Our people, our planet, and sustainable profit

Once upon at time, success in business – and especially in the industrial sector – was measured almost entirely on the basis of profit. If the business made money, it was succeeding. End of story.

Except, in those days, these “successful” businesses were all too often built on a tragic foundation of disregard for the safety of workers, disregard for any environmental concerns, and frequently, a shocking lack of business ethics when it came to relationships with competitors and customers.

I’m proud to look around me at the Canadian business community of which I am a part, and see that this has all changed, dramatically, and totally for the better. Today, successful businesses are built on a balanced strategy that considers what is best for people, our planet, and sustainable profit.

This produces results that are wins for everyone – for employees, for owners, for customers, for our neighbours near and far, for this planet we call home. It also ensures that this “win” will continue, as we develop and implement sustainable practices that not only protect our environment, but also the future of our businesses.

We know we are not there yet, but we are very focused on the goal. At Siemens, for example, our stakeholders – from our team members to our customers – know that we’re engaged in best practices in every area – people, planet, or profit. And we also realize that it is impossible to separate these categories – what is good for people is also good for our planet, and vice versa; and unless a profit model is sustainable, in every sense, the profit soon dwindles.

I’m proud to be part of a company that aims to be the world’s first major industrial company to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint. Our plan is to reach that goal globally by 2030, but much sooner than that – by early 2020 – we will have cut our carbon dioxide emissions in half. Over the next three years, Siemens is investing funds globally in order to reduce the energy footprint of our production facilities and buildings across the globe – and our Gold LEED-certified Siemens Canada headquarters has set the standard for our company, world-wide.

Another way we at Siemens have developed to accomplish these goals is called Zero Harm Culture. Workplace safety is absolutely central to success for any company, but none of us can claim 100% success in this area. Overall, Canada’s workplace health and safety record is a complicated, “good news – bad news” situation. There is some good news – the number of workplace injuries and deaths has been dropping over the past several decades. However, in the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were more than 245,000 workplace injuries in Canada, and almost 1,000 deaths.

Put another way, about 672 workers were injured every day in this country.

Surely, none of us can think this is acceptable. Health and safety has long been considered an important topic – but I want to suggest that it needs to be fundamental element of every business’s strategy for sustainability and success. All of us need to be improving our employee health and safety programs –setting ambitious targets and, much more importantly, putting in place the right programs to make them a reality.

This is the only way we can live out the truth that our people are by far our most important asset.

Canadian businesses are, of course, very focused on being green. There is no question that sustainability is vital in our imperiled world. The good news is forward thinking businesses will discover that becoming sustainable can also be a key to becoming sustainably profitable, as we create green innovations.

But this “people, planet, profit” triad must not be broken apart, so that even as we seek to be green and growing, we must also be creating a safe environment for our people. A Zero Harm Culture has to be front of mind, all the time. We talk about “continuous improvement” in our technology and production systems, but nowhere is it more important than in health and safety.

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