The sustainable business phenomenon is taking deeper root. Just look at
the business response to global warming presented in Business Week's cover
story a year ago, for example, or General Electric's “Ecomagination” launch
But many of us who have been laboring in the vineyards for the
past few decades have been wondering if there's a fundamental problem remaining:
All too much of the effort from business, government and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) has focused on mitigating the problem; making things “less
bad”; slowing the rate of decline of the regenerative capacity of
the living systems that sustain human culture and economy.
That's not good enough to win the race to sustainability—and move
beyond. Let’s face it: Incrementalism didn't get us to the moon.
Bill McDonough offers the simple and compelling metaphor of slowing
down a car that's going in the wrong direction, instead of turning it around.
Frank Dixon of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors has been calling for raising
the bar from “corporate social responsibility” to “total
corporate responsibility—focused on promoting system changes that
hold firms fully responsible.” John Ehrenfeld, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology professor and industrial ecology leader, questions the conventional
approach to sustainable development: “Creating true sustainability,” he
argues in a recent Society for Organizational Learning journal article, “requires
radical solutions, not quick fixes, (beginning) by examining our own behaviors
and assumptions regarding consumption, personal satisfaction and technology.”
“Sustainable Business: A Declaration of Leadership” is my current contribution
to that discussion. Commissioned by the Alameda County Waste Management
Authority (ACWMA), and guided by the new California Sustainable
Business Council, it's intentionally both spare and provocative.
in process with ACWMA support is a robust “sustainable business rating
system”—but more on that later.)
This declaration challenges already-good companies, developers,
designers and public authorities to even higher levels of thinking, aspiration
and performance—to move beyond slowing our decline, and to invent
and implement the ways to win the race to sustain- ability.
Every phrase in the declaration could be further explained, justified,
specified and exampled. But those details aren’t what we've lacked.
We've lacked the will to face reality, tell the truth about what
we see and do what we know needs to be done.
I hope this declaration will stimulate fruitful discussions about
whether your company is taking the challenge and the opportunity seriously
and creatively enough.
Sustainable Business: A Declaration of Leadership
(in PDF Format)
Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist,
is president and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc., which offers advisory
and tools that help companies and communities prosper by
embedding the laws of nature
at the heart of enterprise. He encourages people’s comments and
suggestions at leadership@ natlogic.com.
You can download a free PDF of the “Sustainable Business: A Declaration
of Leadership” poster, or purchase an 11x17 full-color version (printed
on 100-percent-recycled-content) at