The future path to ethical profits

Expert Opinion Article by Todd Burns, President, Cypher Environmental.

Thanks to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the emergence of polarizing political beliefs, and the deteriorating state of our planet, private industry must step up to provide leadership that creates a positive impact on the world around us.

Leadership is often thought of as the act of motivating a group of people to achieve a common goal, and too often, that goal is narrowly focused on the needs of one specific company. However, it is critical that leaders of private industry today not only take a narrow view of what’s best for the company, but also examine what is best for the world as a whole, and adapt their businesses accordingly – setting a trend for others to follow.

Environmental Social Governance (ESG) are new criteria based on this precept: when a company invests in ensuring its outputs have as much positive impact on the environment and society as possible, it creates more growth and economic prosperity for itself.

This is not to be confused with CSR - or Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is exercised when an organization self-regulates with an aim to participate in as many philanthropic, charitable or ethically oriented practices as possible. Those organizations that can find that perfect wedding of ESG and CSR position themselves for long-term growth and prosperity.

At Cypher Environmental, way before ESG was a notion, we had inadvertently founded the company based on two principles that tie in nicely with it, namely, solving environmental problems and using only sustainable and environmentally friendly inputs. This formed the basis of our product and company development and remains a core value today. ESG is now incorporated into everything we do, from how our team members are treated, to how we engage with the local community and the sustainability components that are factored into our production and raw material selection.

In fact, ESG is the guiding philosophy that helps to dictate every decision we make. However, it was only once we started to tie in a robust CSR strategy with ESG, that we really understood the potential growth that the combination would reveal.

For us, the missing piece of the puzzle was how we were going to give back. Every profitable company can and should make donations. That was the easy part. We now mandate that 12% of our profits annually be donated to local charities here in Canada. However, since our products are used globally, and we want to make an impact everywhere we work, we now donate up to 5% of project values back to the communities where our products are applied. We work with our partners to assess where these donations are made, which usually involves Cypher donating product to help improve the road infrastructure in a small community near a mine, for example. We make these donations in our own name as well as our customers’, so it’s a winning formula that allows us to support community engagement for our mining clients, while simultaneously contributing to our own CSR strategy by giving back. Since ESG is already a pillar of our product development, its principles are implied every time our products are used. It’s a win-win formula for everyone involved.

By virtue of our business, this was an easy concept to nurture due to the nature of the solutions we provide. But therein lies the challenge for others in a leadership role today: how to ensure that sustainability is not seen as a hurdle to accomplishing profitability, but instead is adopted in a way that actually spurs growth. When you circle back to the original definition of leadership, the major emphasis should be put on the people. The retention of people creates lasting and impactful organizations. Retention of customers (brand loyalty) and retention of team members (adoption of core values) are two critical pieces that will be naturally addressed when an organization uses a combination of ESG and CSR as guiding principles.

For those of us engaged in selling to the mining industry – we get it. ESG and CSR are philosophies that cannot be overlooked when working in an industry so heavily scrutinized for its environmental and social footprint. However, as industry leaders, we all need to engage in conversations with our peers outside of mining, so they too can see the light. ESG and CSR are not simply trends – but when adopted whole-heartedly into the mindset of a company, they create a general shift in momentum that is generated when all stakeholders buy into shared values and a guiding principle – Always do what’s right.