Archive for 'business going green'
Discovering Regenerative Businesses
The current crop of sustainability oriented companies are reducing resource use, and that will give us time, but we need to rethink how we interact with nature to prevent a reoccurrence of the situation we now face. These companies are leading the way!
A Big Leap for Business
Occasionally I hear people ask if we can buy our way into sustainability. That is a bit of an oxymoron, don’t you think? We can use commerce and stuff to begin the shift, to educate ourselves about how to produce stuff with no waste, and we can choose to use our money to move that process along.
How Does Business Practice Reciprocity?
One of the prime sustainable values is reciprocity. Reciprocity speaks to the cycle of giving that is how nature remains resilient and it is a key factor in why life persists. All organisms give back in exchange for their life. Reciprocity happens whe
Leadership Practices and Green Business
It is customary for corporations to rotate people they are grooming for leadership positions. The rotation gives them exposure and experience to various aspects of the business - and it does. But it also means that companies are 'selecting' for leadership traits that may not be in their best interest.
Sustainable Intelligence - Business Transformation
I'll be doing a free webinar for 2green energy on July 27th and a part of what I want to cover has to do with the lessons business can learn by paying attention to how nature works. So much of sustainability has to do with lack, with using less, that we are blind to the treasures and richness with which nature abounds. Nature is nothing if not prolific. The beauty of ancient and untouched landscapes is a wonder of lush, verdant, productivity. The bounty that nature provides is awe-inspiring. Equally awe-inspiring is our lack of respect and appreciation for it.
Pickwick Forest, in Michigan
One of my most awe-inspiring memories was a visit to Hartwick Forest in Michigan. This track of forest has never been cut. You could see for miles under the trees as nothing could grow in the feet of pine needles under the trees. The ground was soft and easy to walk on, making moccasins a realistic choice for shoes. I could only imagine what America must have looked like to the early visitors from Europe. And then I look at what it looks like now and it is equally hard to imagine how we could have been so blind and greedy! The message I have for business is not about lack, but about verdurous, lushness, and plenty. The hitch is that to bring back and make use of the prolific essence of nature, we need to act differently than we do now. Behavior change is never a welcome thought, yet we often make changes in our lives, both for personal reasons and because of circumstances, so there is no reason to believe that we can't do so now. Especially when the benefits are so huge. Companies that take up these kinds of changes now, before the pressures of rising prices for resources force change, will have, not only a head start, but a much easier time. Many of these changes take time, so the early adopters will definitely be the winners! I wish we would listen to our hearts and pay attention to our behavior. We go for drives in the country, not through the nearest subdivision. We take vacations to the mountains and the seaside and come back refreshed. When trees are planted in cities the crime goes down. Surely this tells us something about our feelings and need for nature. Yet we are planning uranium mines near the Grand Canyon. The Hartwick Forest webpage does even offer ONE photo of the trees - we do not value what we have! The real fundamental change that is needed is one that each of us has to make. We need to care. We need to care more than we fear. We need to care more than we want. We have to reconnect our hearts to our minds and act as if we cared.
Sign up for the webinar Tapping the Incredible Wisdom of Nature: Strategies for Corporate Sustainability July 27 at 11:00 AM MST
Sustainability and Capitalism
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Fri, Apr 08, 2011 @ 11:38 AM
Are the missions of sustainability and green business in opposition to capitalism? There are those who think so and those who embrace Conscious Capitalism and Sustainable Capitalism as a statement about where Capitalism is and should go.
Ann Charles, blogging for FastCompany said in her blog:
"Mr. Haque makes the point in The Capitalist's Paradox that what's standing in the way of great capitalism today might just be yesterday's capitalists--"trying at every turn to stifle competition, squelch information, earn an unfair advantage, and extract value from people, nature, and the future, instead of creating authentic, thick, shared value for them."
That sure sounds like the belief system that has gotten us into all of this trouble, all right. It's what happens when the fear of scarcity activates our survival instincts and when we really and truly believe that we only have to worry about our own / personal survival. That sense of separation coupled with, "no ones the boss of me" attitude lends itself very well to a justification of power over, manipulation and, yes, even greed as a survival mechanism.
Six Tips for Making Your Green Business Sustainable - Part 1
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Mon, Apr 04, 2011 @ 09:58 AM
This is the start of a series exploring how business thinking changes in order to achieve true sustainability. Green business matures as people begin thinking about what it means to be deep green by moving beyond a compliance focus. When I tell people that we take them beyond the wise use of energy, I get blank stares. What does it mean to "think like the Earth?" Natural Step
has a framework that might help with this understanding.
