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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Spring 2005 : Between Blue and Yellow

Between Blue and Yellow

The Power of Ones
By Phil Storey


One thing became clear on November 2nd in the U.S., for those of us working toward sustainability: the cavalry’s not coming. At least for the near future, the federal government is unlikely to provide leadership in the pursuit of environmental responsibility. So where does that leave us? Well…in the driver’s seat. All of us, together.

Of course, significant challenges also present powerful opportunities. Our interview with business guru C.K. Prahalad introduces us to some innovative business concepts based on this principle. While large multinational corporations have tended to view poverty in the developing world as an intractable challenge, Professor Prahalad identifies huge business opportunities in serving those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The power of this market comes not from per capita spending, but from its sheer numbers—four billion people worldwide. And Prahalad sees the power of the market flowing both ways—empowering the poor as it generates profits for corporations and unlocks amazing innovation.

I am convinced that when it comes to sustainable business practices, there is similar power in the many of us whose efforts are individually modest. Collectively, we will change the world. A few years ago I read an article about the “swarm intelligence” of ants. Individual ants are dumb, but colonies of ants are remarkably intelligent. Through feedback from thousands of simple decisions by individual ants, the colony manages itself with amazing efficiency.

I see the development of sustainability in the corporate world much the same way. The leadership of visionaries and pioneers is essential to our progress, providing inspiration and a conceptual framework. But in the end it is the trial-and-error efforts of thousands of us—and ultimately millions and even billions—learning from each other, replicating and refining promising strategies, that will change the world. I see green@work as part of this process. As we share new ideas and case studies with you, and you share your successes and lessons learned with us, we will improve and grow together.

As the new editor, I look forward to being part of this process. I have followed green@work since its first issue, and always looked forward to the stimulating and valuable content in each one. After five years of enjoying the magazine as a reader, I’m excited to join with our new publisher, Guy DeSilva, and most importantly with you, our readers, to build on the strong reputation of green@work and make it increasingly valuable to the pursuit of sustainability.

Just as the world’s poor will soon move global markets and set new business standards, as Prahalad predicts, together we will create an increasingly healthy and sustainable world of commerce. Whether or not we get leadership from our governments, we are already on our way to changing the world.


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