At the heart of any functioning culture of compliance is the concept of protecting our colleagues and the organizations we work for. This spirit is on display in abundance throughout the Hawaiian islands thanks to the concept of mālama.
Recently, I took a trip to Hawaii to rejuvenate and refresh after a long haul project concluded. While there, I learned more about the Hawaiian values and in particular the concept of mālama. Referencing an action, a person, a way of life, mālama relates to the environment, culture and everything with which a person interacts.
“Mālama: to take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve, protect
Mālamalama: (reduplication of mālama); light of knowledge, clarity of thinking or explanation, enlightenment”
— Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert (1986)
You’ll hear Hawaiians use the word mālama associated with the phrase, “mālama ka ‘aina,” meaning “to take care of the land,” or “mālama i ke kai, a mālama ke kai ia ‘oe,” which means: ”Care for the ocean and the ocean will care for you!”
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The word mālama can be used in many other ways, too. If you’re in Hawaii and are saying goodbye to someone, they respond by saying, “mālama pono” meaning to “watch out” or “be careful.” Another common phrase is “mālama Honua,” which means to take care of the earth. When we protect the planet, we keep it well for future generations.
Mālama can also mean tending to others. Those who live the value of mālama have a broader perspective. They understand that every person suffers in their own way from something and benefits from nurturing and care. These attributes may come naturally to some of us, but, for others, these are skills that take time and practice to develop.
When we mālama, see the needs of others, the world and ourselves — and we can respond responsibly.
We can implement the value of mālama in our lives through service, protecting, and nurturing. An interesting thing about mālama is that when we care for others, we actually provide healing for ourselves too.
How do I incorporate mālama into my everyday life & business?
Personally, I pride myself on taking care of the organizations I work with and the people whose lives are impacted through working alongside these organizations. They may be someone deep in the supply chain, a community member or even another organization who is now working on abiding by standards contained in a supplier code of conduct.
Mālama also means serve or honor. These are both words I use to describe my experience of working in compliance, ethics, risk, governance and ESG. I love to serve the community, the organizations I interact with and the world by making it a better, more ethical, more connected and thoughtful place. It’s an honor to be chosen to be part of these journeys. I also chose to interact with organizations that share similar values and agree there is not only importance in taking care of the people but also the world we live in.
So take a moment and cue from the tradition of mālama. Care often and deeply for the people, planet and communities you interact with — it will serve you well.
(Also, if you are really interested in learning more about mālama on a trip to Hawaii, check out voluntourism opportunities where you can care for the Earth while traveling in the Hawaiian islands.)