I’ve written the last few weeks about systems thinking, its power and challenges. (You can catch up here and here.) Here’s where that thinking is currently taking me.

For all of the initiatives around sustainability over the past couple of decades, for all the enthusiasm, progress and breakthroughs, there’s a growing acknowledgement that we’re nowhere near close to where we need to get. (At the “Nexus: Energy, Food & Water” conference at Wharton last week, every presentation started with “By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet, and….”)

In the face of this and so many other challenges, more people are asking: “Is ‘sustainability’ good enough?” It’s not, of course. As Michael Braungart observes: “If somebody asked you how your marriage was doing, and you said, ‘Well, its sustainable,’ they wouldn’t be enthusiastic. They’d say, ‘I’m terribly sorry to hear that.’”

So what’s beyond sustainability? Braungart and Bill McDonough talk about “cradle to cradle.” John Ehrenfeld talks about flourishing. Jean Russell talks about thriveability. But what would that look like? What would we have to do—as business people, customers, citizens—to get there?

Eight years ago, a client asked us just that question. Our response was “Sustainable Business: A Declaration of Leadership“—a manifesto that summarized the drivers, guiding criteria and specific actions we would need to take (we being everything from companies to governments to what we quaintly call “consumers”) to build a modern, productive, supportive industrial society that can actually live in harmony with the natural system to the planet to sustain it. And thrive. And prosper.

Download it—and let me know what you think. Next week I’ll tell you what I’m thinking now.

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