Doing good or doing well – The paradox of purpose

Nieuwegein, May 2019    

Thursday afternoon, May 16th, was the annual conference of Beaufort Consulting. The guest speaker this year was Ruud Veltenaar. Ruud describes himself as a philosopher, TEDx speaker, serial entrepreneur, impact investor and inspired professor. And this combination was noticeable in his presentation. Ruud challenges his audience with strong propositions and he uses various research studies to substantiate his opinion.

The afternoon's theme was "Enterprise of the Future". The following statement was cited in the presentation; "Doing good or doing well - The paradox of purpose". Interpreted freely; As a company, do you focus as much as possible on shareholder value, or do you also look at the positive impact you make on your environment? As an example, tens of billions of plastic (PET) bottles are produced every year. According to a 2018 study by Greenpeace, almost half of all bottles worldwide are thrown away after first time use. This while a 100% recycled bottle already exists. However, the production costs for these bottles are 3 cents per bottle higher. So many corporations choose short-term profit rather than long-term sustainability.

To meet the major global challenges, in 2015 193 government leaders adopted the “2030 Agenda”, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes "No poverty", "Zero hunger", "Quality education" and "Clean water and sanitation". For a more sustainable world in the long term, these goals should be more important than current financial measures such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The question that Ruud asked all participants is to what extent their company as well as the participants themselves were already involved in doing good or doing well. How do you make the balance between profitability and sustainability? And how can you personally contribute to this balance? An interesting question.

Only look at all the commotion in recent months in which various Dutch politicians argue that sustainability will cost Dutch taxpayers hundreds of billions of Euros. Often, these kind of discussions mainly look at the economic aspect and less to the long-term ecological aspect. But what kind of a world do we leave behind to the generations that will come after us? Don’t we postpone our problems to future generations?

So what will your choice be in the coming year; Doing good or doing well...?!


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