Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sustainability in the business world

My colleague, Hilde Binford, and I teach a course entitled “Climate Crises:  Past, Present and Future”.  For one assignment, we have pairs of students research a particular company to learn about their corporate sustainability plans – especially as they pertain to carbon emissions and water usage.  Students must then do a class presentation on the company and provide an assessment as to how dedicated the company is with regards to sustainability (being green), what their motives might be, and determine how they may fare in a carbon restrained future.
What students learn is that a number of corporations have adopted a triple bottom line – a term first coined in the late 1990’s that includes three pillars:  people (human capital), the planet (natural capital), and profit.  In other words, these companies have found that their stakeholders (shareholders and customers) either appreciate or demand more sustainable practices.   Thus, showing concern for both the social and environmental realms of their company can have beneficial consequences to the more traditional consideration of the bottom line (financial gain).  These companies may still be largely focused on growth and making a profit (or concerned about a sustainable supply of resources), or they may have more altruistic philosophies.
Today I stumbled across a website called 1% for the Planet at:  You can decide which category the member corporations fall into.  I am not sure it matters.  But with quotes such as the ones I list below on their website, they really challenge the economy vs. the environment arguments.
“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” 
-          Senator Gaylord Nelson
“If an economy is to sustain progress, it must satisfy the basic principles of ecology.”
-          Lester Brown
“If we imitate natural systems in our economy, we will create more well-paying jobs for people.”
-          Paul Hawken

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