Sustainability in Action: What Does it Take to Make it Work?

Dr Pramodita Sharma, image courtesy of the subject
The Family Business Voice
Sustainability in Action: What Does it Take to Make it Work?

Listen to this episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher and YouTube.

On this episode of The Family Business Voice, Ramia talks to Professor Pramodita Sharma about her new book “Pioneering Family Firms’ Sustainable Development Strategies”, which charts the journey of 15 business families showing a commitment to sustainable development through their work in a diverse range of industries and geographies.

Professor Pramodita Sharma is the Schlesinger-Grossman Chair of Family Business at the Grossman School of Business, University of Vermont. A prolific author and pioneer in her field, Professor Sharma’s work draws on her close ties to the business community as well as her experiences growing up in a family enterprise. Recently, her research has focused on understanding the role of spirituality, philanthropy and sustainability on strategic decision-making in the family business.

Episode Takeaways:

  • Sustainability is no longer considered an impediment to profitability; instead, it’s becoming a requirement. Long-term strategic planning has always been important for family businesses, where multigenerational entrepreneurship and succession are typically paramount. Sustainability supports survival and longevity by its very nature, connecting business activities with social and environmental initiatives that generate future prosperity.
  • Examples from the book “Pioneering Family Firms’ Sustainable Development Strategies” illustrate the drivers behind 15 family’s sustainability journeys. In many cases, both consumers and next-gen leaders share the same passion for mitigating the long-term impact of harmful human activities on planet and people, helping to make these sustainable strategies successful.
  • It’s typically easier for first-generation business owners to establish their sustainability strategies right out of the gate than for family businesses to pivot generations down the line. However, the case of a nearly century-old conventional produce packager that successfully shifted to offering 98 per cent organic products over 10 years shows how slow and consistent efforts can transform even the most established businesses.
  • Despite the growing sustainability trend, many family businesses struggle with the first few steps on their path toward an environmentally and socially friendly business model. Business networks can be a valuable resource that brings business families together, allowing them to learn about sustainable development issues and approaches from each other. In addition, innovation focussed sustainability programs, such as the ones offered by the University of Vermont and others, provide a comprehensive education in sustainable marketing, accounting, and finance, accessible anywhere in the world through online learning. More and more, organisations are bringing families together in support of sustainability and helping to build a vibrant, environmentally and socially kind business community.

Pioneering Family Firms’ Sustainable Development Strategies, Pramodita and Sanjay Sharma’s latest book, can be purchased here.