C3MD had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hung-bin Ding, Chair, Associate Professor, Department of Management and International Business, Sellinger School of Business and Management, Loyola University Maryland, during our November 2020 Conscious Coffee.
*Here are some excerpts from our very informative time together.
What is sustainable business and why is it so important?
Sustainability is basically the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit – all three working together. The natural environment, the social environment, and the business environment. Without all three working together, things start to fall apart. People care.
What can students do with their degree?
They are here because they care about sustainability and they believe it is the future. The big challenge between the business world and the future are tools people built decades ago. Those tools were powerful for their time, but need some fine tuning to be more relevant to the needs of today’s business. The students can help build bridges for a better business, world, and life.
Sustainably “survive” through a pandemic?
The most sustainable businesses have been family businesses. Businesses that have been operating under the control of the same families for many, many years — and you cannot get more sustainable than that. They have a system, they have their ways, their core values, groom their successors very well, and by doing those things, they are able to keep the business in the family. They know how and when to say no.
Those who work in the industry are all business professionals, so they can deal with some uncertainties. No one can predict the future, especially big disasters. We’ve seen enough of these major risk events and that’s enough motivation for businesses to think about how they want to manage them. We will face more down the road and businesses need to seriously think about how they be sustainable. How can they remain true to their values? If they fail to plan, then it will be even more difficult.
We all know home furnishings store, Ikea. When it started; the founder had difficulty finding suppliers. (Why is Ikea self-assemble?) The owner found alternative suppliers in Poland to find product manufacturers. He figured out a way to provide simple products.
What should small businesses focus on right now to sustain and survive this pandemic and to be stable enough to come out stronger?
The first priority is to survive. It is a tough situation. Cash is the king/queen of your business and you have to make decisions around how long [you think] your cash will last. It may be a good idea to look for new partners and collaborators, while still remaining true to what you believe in. You have to look for new ways to be successful.
Zoom is a blessing in disguise. It has allowed us to change the expected business practices [maybe for the long term]. I have researched many family business in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. So I would have to travel a lot, but now with Zoom, it is a lot easier. Reality is changing; the world is changing. Find partners who are more ready for change, and for new opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges to creating a sustainable business and how should businesses overcome them?
Think about “why are we doing this? and why do we care?” The business wants to contribute and they are serious about this. And to do this the business really needs to find a market. The challenge is between market demand and what you want to do. It requires creativity.
What do you attribute more buy-in on sustainability to? Why did it start to work?
Environmental management push in the ’90s. The creation of EPA. Generations are seeing different things… Old solutions are less effective. Technology is improving. Manufacturing has improved. Knowledge, education, and science have also improved. The consumers and the workforce are changing. Students don’t have to be told “there is a problem,” they already see it and are already aware.
What is the most impressive case study involving sustainability?
One great case study is O’right Shampoo. The founder didn’t have a fancy degree. He started his career as a stylist/apprentice and quickly realized he couldn’t stay in that business for long. His skin was allergic to the chemicals in the shampoo, so he started to work as a salesman for a shampoo company. Was there a natural product he can sell and feel good about it? Yes, but there were still problems.
Salons purchase huge amounts of hair products. The bottles sit for a while and the containers are plastic, so the plastic chemicals can leak into the product. So O’right started to develop a biodegradable bottle for the shampoo. The content of shampoo is not difficult to create, but he also wanted a bottle that would not contaminate the natural products. The bottle was made out of bamboo, and it lasts about a year. Now, what about the ink [on the bottle]? Inks were not environmentally friendly. No one was doing that. He finally came up with something — and everything from top to bottom are biodegradable and all-natural. Over time he transformed his supply train and revolutionized the product. [At first], he received tremendous push back, but then people realized that it is actually doable.
What gives you hope?
People in general. The students. We are [becoming] more and more aware. We are now moving in the right direction. No one can afford to NOT talk about this. We are seeing all the key elements there. The bridge needs to be bigger and stronger to continue to grow. Educate.
Watch the event on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/BdfyG1uRr18
Join us for our next event: Conscious Cocktails on December 8, 2020, 4-5 PM.