There’s been lots of ruckus over on LinkedIn about ESG, and in particular the many emerging schemas for measuring it—but with no clear agreement about what “it” is. To oversimplify: the dominant standards player—the International Sustainability Standards Board—seems to be addressing the fundamental matter of “materiality” from the perspective of “outside-in”—the “impact and risk for the company;” other practitioners (some of whom rebrand the Board as I?SB) argue for a focus on “inside-out”—what I would call “impact and risk for the living world.” I won’t unpack those battles here (they go deeper!), except to assert—again—that the tail must not wag the dog. The “strategic stack” for any regenerative, or simply wise, or simply prudent, enterprise must include these steps, in this order:
- recognize that we belong to the living world;
- align actions and systems with that recognition;
- do that in ways that take care of all stakeholders;
- figure out how to do that profitably.
(The job of a business case, you see, is not to reveal your purpose, but to help you serve your purpose effectively.)
Case in point: Patagonia, which announced this spring “How we’re finally making waterproof materials without PFAS and PFCs—and why it took so long.” (Reminds me of the sign in my dad’s old print shop: “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little bit longer.”)
As I responded in a recent online conversation about what constitutes a “good company,”
A “good” company is neither “a company that does the best it can given its current decision-making environment (including very limited policies and measures), or one that jumps off an economic cliff in order to do the “right thing?” The first is BAU, which decidedly not what we is this time of transformation. The second is downright stupid, since if it jumps off the cliff it’s not around to drive the transformation.
A good company, in brief, is one that commits to doing the right things—environmentally, humanly, societally, etc—BECAUSE they’re the right things, not because some business plan said to do them—and then figures out how to do them profitably—since sustainability must be financial as well as ecological—hopefully outperforming/outcompeting those other two kinds> And ideally one that shares the value generated broadly with the employees and others that helped generate it.
THE SOLUTIONS SUMMIT
I’ll be speaking about these themes Monday at the Solutions Summit, live streaming from the US House of Representatives. Day one is focused on climate solutions, and will also feature Rebecca Solnit, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Mark Z Jacobsen, Xinge Wang, and David Stephen. And host Eleanor LeCain. (Days 2-4 will address Economic Security Solutions, Health Solutions, and Democracy Solutions.) I hope you can join us! Register (and find more details) at https://solutionssummit2023.com.
AN AI BETWEEN WORLDS
Our Living Between Worlds conversation resumes Wednesday November 15. But here’s the newsier news: We’ve been training and testing a new AI on four years of Living Between Worlds videos! Here’s my first interaction with it:
Q: What’s the central theme of this video series?
A: The central theme of the Living Between Worlds video series is to explore how to live in this time with dignity, grace, and power between worlds. The series seeks to foster an inquiry into how to interact with each other, both friends and foes, and to cultivate our tribes and our worlds. The series also seeks to challenge ourselves to think and feel beyond the nature/culture partition which has imposed itself everywhere, and to recognize that we are creatures of the planet Terra living with the myriad other creatures on this planet. Ultimately, the series seeks to move from a world in which life is the servant of business to a world in which business is in the service of life.
Not bad at all for starters! Please let me know if you have questions you’d like me to ask it. (I imagine we’ll open it up to direct queries after testing, but for now you’ll need to go through me.)
That’s it for now. As always, thank you for what you do in service a world that works.