Being Green… Why?

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, so that means it’s time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I usually come up with a subject for each week’s post sometime during the week based on an inspiration that I have or something I come across, but this week I was coming up empty…

Then today I came across a blog post with the title, “Why Ask Why? It’s a Good Sustainability Starting Point“.  The post does make some good points for any company at the beginning stages of determining their sustainability strategy, and is well worth reading.

While none of what follows relates to this article, I must admit, however, that when I first read the title I thought, “The answer to ‘Why be green?’ is so obvious that the question itself is redundant.”  The sad thing may be that not everyone thinks it is.

Years ago I wrote a short story called ‘Questions‘; that story and another called ‘744‘ are both about hard questions, or at least questions that have no easy answers. But as to ‘why be green’, the answers are easy, albeit somewhat varied.

From an environmental perspective, we live on a beautiful planet that is some 40,000 km (25,000 miles) in circumference, but as far as we’ve been able to determine is unique in space.  That’s not to say the earth is the only planet in existence that is capable of supporting life; the evidence to the contrary is growing daily.  At the same time, this little blue planet is the only one that we know of that is intrinsically capable of supporting our life – with the right temperature, the right mix of gases in the atmosphere, the right combinations of day/ night, free amounts of water, available food, etc.  The list goes on.  Can we exist on the moon, or on Mars, with high levels of technology?  Probably.  Can we live there, freely as we do here?  No.  No matter how we look at it, this planet is ours to keep, to better, to revere or to destroy, but in destroying it we literally destroy ourselves.  In saving our planet we claim our own salvation as well.  And that’s purely from a scientific perspective – all spiritual claims aside.

Why be sustainable?  From a corporate perspective, there are essentially two ways to run a business.  One way is the ‘dog eat dog’ nature of business, incorrectly labeled as following Darwin’s theories.  From such a perspective a given company or corporation seeks to dominate in its field, with economic return as its only goal and only reward.  It’s been the basis of our economics for some time, but its time has come and long since gone.  It was based on misguided principles to begin with, but as time goes by our world has grown smaller – not just in terms of there being more people on the planet, but in terms of our connections to each other.  We may be having fewer ‘face to face’ conversations than we have in the past, but  as a species we are becoming more aware of each other and loosening at least some of the strictures we once placed around ‘us’ vs. ‘them’.  With this shrinking of our virtual world we have come to embrace teambuilding, flattened corporate structures and a myriad of other changes that transform our views of corporations from nameless, faceless, uncaring  structures to groups of people working toward common goals.  Employees are no longer seen as simply empty placeholders who can be filled by the next available applicant but have become valued individuals, working individually and collectively toward a myriad of interconnected endpoints.  Words like ‘engagement’ and ‘social responsibility’ – almost non-existent fifty years ago – are becoming more commonplace today.

The third leg of the stool for this new business model is economics.  I don’t remember the author of this quote (and wasn’t able to find it online), but I remember it as, “The reason for business is to make a profit.  The purpose of business is to make life better.”  In a society still largely driven by value-economics, businesses will continue to make money.  However, the ways in which this is being done are changing faster now than ever before.  Seth Godin, for one, writes on this topic often, both on his blog site and through his books.  The fundamentals of economics haven’t changed much, but the ways in which those fundamentals are achieved are vastly different than they’ve ever been.  The business world is more competitive today than at any time in history, and those businesses that continue to survive and thrive will be those best able to adapt to this changing world.  That is based (loosely) on Darwin’s theories.  Staying alive in business today means being sensitive to the demands of one’s customers, and as people become more aware of this world of ours, more sensitive to environmental destruction, more empowered within themselves, more connected to others and more willing to demand what they want, issues such as sustainability and responsibility are no longer just ‘buzzwords’. I don’t wish to undervalue the investment in time, energy, resources, people and money it takes to become more sustainable in both our personal and corporate lives, but when it comes to the question, ‘Why be green?’, the answer, quite simply, is because there are no other alternatives.  There never really were; we’re just becoming more aware of that fact.

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S. This looks like an interesting way of doing business. It would take some forethought, but I believe it has potential: Access, not ownership is the route to better products

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