The Compliance Mindset

I have often wondered: with all the information, tools and thinking at our disposal, why do so many organisations/brands remain in the relative ‘dark ages’ when it comes to ‘sustainability’ and ‘accountability?’

Much of the thinking around the issues relates to codes, standards and guidelines, set quotas and globally defined ‘norms.’ If no one ever pushes beyond these standards or norms, I think there is little to be said for the possibility of progress. A compliance mindset negates a deeper understanding of why said standards and norms exist, and tends to prevent growth and true action on certain issues.

My lecturer once used the example of driving on the freeway to explain compliance for compliance sake: there is a difference between driving at 100km/hour because that is the rule of the road and you run the risk of a fine, and driving a 100km/hour because of a sincere concern for the safety of the passengers in the vehicle and other people on the road.

Brands and organisations are particularly guilty of the compliance mindset as there are set reporting requirements and set standards that need to be met. Simply fulfilling the criteria is not enough to sustain human activity on the planet and to maintain our ability to grow- there needs to be a push toward reengineering thinking toward understanding-driven solutions.

The quote below speaks specifically to this sentiment:

“Conformity for conformity’s sake is unconstructive, costly and a waste of management’s time, because it fosters a compliance mindset, rather than the notion of sustainable business. Codes or standards should ideally provide a framework for appropriate actions that are specific to a company’s operations and long-term aims.” (Worthington-Smith, R (ed.) 2009:59)

I feel that the idea of the standards, codes or accepted ‘norms’ acting as a framework is a far more sustainable approach to business. It encompasses an understanding that (like humans) organisations and brands are unique in their construction, characteristics and identities. Moving away from compliance would allow for such considerations to be made and would offer more fulfilling and relevant opportunities to the organisations/brands.

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