself how high this topic is on the priority list of your company and how much responsibility you want to take on. How passionate are you about this topic?
- If you are new to this, just take a first step; any step… For example, install a water purifying system, implement a recycling policy for your company, ask some critical questions during your next investment talks…
- Talk about this topic with your colleagues and business relationships.
Be inspired and challenged by the interview with Alain and don’t forget… you have more impact than you may realize!
Listen to the full interview on our youtube channel.