(Hey there. I’m in Hawaii and am officially disconnecting for about a week and a half. In the meantime, here’s a great post from Lynn Fang at Upcycled Love. Thanks so much, Lynn! If you haven’t checked out Lynn’s blog, you totally should.)
How will we really create a sustainable society? It’s a question that most people would prefer to hide from. But why is that? Is it because we feel we have little power to change things?
What if we could see a way forward? Would it seem less daunting? Most of us can see that business and government are the ones to blame for this mess, so we feel powerless in their control. Businesses exist to make money – profit is their bottom line, and as one policy student explained to me, governments exist to take power and control over its people. It seems like the average person can do very little to change this state of affairs, when the very definition of business and government do not operate in our favor.
But what if we changed the operating definition of business and government? What if the purpose of business was to create better livelihoods, to support our basic needs and fulfill our personal dreams? What if the purpose of government wasn’t to take power, and was instead to support and nurture its people?
Of course, it would be difficult to change any mind deeply entrenched in the antequated establishment. It is up to a new generation of businesspeople and policymakers to create a new system.
What if businesses supported the health of people and planet with equal fervor as its goal to maximize profits? This is the triple bottom line: businesses supporting people, planet, and profit. There are many companies who now support this view, as evidenced by a burgeoning market for sustainably sourced products.
Interface is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet tiles and is also a leader in sustainable industry. Its founder and former CEO, Ray Anderson, read Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, and felt so guilty for extracting natural resources, that he changed the course of his business. Now, Interface embraces the triple bottom line, using sustainably sourced materials whenever possible, and respecting workers’ rights at the same time. They have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, their waste by 66%, and are on track towards zero waste. They call this Mission Zero, a journey towards zero ecological footprint. They have consulted with biomimicry experts and studied geckos‘ feet for a more eco-friendly glue. They even want to become petroleum-independent, a daunting feat for a carpet company that depends on synthetic nylon for yarn.
Ray Anderson now speaks to people all over the world about sustainable industry, and has inspired many companies to begin considering their social and environmental impact. Interface also has a consulting arm, InterfaceRAISE, that works with other corporations to improve their efforts in sustainability while enhancing their competitiveness.
Business gives us energy, computers, food, clothing, homes, transportation, and everything else we need to live comfortable lives. They are the greatest source of social and environmental damage, and so it seems they should also be the solution. Businesses that choose to faithfully embrace the triple bottom line are the ones that can lead us to the sustainable society of our future.
Inspiration: Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, by Ray Anderson
What do you think? Do you believe businesses could possibly embrace the triple bottom line? Do you believe this is enough to move us forward?
Author bio: Lynn Fang is an eco-conscious writer who likes to wonder about how we can really create the sustainable society of the future. She writes about conscious living, sustainability, and social change at Upcycled Love. Follow her on Twitter at @UpcycledLove