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How to deliver more value—and less stuff. (Plus: tweets of change!)

One big idea: A few weeks ago I wrote about the challenge of preparing your company for a future you can’t possibly predict, and navigating it successfully. I’ll return to that theme next week. But first…

I spent last week at the Sustainable Brands conference. (It’s not really a conference, they told me. No, it’s sort of a sustainability burning man graduate seminar, I said, though with less dust, drugs and naked dancing). It was at SB a year ago that I challenged companies to create the biggest brand promise they could possibly make—and discover the opportunities that such a promise could open for their business.

This year SB opened with a provocative challenge of its own: showing the anti-consumption screed I Am (by Ace Ventura director Tom Shadyac!) as the kickoff to a brand—and implicitly consumption—focused conference. Though the conference didn’t dive as deeply into that challenge as I would have liked into this question, using it to open the program was a bold move. As I back in the last century, during the roiling “free trade” debates about GATT, NAFTA and the WTO: We operate in business logic built around maximizing the throughput of stuff across the planet: sell more stuff, make more money. Free Trade harmonizations were designed to remove any barriers to maximizing flow of stuff.

Yet, as Dave Gustershaw, ex of Interface, would remind us: All things being equal, each additional kilogram of stuff moved each additional kilometer means additional environmental impact. More extraction, refining, processing, manufacturing, heating, cooling, packing, shipping disposing and even recycling—all things being equal— all contribute to greater environmental impact.

This then is one of a handful of core challenges as the heart of the sustainability: how to decouple physical resource flows from financial flows and from human well-being and happiness. It’s why Natural Logic has challenged our clients, since our earliest days, to focus on “More value. Less stuff.™” It’s why we long ago rejected people’s strange self-identification as consumers (there is no consumption in nature, only transformation). It’s why we’ve become excited about the massive economic prospects for companies that can invent ways to deliver value while extracting nothing, selling nothing, and throwing nothing away.

How? See “”Opportunity,” below.

Tweets of change: 1) Excellent WSJ section on mfg. Compelling stat: With USA 100 on index, China total cost now 93, up from 82 in 2003. MT @tom_peters. 2) Can’t make this up: world’s largest coal company is installing solar on facilities, to save money! bit.ly/13tpRQT MT @350 #sb13con. 3) Bill McDonough: China’s “green fence”: they don’t want our toxic trash (which ironically comes from products they sent us!) #SB13con

Opportunity: How solid are your company’s sustainability initiatives? Take this quick sustainability self-assessment to find out. No cost, no obligation. You’ll get an instant evaluation of the maturity of your efforts, and our recommendations of some of the next moves you might consideration making.

Or, if you think you’re well down the road, and might be ready for a deep, powerful process of systems design that will challenge your value proposition and business model, not just your sourcing and operations, you can learn more here.

Events: Next week: Reinvent Climate Management—a Google+ Hangout with Jamais Cascio, Dawn Danby, me, and some even smarter people! Next month: a workshop on meaningful metrics with the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). This fall, I’ll be keynoting Sustainability Applied: Unlocking Hidden Value in Toronto and CleanTech Future in San Francisco. Pending: SXSWeco, SOCAP and the SRI conference. For a speaker who’s “resonant, inspiring and grounded,” book me to keynote your next conference or company event.

With best regards,
Gil

Gil Philip Friend
President & CEO Natural Logic Inc. | Building value at the intersection of profit, brand, risk and purpose.
Tel: 1-510-248-4940 | Cel: 1-510-435-6346 | Skype: gil_friend | Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter | About.Me

PS: Did you know that you can have me in your back pocket as a coach and thinking partner for you or for your entire team?