Good to Great: Moving beyond compliance

The last piece I wrote on Due Diligence received great feedback. I was asked to talk about Moving beyond compliance as a standalone topic. Dear Mansu, this is for you! So, to the business of the day.

What does it mean to move beyond compliance?

Being compliant simply means you are aware about a set of rules and regulations guiding activities you are involved in and you try all your best to obey the rules so as to avoid penalties, fines or legal issues. In the business world today, unfortunately, this is the situation. Moving beyond compliance is taking extra steps to look at the rationale of compliance and seeking innovative ways to take advantage of compliance to save money and also make more money. I would love to use our hypothetical bakery Ethical bakeries – perhaps I might have a bakery one day.

A bakery in Lagos – Ethical Bakeries, has an owner that hates to pay fines or have legal issues with the government or any regulatory body. He ensures that they comply with all applicable regulations – wastewater quality, air-emission quality, indoor air quality, solid waste disposal, etc.

One day, Ruky, a sustainability enthusiast walks into the bakery to grab some healthy bites and met the environmental, health and safety rep. She asked a few questions about how they maintain indoor air quality and the rep responded with pride, stating how they complied with every regulation that covered their business. Ruky was intrigued and asked why they did it. He told her they had to be on the good side of the law. Impressed that we still had businesses that did not like to wait till problems arise, she asked him the last question, “If the law did not require you to do all of these, would you still do it?” While gathering his thoughts, the owner of the business walked in on them and exchanged pleasantries. She asked the question again and there was a long silence.

If there were no laws, would you still do it?

Imagine if there were no air pollution limits and you could pump out untreated water as you wish. What if you could treat workers as you deemed fit, with no laws protecting them or you could churn out products with no regulatory testing for market fitness. Would you still take your time, money and energy to ensure that you business activities do not hurt people intentionally, managed environmental resources effectively, treated workers fairly? If you answered yes in your gut, accept my imaginary hug as I welcome you to the league of businesses that are on the path to become value and purpose driven. If you answered no in your gut, accept my imaginary hug too because you would have to schedule a meeting with me as we need to reevaluate why exactly you are in business then we can start from there.

Money-driven versus Purpose-driven

I would like to use the internet fraudster analogy. The driving force behind their dastardly acts is the quest for money. When money is the sole goal, you would do anything and damn the consequences as long as money was going to come in. This is why its easy for some shortsighted business owners to cut corners, evade tax, treat workers unfairly, and short-pay suppliers. Meanwhile, a business that has a purpose as its driving force would always go back and refer to the purpose of why they are in business even during down times. Purpose would help you move beyond compliance, integrate strategies that protect people, the environment in which you conduct business and continuously seek ways to be economically viable as you do all of these. If you are in the business of cooking meals, why are you cooking? Anyone can cook so what added value are you bringing? What would make people hand pick you out of a 100 people cooking meals?

Having no lawsuits can make you a good company but creating a culture around purpose would set you on a path to greatness. If Ray Anderson of Interface, Don Petersen of Ford, Phil Knight of Nike could do it, please take your time and innovate away.

One thought on “Good to Great: Moving beyond compliance

  1. First, laws were made to guide against repeated occurrence of an event, so if there actually is no law, no one is wrong.
    I like the hypothetical twist, it is interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.