Profit and sustainability are compatible

The inspiring session of the day came from Daniel Servitje, Chairman and CEO of the Bimbo Group, Mexico.

Bimbo is one of the world’s largest baking goods industry firms with a capitalisation of US$12bn and around 129,000 employees.

The company was described as ‘rooted in long-standing values,’ shaped by strong corporate governance and a determination that businesses and society must work together for human dignity and the common good. The company, he said, was both highly productive and deeply humane.

The aims of the company where shaped by a matrix:


Economic Social
  External             Providing valuable goods and services to society Contributing to the development of society in a sustainable way
Internal Compensating employees, members, investors Contributing to personal and professional development of employees


This was a powerful reminder that profitability and sustainability are not incompatible. However, it is entirely reasonable for a company to have aims and objectives that are not simply defined by shareholder value maximisation. Of course, a successful and sustainable company may well do just that.

Daniel pointed out that his company was involved in sectors of the economy which attracted criticism – baked goods and health. The companies social responsibility platform was built on four areas:

  • Well-being: promoting physical activity, research into nutritional improvement
  • The planet: using renewable energy, developing electric delivery vehicles, waste management , degradable packaging
  • Community: promoting volunteering, supply chain transparency, community development
  • Associates: talent, health, training and development of employees

All employees were encouraged to take part in the 3-day company sponsored off-site development event, covering  person, family, work, society, culture and spirituality.

The fascinating thing about the presentation was the holistic and integrated nature of the approach to sustainability. Social responsibility was not an add-on, but fully part of the company and its objectives – and not as an alternative to profitability. At the heart of the company’s purpose was providing goods and services at profit. Alongside that came creating jobs, investment, promoting a formal economy (in a country, Mexico, where much of the economy is ‘informal’ which denies extensive tax revenue to the government), developing and sharing knowledge and skills. The outcome was better people, companies and countries.

It would be great if more companies, large and small, thought about their aims and objectives, the role of profit and sustainability, with the same degree of intent.

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Dr Richard Turnbull is the Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics (CEME). For more information about Richard please click here.