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Final Thoughts on my Business Sector Work Placement

As my business work placement came to a close last week, I sat down and formed a few final thoughts on the sector in general, how it compares with the NGO and governance sectors, along with the problems that exist, and their potential solutions.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, difference is how profit-driven everything is within the business sector as a whole. It all comes down to the bottom line. How much is this going to cost me? How long will it take to recoup its initial outlay? Will it save me money? This is completely understandable from a business point of view. Their raison d’etre is to make a profit.

What can be frustrating, however, is the seeming lack of foresight by some business leaders at some companies (and you can find many examples in the media). An idea that could produce £10,000 of savings over 10 years is passed for a fix that will earn £2,000 in a month and little more thereafter. Short-term goals sometime look more enticing than than long-term stability. The principles of sustainability are very different, and the gulf between economic and environmental/social priorities is something that I believe must be reduced if sustainability is to be an achievable goal in the world.

There also seems to be a general lack of passion within the business sector. Unfortunately, many workers find it hard to engage with their workplace and just put in the hours as best they can until the clock strikes 5pm. I can’t say I blame them and I think some big corporations deliberately create this kind of working environment to keep their workers in their place. An active mind is imaginative, and an imagination can create problems for managers and administrators. By suppressing the workforce, a company can ensure compliance and productivity. Although dynamic companies, such as Apple and Google, do exist, they attract a higher calibre of employee who will inevitably be well-paid and better rewarded for their imaginative work.

In my opinion, the adherence of most businesses in the private sector to the old suppress and control model is a big part of the problem that many now face. If you want to be sustainable, you have to be flexible and that involves managers working closely with a dynamic staff who freely exchange knowledge not only within their own organisation, but also with other businesses and educational institutions. In my idealistic opinion, the focus should be on cooperation for the best, not competition for the cheapest.

Freddie Harris is currently studying for a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His undergrad is in Tropical Environmental Science. Freddie writes about his current experiences as a sustainability student, giving others an insight into what is perhaps one of the most interdisciplinary subjects out there. He hopes to remain optimistic about the future!

Views expressed on Getting to GREENR do not necessarily represent the views of Cengage Learning.

Posted on: September 29, 2011, 9:10 am Category: Opinions Tagged with:

2 Responses

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  1. Freddie Harris said

    Hi Susan,

    I couldn’t agree more. A sustainable development agenda seems to be the first thing to suffer when times are tight. What businesses will slowly learn is that times are tight because of the lack of a sustainable development agenda. We have already seen thousands of small businesses close across the UK as a result of the downturn because they weren’t futureproof. Let’s hope other business leaders can learn from the mistakes of others. Thanks for your comment.


  2. That’s a really interesting reflection on your placement with some very pertinent comments. In my experience, businesses with traditional structures seem to take a very cyclical approach to valuing focus on sustainability. When it’s in fashion they’re committed but it’s also the first thing to suffer when there’s a downturn and they feel forced to shift to a more defensive model. It would be really interesting to see how your opinions differed if the placement had been during a boom.

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