A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

A WELessons Learned – Business Can Make Life Better for People

Lessons from the Field

by Carol Sanford


Seattle, WA

When I was very young I lived in the Panhandle of Texas in a place with about 2000 people in the whole county. Mostly farmers and ranchers with a few service businesses thrown in. Everyone knew everyone else and had a strong experience of how tightly woven together we were in disaster and prosperity.

I had an uncle who was always asking me “who else cares about what you are about to do?”. He did not know the term “stakeholder” but he understood the concept. People knew intimately the lives of their customer and how they were affecting them with their choices. They overtly worked to make lives better by their business choices.

You went to church with the people on Sunday who worked for you. You knew the good farmers and the bad ones, and those who understood how soil got healthy. It became a place where unique strains of wheat where developed and the same for cattle. People knew that different soils produced different bread characteristics.

They were one of the first to create organic cotton because they directly could see the impact of fertilizers and sprays on their “cricks” and wondered if they could grow cotton without it.

Texas Organic Cotton Farmers

They were able to market the cattle, wheat and cotton from the county at special rates because they understand how the creation of these happened and therefore could build in characteristics that made them distinctive with much higher value offered.

And, yes, we did the barn raisings for families who had one taken down by a tornado and feed families when they lost all they had, for as long as it too to get them back on their feet.

It had many problems and some values I did not agree with, especially regard race. It think it was because of this systemic experience I had that let me be so aware of the racism and how inconsistent it was with the overall sense of responsibility.

I know it was driving me all my life to change such views so people saw the uniqueness and essence of each individual and want to develop it and create systems where it could be contributed. It was at the core of my sense of responsibility when I supported Stelios Tsesos in changing the prevailing ethic in South Africa as it formed a new Government.

Shopping Colgate in So. Africa

Stelios lead the Colgate Africa regeneration that supported rebuilding a great business there in the day time and built capability to lead and govern in the townships at night.

Creating what would now be called “entrepreneurial incubators,” the effort lead to hundreds of new businesses in the townships that rebuilt the economic structure and created a return that doubled every four months in terms of revenue.

They were the only company to have no labor strikes, which crippled all other businesses in Johannesburg and most of South Africa during that time. Responsibility became an ethic in everything Colgate did. I learned to see it in Texas, particularly when it is not pervasive, the glaring gap stands out even to a child. And it would serve companies to discover this.


Author’s Bio:

Carol Sanford is an author, speaker, consultant and songwriter. She is the author of The Responsible Business (John Wiley Publishers, 2010).

May-June 2011 Issue of #tsomu


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[…] Carol Sanford […]

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