What is a culture of sustainability and how can it help companies avoid crises? At the recent Symposium on Sustainability: Crisis Management: Supply Chains, Business Partners and Sustainability at Baruch College/CUNY, three panels of experts explored the role corporate partners and suppliers have played in the 2010 crises in the energy sector, manufacturing, and in financial services. To no one’s surprise, the focus of the symposium was on the prodromal crisis, the crisis in the making. After all Dow Jones says,

“Corporate sustainability is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks from economic, environmental, and social developments.”

Companies that face crises – and of course all do – certainly know how to behave and what to do. Sustainable businesses are built on a foundation of a strong corporate culture. And that belief and concept was even written into the Sarbanes Oxley legislation in its requirement to create in publicly traded companies a “culture of accountability.” In doing so, everyone agrees that corporate executives build strong relationships and thus become the stewards of the company’s reputation. They manage vendors and partners, and they mitigate risk. These two behaviors appear to have been neglected recently. And these behaviors are key to managing a crisis at the prodromal stage, and they are core to the creation of a culture of sustainability. Companies that adopt them constantly and routinely ask questions of their industry, their partners, and their own managers, according to panelist Ingrid Dyott, VP Neuberger Berman Management.

Asking the right questions, demanding answers, and acting on them is fundamental in mitigating risk and building sustainable businesses.

Michael B. Goodman,
CCI Corporate Communication International
Baruch College/CUNY