Adapted from The Natural Step for Business by Brian Nattrass & Mary Altomare
- What aspects of your organization contribute to an increased concentration of substances that are extracted from underground?
- What aspects of your company contribute to a concentration of substances that are created by humans?
- What aspects of your company contribute to the degradation or abuse of natural systems?
- What aspects of your organization contribute to the unequal distribution and use of the Earth's resources?
- What benefits can be gained from the application of natural laws and principles to your business thinking and processes?
- What values are needed to ensure a congruent leadership and a sustainably robust culture?<
Sustainable Business and the Seduction of Economics
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 @ 09:36 AM
Economics is all about choices. A sustainable business model is no less so, however there is considerable difference between the two.
Hewlett Packard was once a strong, proud company. They were leaders in their field of measurement. To be so required people with brains who were willing to explore and experiment and HP worked for years to create just such a culture. They attracted the brightest.
One of their core competencies was the ability to know the skills each person possessed and then connect those people quickly to address specific business needs. There was a time when a product idea could be discovered in China and within three months that product would be a reality. That was then.
Now HP makes its money on ink. The engineers are leaving and what is left are chemists. Yes they still make some technology products (the Palm maybe writing a different story - we will see), but if money comes from ink, then the engineers and technicians no longer have the same cache. This means that people who have pride in their work as engineers will not go to HP where they would play second fiddle to chemists.
Humans are a meaning-making species. We need to feel that we add value. HP, by following the seduction of a strictly economic model is no longer adding value so decline is just a matter of time.
Ethics for a Green Company - Are They Different?
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 @ 03:36 PM
Ethics for a green company are often stated as People, Planet, Profit as a way of framing ethical concerns using the triple bottom line. This us usually measured by contributions to charity, reduction in energy use and an increase in profit. If a company is good to its people is that a part of the triple bottom line? If the company invents a way to produce its product with less pollution is that part of the triple bottom line? If the company chose to invest a system that will reduce its water use so it didn't show a profit this year is that part of the triple bottom line? More importantly, how would you know about these things?
The point of the triple bottom line is to provide a framework for thinking about sustainability. Is sustainability inherently ethical? I do believe we think so, at least to some degree, or the FTC wouldn't be so concerned about greenwashing. When a company claims it is green, then we make an assessment of its ethics - intentional or not.
I believe that there is much more to this. At Ethical Impact L3C we see sustainability as following the Earth's Prime Directive - always create the conditions that support Life. For us this is a moral imperative. Framed in this way the ethical considerations become more clear - and so do the management issues.
Business Strategic Development - is Sustainability Mandatory?
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Sat, Feb 05, 2011 @ 11:08 PM
As a Boulder, Colorado strategic planning firm, clients wonder if sustainability is a mandatory part of businesses strategic development.
First, let me be clear, any strategic plan you develop should be YOURS and be designed to take YOUR company into the future in style. That said you want to take big leaps. There is no wisdom in spending time and money on developing a plan that only takes incremental steps and will not be viable in five or more years.
Yes - I understand that things change, and at the moment, quite rapidly in may areas. How ever if the planning process is robust then the direction you take will still have relevance even if the details have changed.
The whole point of the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) was to discover these areas and how they might impact business success in five plus years. If you are a small business you may not have the resources to do this kind of research on your own. Our process was designed with small business resources in mind. Our process bring those resources to you - you, in fact, already have access to them, you have just never had that kind of conversation with them. That's where we come to the rescue.
Is sustainability mandatory? Nothing
Revisiting the Future - Sustainable Values
Posted by Kathryn Alexander on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 @ 07:39 PM
I had the privilege of being a co-speaker, with a friend, at the Ft. Collins Green Festival on Friday. There we talked to about 300 high school students. We were sharing the Sustainable Values Set?, biomimicry and ZERI with them to show them what a business going green could achieve.
In the 80s I founded an organization called The Entrepreneurial Skills Center, Inc. and we taught high school students how to go into business for themselves. And they did! They had their comics published, hired their parents, bought a new truck, and got offers to buy their businesses. All of this without any capital and the kids were between the ages of 16-18 and all people of color in Oakland, California.
High school students can do so much more than we let them. Since I didn't teach algebra or writing or English they now had real reasons to talk to those teachers because they needed to know how to value stock, track money (I did teach them how to manage a bank account) and how to write contracts.
I recently reconnected with one of my star students ? the one who bought a new truck with the proceeds from his cleaning business. We haven't had a chance to catch up, but he's been to the Great Wall of China and he's reading the ?Tipping Point so it doesn't look like he's done too bad for a black kid from Oakland.
I was very gratified to see that the students we talked to were impacted by the values discussion. The values they could act on immediately and it could have