1. Drive Your Sustainability Loop

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics was once a typical Asian bubble company.1 Like many chaebols—which dominate South Korea’s economy—Samsung was so obsessed with growth that it had over-capacity in major industries that it was involved in and piled up a huge debt. In 1997, the company’s long-term debt of US$18 billion was three times its total equity.

Over-reliance on memory chips—accounting for 90% of corporate profits and half of all sales in 1995—turned Samsung into a very volatile and risky business. The crash in memory chip prices, followed by the nationwide economic collapse of 1997, has made Samsung executives sit up and think. Recently there has been a growing realization that the company needs to change. ...

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