The Man in Blue


Notes on “Global Sustainability” by Mark Lefko

Sustainability has become an increasing interest of mine at Canva. As our company grows, the impact of our decisions becomes bigger and bigger. Those decisions affect things from the way that we design to the way that we serve food. They affect not only what our customers do, but what happens inside our own building and how we support our own staff.

Last month’s climate strikes – led by students around the globe and backed by businesses all over Australia – were a sign that the triple bottom line has to be a primary consideration in the running of any enterprise.

Mark Lefko’s book Global Sustainability takes a look at sustainability from all angles within a business: from relationships with community members, to ecological impact, and the lives of its employees.

Through the lens of 21 different CEOs who have made it their mission to create sustainable organisations, it gives you a bunch of different ways in which you could tackle sustainability within your own. If you think that sustainability is something that only small, unprofitable businesses can think about then Unilever, Salesforce, Whole Foods, Tata Group and a host of others will disagree with you.

If you’re interested in taking a more ecological, ethical, and effective approach to enterprise then you should definitely give it a read.

The book is broken down into a series of themes by which you can think about sustainability at your company. Here’s some selected passages from some of those sections which grabbed my attention:


“Some employees felt that volunteering was a very important part of being part of the company. Volunteering is one of the easiest propositions for corporations to undertake.”

“We ask the employees how they rate the nonprofit in the project, and we also ask the nonprofit how they rate the contribution the employees have made. That’s how we try and assess the efficacy of what we are doing in volunteering.”


“How you respond to violations of your guiding principles is ultimately what defines your culture.”

“Polman understands that it would be unethical to take advantage of the disparity in economic power between his company and its suppliers.”

“Don’t tell me that we can’t do something. I can always get somebody to tell me how we can’t. We want to pay people to determine how we can.”

“What gets measured is what gets improved.”


“It is a moral imperative that you keep in mind the effect of your operations on the people who live there.”

“Social license is a community’s acceptance or approval of a company’s ongoing presence. Social license is informal, being based on the feelings of a community. A company that is not monitoring its relationship with the local community may be caught unawares if its social license is revoked.”

“We’re known for something other than the products we produce. We’re known for what we’re doing in the community.”


“It’s not enough to find sustainable solutions, it’s also necessary to make sure that sustainable solutions are economically viable.”

“The day I became CEO I abolished quarterly profit reporting. If we do the right things, then we do them for the longer term. We have to get out of this quarterly rate race, this expectation management versus reality.”

“Why should any for-profit enterprise care about conflict? Because war and civil unrest are bad for business.”

“The purpose of the Environmental Profit and Loss is to increase a company’s understanding of the environmental impact of their business.”

Waste Reduction

“Anyone can bring in old monitors, computers or e-waste and we have a recycling service that picks them up and disposes of them properly.”

“All of our factories are now zero waste to landfill.”

Cameron Adams Cameron Adams is a co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Canva, where he leads the design & product teams and focuses on future product directions & innovative experiences. Read a bit more about him ›