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from a natural and organic business consultant

Core Values: How They Impact Strategy & Decision-Making

consulting core values csr decision-making leadership team training Apr 22, 2024
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When I ran my herbal apothecary, one of my values was being environmentally friendly. I sourced my ingredients from a well-respected vendor, I grew and harvested many of my own plants, I used organic gardening methods, I brought on interns and apprentices to share knowledge and train them in the natural products industry, and I held a strong belief that my products were beneficial.

However, the packaging bothered me. Even as I kept the packaging as minimal as possible, I was still purchasing tins, glass bottles, jars with plastic lids, and labels that came on long spools of plastic backing. I knew the industry was rife with waste, trash, and that much of what I was making (once used) would end up in a landfill somewhere, and this unnerved me. I considered clay or pottery jars with cork lids for my salves, but this was untenable. I asked vendors to ship items to me using corn peanuts rather than Styrofoam, and I requested paper infill when possible and I used the paper in my woodstove in the winter.

Values Versus Growth?

This value—this desire to be eco-friendly—drove many of my decisions, and in fact it limited my growth as a company, which I’m not sad about. I conscientiously chose to remain small and have a lesser environmental impact rather than grow in such a way that would compromise my ideals.

Many companies will grow despite their environmental impact, or despite their negative social impact. They operate with values that don’t include animal welfare, waste reduction, or fair hiring practices. Many companies don’t operate with any values at all. But for those who do, balancing their values with company growth and profit is a never-ending challenge or, at the very least, it’s a constant conversation about sustainability leadership and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Values in the Decision-Making Process

Today, thankfully, there are many more options for environmentally friendly packaging. I’ve found Eco-Enclose, a B-Corp that produces high-quality 100% post-consumer materials that I would have loved when I ran my apothecary. These choices make holding onto a value easier, but it’s still essential to weigh the pros and cons with every decision your company makes, from choosing a vendor to sourcing an ingredient to hiring a new employee.

How do your values fit in this context, in this decision? Do your values interfere with making a profit? They might. In these instances, you must communicate with all team members to ascertain how much interference is acceptable versus how strongly you will advocate for your values. It's a constant question and worthy of many conversations. No decision should be weighed without this context, and once you've made a decision, be prepared to defend it. Sustainability leaders and CEOs must ascertain whether there is willingness and capacity in your company and create a strategy to address challenges.

It's never easy. But it doesn't have to be hard! It requires discussions among C-suite and team members that explore alignment and meaning. It requires looking at all your departments and assessing how they meet your values standards. And it means coming back to these questions again and again without feeling like re-tackling the theme of core values is a failure, because it actually means you're doing it right.

It's a Tricky Balance!

Part of our work as companies is to “be a force for good,” which is the slogan of B-Lab, the nonprofit entity that assesses and certifies companies to be B-Corps. Balancing good with solvency can be tricky and this is where having company values serves as a foundation for decision-making. Values can’t just be a list of words on a computer screen. Instead, it takes real work and dialogue within a team (from executives to field workers) to identify what’s really important, what's shared, and what will serve as a guidepost for all decisions yet to come.

Decisions that are values-driven include hiring practices, transparency, tackling this market instead of that. How to warehouse your products and how to ship them. Whether to be an employee-owned company, such as King Arthur Baking Company, or whether to operate with key advisory groups made up of customers, such as the chocolate maker Equal Exchange. Nearly every decision made by a company reflects its values (or lack thereof). Identifying and establishing core values is key and will help smooth the rough bumps of decision making and managing along the very rocky way.

Consulting for Team Unity

As a natural and organic business consultant, I specialize in leading in-person retreats, workshops and trainings where executives and/or team members come together to identify and expand core values and purpose. Creating a mission statement is not enough. To keep teams healthy and engaged, your company must invest in the ongoing process of exploring and identifying core values. And to propel your company forward with both employee retention and customer love, you should consider implementing a meaningful purpose throughout. What does this look like? I can help with assessments, trainings, curricula, HR resources, and implementation that strengthen team unity. Contact me at [email protected].

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