Business and the Natural World
There are varying degrees of possibility related to business and the natural world. It is encouraging to see the level of interest and actions being taken on many levels in small, midsize and global corporations related to the environment.
Virgin Atlantic: “Virgin Atlantic is embedding sustainability at the core of our business…..This is all supported by Sir Richard Branson’s commitment to invest his profits and proceeds from the Virgin transport companies, including Virgin Atlantic, in biofuels research and development and projects to tackle global warming.”
Microsoft: “Microsoft is working with our partners, customers, governments, and leading environmental organizations to bring the power of information technology and cloud computing to address the world’s environmental challenges.”
Herman Miller: “At Herman Miller we believe the future quality of human life is dependent on both economic vitality and a healthy, sustainable natural environment. We do not see these goals as mutually exclusive, but inextricably linked. Mankind’s future depends on meeting the needs and aspirations of a growing global population, while enhancing and protecting the ecosystem on which all life depends.”
Chevron: “We believe that healthy environment can go hand in hand with meeting the world’s energy needs. We are continually evaluating and striving to improve our processes to reduce emissions and waste, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce the potential for environmental impacts from our activities and operations.”
Lockheed Martin: “We protect the environment, strengthen communities and propel responsible growth.”
General Electric: “At GE, sustainability means aligning our business strategy to meet societal needs, while minimizing environmental impact and advancing social development. This commitment is embedded at every level of our company—from high-visibility initiatives such as Ecomagination and healthymagination to day-to-day safety and compliance management around the world.”
Nike: “Our North Star is grounded in addressing sustainability at the very core of our business, beginning with design. But it extends across everything we do. Our commitment is to create extraordinary performance products for athletes while managing our business within nature’s limits.”
Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
As you read the statements above, I would imagine you have more or less faith that words and actions actually match. A good number of companies are following trends and popular notions that have the appearance of care, of doing the right thing, but it only makes good sense related to their marketing, advertising, and profitability. They want to appear to have social and environmental values but actions reveal a lack of competency and sometimes sincerity.
More and more companies are including the natural world in the values that drive their organizations. Both Yale and Harvard currently have programs relating business practices and sustainability, and Benefit Corporations (B-Corp) are becoming more and more popular. B-Corp certification provides a framework and certification for companies wishing to benefit society as well as their shareholders and hold companies legally responsible for social responsibility.
Many companies are sincere in their intent to be “green,” but don’t know how to truly embody those values within their day-to-day operations. All the “right” things are done:
- Conservation of energy use
- Using “green” vendors
- Appropriate labor relations
These initiatives within organizations have great value, and also raise the questions of “is it enough” and “do we live this.”
Some organizations take this to the next place: they really want to do the right thing. To live aligned to values of care for people (customers, vendors, and employees), to care for the environment through practices of sustainability, and to run an effective and profitable business. I find this orientation to be useful and fruitful, and also see that many lack the skill of embodiment of these practices. The question arises if the organization’s cultural practices and if the individuals themselves embody these values – that is live them day to day, moment to moment. Many businesses remains inside the current narratives of a capitalist economy (conscious or not), and globalization which have created many of our current global breakdowns.
There are several lines of thinking that suggest one of the reasons that we as humans advance into “the next stage” of our development as the human species is when we respond to current crisis and breakdowns developed within our current stage of development (Clare Graves, Don Beck, Ken Wilber). Technological industrialization with its built-in advocacy of consumerism has brought comfort, safety, good health and amazing breakthroughs. A closer look reveals a underbelly of crisis: human, natural resources, and global effects of runaway technological industrialization. There are many currents of conversations about all this. One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, living on the forefront of this world, Albert Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I question our ability to shift into a world that lives a generative orientation to the natural world (which includes human beings) using our current industrial/technological embodied practices of life. This is not just how embodiment works biologically, physiologically, or psychologically. All developed countries and most developing countries have either chosen to or been forced into being absorbed into the current industrial reality.