23 June 2017
Stop fighting the system, and use it Instead:
some thoughts on sustainable business practice
(Disclaimer: While the following thoughts have been well considered, I am not an expert on business, and the following post is my opinion and is only meant to provoke intelligent discussion. Enjoy.)
We all know that movement toward more sustainable business methods and legislation has vast amounts of benefits, some of which are tangible and some more philosophical. We also know that movement in that direction carries with it little promise of fast and secure profit to carry through the short term enough to sustain the long term. This is likely the most significant hold up when it comes to discussing the implementation of viable “green” strategies in the United States and around the world.
So, what’s the answer? To be fair, I am wading in water that tends to rush over my head before I have a chance to take a breath, but I have some ideas I feel are worth throwing out there.
The reality is our global economy is heavily influenced by capitalist philosophy. This means, inevitably, profit leads the mindset of the governments and corporations who have the heaviest influence on the world’s economy. Profit equals power and leverage, there's no question about that fact.
Please allow me to make a side note here. I have no problem with a capitalist economic model, and I also don’t care to make this a political discussion when it does not have to be. This is not about left or right, it’s about reshaping our conscious ideal of what businesses should strive for and promote. It’s more a matter of heart than it is a matter of legislation. I think it would be easy to assume that the best and only option is for the governments of the world to take it upon themselves to re-adjust the world’s economy to promote and implement sustainable options. Sweet, fancy Moses that would take forever! It does not matter where you fall on the political spectrum in this case, there is no denying the reality of bureaucratic delay.
Ok, so with that said we can begin to ask the question: “How do we work with what we have?” If what we have available to work with is a capitalist economy, that means we must find a way to equate long term sustainability with long term financial security in order to utilize the natural competition that stems from such an economic system. This means companies should be as driven and excited about meeting environmental, and humanitarian standards as they are about meeting quarterly profit goals. I know what you are thinking. Stephen, you can’t expect an age old economic system to shift from the ground up. It’s always been about money and it always will be about money. This is so true, and I don’t care to be so idealistic to assume that could change. In reality it doesn’t necessarily have to. The question I am asking concerns the elevation of renewable, sustainable methods to be on par, concerning it's importance, with profit. There’s no reason sustainable practice methods can’t or shouldn’t contribute mutually to growth within a company.
The real problem is the short term. Implementing strategies of this nature would take time, research, and expense particularly for large companies. It is hard to convince any company that something better for the world is also better for their margins, because in the short term it just isn’t always the most cost effective.
So then where do we start? Well, new businesses and companies are formed every day, and if they decide to begin with sustainable strategies in mind then they don’t have to concern themselves with taking a step backward sometime down the line. The second option I think would be the most difficult, and this would be to convince companies this kind of movement isn’t a step backward at all. In fact, there is a vast amount of untapped wealth in renewable and sustainable technology, and if you can prove to a company there’s money in “greener” options then you can use the system that’s in place to drive competition, but it's often a hard sell.
And last, you can start with yourself, the consumer. We are all any given company’s greatest concern. Why? Because we can choose either that company, or a competitor. Because of this we have the unique opportunity to decide what businesses deem important. In other words, if we decide that renewable, sustainable options that promote both humanitarian and environmental well-being are important to us, then businesses must decide that for themselves as well if they want us to remain customers.
We live in a society that likes to whine about corporate America, and big business. I am not sure exactly why that is, but I think it’s honestly just easier to whine about it than it is to spend an extra dollar on a t-shirt made with fair-trade textiles, or do the research and decide for yourself what’s best for your health, community, environment and future. Although it seems too big to be true, you, the consumer, have all the power to decide the future of business in America and around the world.
Still don’t think it can be done? Check out the links below to see how some very different companies have already been implementing these practices for years.