Why sustainable growth isn’t just about profit (and how TOPdesk does it)

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By Naïma Lachhab on

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a big part of TOPdesk’s DNA. And it’s not just hype to us; we’re in it for the long haul. That’s why we’re 100% committed to sustainable growth.

What is sustainable growth in business?

Let’s get our terms straight first. Inc. defines sustainable growth as “the realistically attainable growth that a company could maintain without running into problems.”

But, in recent times, sustainable growth has taken on a new meaning beyond purely business success.

Nowadays, customers and employees alike expect companies to be more socially and environmentally aware as well as accountable and responsible for their impact in society. This has led to a new definition of sustainable growth. As Forbes now describes it, sustainable growth is growth that’s repeatable, ethical, and responsible to, and for, current and future communities.

What does sustainable growth look like in practice?

These definitions are great, but what does repeatable, ethical, and responsible growth look like in practice? Let’s illustrate this with an example of a company that most definitely does NOT commit to sustainable growth.

You’ve guessed it – we’re talking about Amazon.

Amazon is one of the top companies in the world: it has held the No. 2 spot in Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies for six consecutive years. While Amazon’s numbers and its focus on customer experience might be impressive, its business model isn’t.

According to Forbes, Amazon’s net profits increased by 84% in 2020, with sales hitting $386 billion. Yes, billion. At the same time, Amazon was systematically shortchanging workers on their paychecks and refused to pay corporate tax. Not to mention its enormous and growing plastic footprint, which increased by a third during the pandemic .

It’s clear that instead of committing to sustainable growth, Amazon simply focuses on maximum growth, with minimal regard for its workers, suppliers, or the planet.

But luckily, there are also a lot of companies that do commit to sustainable growth. To mention a few: Patagonia, which is “in business to save our home planet”; Gravity Payments, whose CEO raised the minimum wage in the company to $70,000; and Intersolve, who started talking about sustainable growth before it was cool – back in 1994.

How TOPdesk approaches sustainable growth

Now that we have a good grasp of what sustainable growth is (and isn’t), let’s hear from TOPdesk’s CFO, Rob Haaring, to find out how TOPdesk approaches sustainable growth.

“Sustainable growth is one of the four guiding principles of TOPdesk. Instead of doing whatever it takes to maximize our profit, we think about the long-term future. This has been the case ever since our CEO Wolter Smit first founded TOPdesk in 1994. We believe we can grow, make a profit, and positively influence our employees, customers, suppliers, and the planet – all at the same time. That’s what sustainable growth means to us,” Rob explains.

But how does this long-term vision translate into daily life? Let’s take a look at what TOPdesk does to commit to sustainable growth.

1. We use our own funds

Most organizations use external investors to maximize growth. TOPdesk doesn’t.

“Ever since TOPdesk was first founded, we’ve used the funds we generate ourselves to grow. We made a conscious decision to do it differently,” Rob shares. “When you’re working with external investors, it can be more difficult to stick to your principles – what if they have a very different approach to growth, for example?”

Of course, we never say never. But one thing’s for sure: if TOPdesk does decide to work with external investors in the future, they have to share our vision on sustainable growth. Rob believes that shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, though:

“Luckily, the market is changing: Corporate Social Responsibility and true sustainable growth are becoming increasingly important, for organizations and external investors alike. I’m very happy with this development,” Rob says.

2. We don’t skimp on research & development

Our software is our baby. Naturally, we want to keep it close. So, while some organizations slowly scale down their investment in research & development after a while to maximize profit, TOPdesk heavily invests in our software – no matter what.

Rob explains: “Our developers are crucial to continuously improve and innovate our software and make it as user-friendly as possible. We value our people and their expertise and never outsource development – even though that’s a lot cheaper.”

We believe we can grow, make a profit, and positively influence our employees, customers, suppliers, and the planet – all at the same time.

3. We invest in our people

At TOPdesk, we value the well-being and happiness of our employees over rapid growth or a quick profit.

Ways in which we focus on employee experience include bringing in temporary reinforcements to lessen the workload of our support heroes during busy periods or giving TOPdeskers the time and money (10% of their gross salaries) to invest in their own personal and professional development – and so much more.

We believe that if our people are happy, our customers are happy. It’s no wonder that some of our customers have been with us for almost 20 years.

Rob shares: “I am proud of how well TOPdesk takes care of both its employees and customers. It’s something we will never compromise on.”

4. We prioritize Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR isn’t just a box to tick off for us.

We know we’re not perfect yet, but we hold ourselves accountable and try to do better. By looking critically at TOPdesk’s footprint and finding ways to make it smaller. And by giving TOPdeskers the freedom to take initiative when it comes to doing things for a good cause.

Read more on employee experience

Read more about employee experience at TOPdesk to find out what we’ve been doing to become more socially responsible so far – and how we want to do better in the future.

Naïma Lachhab

Content Marketer

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