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Sri Lanka should inject sustainability into innovative strategies: experts

20 September 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



Sri Lanka, as a country and the business organisations in it should embed sustainability when drafting innovative strategies in order to become part of the solution to global warming, France’s INSEAD Business School Executive in Residence Dr. Ravi Fernando said. 

In his keynote speech at CPM Regional Management Conference 2018, organised by the Institute of Certified Professional Managers of Sri Lanka (CPM), recently, he said no innovative strategy is a success unless if we embed sustainability into its corporate strategy.

‘Delivering Winnovative Business Strategies: The Quest for Managerial Excellence’ was the theme of the conference, which was attended by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, a patron of CPM Sri Lanka, as the chief guest.

Dr. Fernando said many companies think, because they have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, they are a sustainable organisation. 

“There is a huge difference between corporate social responsibility and sustainability. A sustainable strategy is when a business, as an economic growth model, has the environment and resources and continues to the social progress of the communities it engages with. Most companies don’t realise how important embedding sustainability into corporate strategy is and to have a sustainability department or a CSR Executive looking at this. Unless we have a CEO or a chairman or a board director, who is totally anchored on the reality that is out there and leads the company in terms of sustainability, sustainability will not prevail in the company. 

It’s the same for a nation. If we have leaders, who understand the reality of sustainability and bring sustainability to the national strategies, then we have sustainable strategies. In December 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement and committed to ensuring global temperature held well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Sri Lanka too signed this agreement. Sri Lanka committed itself to ensure that 60 percent of all energy sources in Sri Lanka would be from renewable sources by 2020 and by 2030, to be 80 percent. However, just by reading papers and listening to what is happening, I don’t think Sri Lanka can achieve the committed goal on time.

According to a UN report, 195 countries fell short by 67 percent in terms of fulfilling what required of them to keep the temperature 2 centigrade below. We are on a dangerous path if we don’t review to meet these commitments. Droughts, floods, sea level rise and extreme heat have an impact on the planet. 

This is where the world embeds sustainability and understands the reality. As we build business strategies, we have to choose whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution. Is our country or the business part of the solution or part of the problem? We have to be the part of the solution,” he said.

Moving towards renewable energy
Dr. Fernando said Sri Lanka should move towards renewable energy and should take immediate measures to preserve water. 
“Water is the new gold that the world will be fighting for. Sri Lanka has a rich heritage of Parakramabahus building the most advanced water management systems on the planet and we have environmental strategies that we can be proud of. But unfortunately, we don’t have proper water management any more. Our forest cover is only 16 percent and it is losing one percent per annum.

If the CEOs and national leaders are not embedding sustainability in the corporate strategy, then we are out of luck.

Large companies such as Amazon, Google, Ikea and Tesla are using 100 percent renewable energy. Lots of Scandinavian countries and even Costa Rica are sustained of renewable energy. This is an example of how they are becoming part of the solution. China, the EU and US are investing in renewable energy.

As a country, Sri Lanka has to embrace technology and precision agriculture is a must for us. The second largest producer of fruit, vegetables and flowers in the world is the Netherlands, a country which excels in water agriculture and using drones and high technology. Sri Lanka should be embracing precision agriculture as soon as possible. 

We should also explore the avenues of 3D printing. I think this is the second type of technology Sri Lanka should be embracing because we have the manufacture garment industry. Before somebody goes and mobilises cost reduction, we should introduce 3D printing,” Dr. Fernando said. 


Most problems faced by SL due to mismanagement
Jayasuriya said most of the problems faced by Sri Lanka are due to mismanagement and highlighted the importance of having professionals who can deliver proper management plans. 

He said the Committee on Public Enterprises and Committee on Public Accounts in Parliament have been very active in enabling proper management. 

“We have achieved success in that area. We need to raise education standards as well. With the development of the Port City, we need postgraduate schools and development of these areas is highly needed. We have lots of hope for the Port City because we are well-positioned between Singapore and Dubai. If we don’t have the new skills that are opening up, Sri Lanka or projects in the country will not receive benefits. 
We need graduates and postgraduates to achieve economic development. We need new postgraduate business schools and we should be result oriented. We need new technology to make the country productive. The issue of brain drain, which is a serious problem for Sri Lanka, should be addressed.  

The government is committed to implement and enforce good governance. The leadership of many of the government institutions, including the Immigration Department, has successfully adopted technology to serve the citizens better. We need technology in agriculture as well to increase productivity since the level of our production is way below the standard. 

We need to fast track our development through proper policies. The growth in the tourist sector is very satisfactory. Sri Lanka, a country of lots of opportunities, has a private sector with great potential,” he said. 


Management crucial to cater to Colombo Port City needs
CPM Sri Lanka President and Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA) Immediate Past President Professor Lakshman R. Watawala said management was a crucial aspect to cater to the needs of the Colombo Port City. 

He said, “The Port City is coming up. If we are really catering to the needs of the Port City, then management is crucial. The CPM and professional institutions have to play a role. We need to produce professionals who will be able to meet the requirement of globalisation. We are in a different era now. Localisation is good but we need to look at globalisation. The Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia has done a great work in this regard,” he said.

