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In 1993, John Elkington coined the term ‘triple bottom line’. He described it as a system change, and one that would lead to the transformation of capitalism. It encouraged companies to stop concentrating solely on their profits and to include goals in their business strategies for improving the lives of people and the health of the planet. At the time, the notion of ‘creating shared value’ was a radical new way for companies to think about their

business objectives and performance.

It also marked the beginning of the decline of shareholder capitalism and the rise of stakeholder capitalism. The expectation was that companies would serve society as a whole — not only their owners and shareholders.

Fast Forward 30 Years.

Stakeholder capitalism has gone mainstream with the rise of the sustainability agenda. It is top-of-mind across the business world in every sector. The principles of shared value are at its core, but there is one important difference that’s rising quickly in today’s environment — and that’s the need for urgent action.

The pandemic made sustainability even more relevant. It increased the need for business

families to protect their businesses by examining the efficiency of their operating practices and by building deeper and stronger relationships with their communities and their employees. In many ways, sustainability is becoming a basis for a license to operate.

Organizations of every type are being challenged on the role they play and the impact they’re having on the world around them. Many governments are pushing companies to proceed with haste, offering incentives to encourage actions that are climate-smart and contribute to long-term social equity and economic sustainability.

Customers are also demanding it, and they’re ready to follow (and be loyal to) companies that are able to demonstrate the positive impact that their businesses are having on people and the planet.

But no one can solve the world’s biggest environmental and societal issues alone. It

requires innovative thinking, bold ideas and unique experiences from businesses and industries of every type and size. Fortunately, for many family businesses, the road to sustainability is already one that is well-traveled. The fundamentals of shared value are

familiar territory, and they’re woven throughout the family capitalism business model.

While they may be taking a variety of routes and reaching new milestones at different stages of their journeys, the progress they have made so far should be instructive and an inspiration for organizations of every type.

This is why we believe that there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for family businesses to

take a leadership role in guiding others on their sustainability journeys.

Following A Prover Path

To explore the various routes to sustainability that family businesses are taking, KPMG Private Enterprise and the STEP Project Global Consortium conducted personal interviews and led group discussions with family business leaders across the world. Their stories are insightful and practical and are supported by a detailed analysis of the sustainability performance data from our previous global survey of 2,439 family business leaders.

We recognize that the road to sustainability is rarely a straight line. There are often twists and turns, small detours — even the occasional U-turns — along the way. This may be a long and winding road, but we believe the unique characteristics and experiences of family businesses offer an invaluable and practical guide for other leaders to follow on their own sustainability journeys.


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