Northeast Arkansas has generated sustained economic growth during the past four decades, Talk Business & Politics noted in coverage of the City of Jonesboro’s and Craighead County’s recent tax collection growth. The report highlighted the region’s diverse set of industries and population growth as key economic drivers.
Since the early 1970s, Jonesboro’s population has grown by about 3% each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2012 to 2017, Craighead County recorded the third-highest rate of growth among all counties in the state at 7.3%.
Jonesboro and Craighead County have a long history as an economic hub, home to innovative companies that have found success in a region prioritizing economic development and planning. The region’s own deliberative growth strategy carries an important lesson for area businesses: Success and responsible growth aren’t mutually exclusive.
Successful companies increasingly are making sustainability central to their growth strategies. Beyond good corporate citizenship, they are recognizing the intrinsic link between the strength of their business and that of the communities and economies in which they operate and the importance of attracting the top talent who increasingly view these as important business characteristics.
Leading your growth with those goals in mind builds resilience, better measurement tools and better solutions for the future:
• Responsible growth companies perform better. Companies that consider the impact of risks and opportunities on the environment, local communities and society may produce better financial results.
• Responsible growth companies attract investment. A 2017 study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group surveyed 150 executives and managers. Findings revealed 90% of executives see sustainability as important, but only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy in place. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 43% of institutional investors surveyed agree that a company’s sustainability performance is materially important to their investment decisions.
• Responsible growth companies resonate with Millennials. Eighty-two percent of Millennials who believe their employers share their values intend to stay with their employer for at least another five years, according to a recent report by Deloitte.
Here are some ways Northeast Arkansas companies can invest in sustainability and help improve business:
• Set concrete goals. Outline measurable goals tied to strategic sustainability priorities. The Harvard Business Review piece provides an example of a clear objective set by a heavy-equipment manufacturer for achieving their big strategic goal of remanufacturing products and components to reuse materials, save customers money, and extend product life cycles.
• Invest in talent. Recruiting bright, innovative employees will ensure your company will think outside-the-box when facing any challenge. Be mindful of company culture as this is important for Millennials when choosing a place to work. Know your industry segment but consider hiring those with expertise outside your silo. Some of the best ideas and products come from unconventional corners.
• Evaluate your supply chain. Building and updating a sustainable supply chain requires a complex review of corporate standards and issues. Evaluate whether processes could be more streamlined and where new methods and different suppliers are needed, using the employment and diversity standards and review benchmarks you want maintained throughout your business.
• Be transparent. For the public, transparency will aid in maintaining reputation and trust in credibility. Internally, transparency will increase job satisfaction and communication.
• Use incentives. Installing compensation incentives for executives can help keep sustainability goals in focus. Consider making sustainability an important factor in procuring vendors or manufacturers.
• Share the good news. Let your stakeholders know about your efforts to grow sustainably. You’ll attract more customers, investors and talent.
To achieve your company’s full potential, responsible growth strategies must be integrated into company goals and communicated as such. When prioritized, becoming a more sustainable company can become a unifying factor for your workforce while also benefiting the larger community and your bottom line.
Editor’s note: Heather Albright is a Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager in Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Contact her at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.