“Today, we cannot win if we don’t have innovative ideas. If you take a manager at a private company, if he or she does not successfully complete a new project, the board of directors will ask the manager to leave. That’s the way things work, if innovation is not there. 

We have produced 160,000 A/L students, who have passed and qualified to go to universities. The AMDISA has given them the opportunity of a degree and then to go for a postgraduate qualification. If you take India, there are many institutions other than universities. The Pune University has 1,000 affiliated colleges, which cater to 6.5 million students. Universities can’t take all students. So, the colleges can provide the education to a large number of students, who can sit for the same exam and get the same qualification. 

The field of education is of paramount importance and we have to look at it. If we take a weekend newspaper, at least 60 pages are dedicated to the education sector advertisements, including foreign diploma providing institutions. How did that take place? 

This is due to no intervention from the government. This is something that we need. How did the IT industry in India expanded? It was without any interference. This shows that the private sector can achieve success without any intervention. We need to take our initiative and steer forward. If we don’t have new things, it is going to be very difficult to change the country and to take it forward,” Professor Watawala said.


Business strategies stem through innovation
AMDISA President and Maldives National University Business School Dean Abdul Rahman Mubaarique said business strategies stem through innovation, which is vital, same as the managerial excellence and tactics. 

“We have to look at the recent history of the businesses to see the impact of innovation. Innovation has helped companies achieve great success against those which do not have innovation. There was a time when the mobile phones industry was dominated by Nokia. Where is Nokia today? Innovation is the biggest challenge for organisations to achieve success. 

How can we change an organisation into an innovative strategic one? Innovative strategies drive markets.  Innovative minds boost performance of organisations and markets. Since innovation is change and change is most important in strategy, innovation has great value. No corporation can survive without innovation. Creating business values mean breakthroughs such as engineering products, cost reduction, ambitious improvements, new business models and new ventures,” he said.


Root yourself outside company 
Meanwhile, Dr. Hasan Sohaib Murad said, as a leader, CEO or an executive, a person has to root himself outside the company and then only a person would be able to think fresh, would be able to add value to the company.

“Once a person is outside the company and sees what is happening outside, then you think outside the real space. When you think outside the company and then through the broader sphere of the ecosystem, that means you are looking at the world from the ecosystem. You will be able to see what is happening around the company and all the innovation,” he said.

AMDISA Vice President and Pakistan University of Management and Technology Board of Management Chairman Dr. Murad said in the mindset of leadership, ideas, aspirations and possibilities have no boundaries. 

“When you want to recreate and redefine a firm, the strategy, which is in your mind, should not limit yourself to your firm. You should be able to see what is out there. 

The ecosystem is about interconnectedness. What it requires is exposure. In order to have exposure, a person’s mindset has to have the exposure of that arena. The strategic outlook today is not the one that we used to have typically in military. This entire strategic outlook today is based upon your power and capacity that enhances your company’s values. 

So, this is the key strategic output that requires the capacity of the firm, to be a reliable partner in this network. Collaborative approach requires openness without reservation. Cultural openness, which is based upon a high degree of trust, would lead to increasing the capacity of exercise. It is not the hierarchy that matters today, it is what the company can create itself to steer forward by developing partnership,” he said.


Mumbai Dabbawalas’ operational excellence 
AMDISA Board Member and Indian Institute of Management Bangalore Director Professor G. Raghuram spoke about the famous Mumbai Dabbawalas and how they have injected operational excellence into their service. 

“In Mumbai, we have Dabbawalas or lunch-box carriers for more than 100 years. They pick up food from home in a hot tiffin box and deliver it to the office of personnel. They deliver these across large parts of Mumbai in a very efficient manner. However, for so many years, they have been doing the same thing and in some sense, the market has gone down. This is a good example of operational excellence but not a well-defined strategy.

If they were looking at strategy, maybe the questions they need to ask are, what am I really trying to do? If I want to provide a hot lunch in the office area, people have today found other ways to get food apart from home, such as caterers and other service providers. So, Dabbawalas’ service excels in an operational sense but not in a strategic sense. 

When it comes to the IT sector in India, there is no government interference. What was happening in the developed world maybe could be done at a much lower cost in India. The IT sector has grown exponentially but we still are playing on cost arbitrage.

We are able to have innovative business strategies. For an example, the standard of infrastructure in India was not what is today, until the late 90s. The infrastructure for various economic activities is on the rise. 

For India and also for Sri Lanka, execution should be on top. We are not short of ideas. It is often the execution that we lack. Execution mindset is number one. Number two is the sense of timeliness and ability. It has to be done and preferably now than later. Innovation is another dimension,” Prof. Raghuram said.

The Regional Management Conference was followed by the CPM Management Leadership Awards 2018 ceremony. Sri Jayewardenepura University Vice Chancellor Professor Sampath Amaratunge, Immigration and Emigration Department Controller General M. Nihal Ranasinghe, Virtusa Corporation Chairman and CEO Kris A. Canekeratne, Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka Cricket), Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray, of Hemas Holdings PLC Hemas Pharmaceuticals, Logistics and Maritime Sector Managing Director Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson and Kapruka Founder, Chairman and CEO Dulith Herath were presented Management Leadership awards.

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