Radical Transparency (Continued)

Some weeks ago, I wrote a [post](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2009/05/following-on-the-heels-of.html) critical of or maybe just skeptical of the claims of radical transparency made by Dan Goleman in his book, [*Ecological Intelligence*](http://www.amazon.com/Ecological-Intelligence-Knowing-Impacts-Everything/dp/0385527829). This followed a [post](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2009/05/feel-good-with-goodguide.html) about the consumer information website, [GoodGuide](http://www.goodguide.com/). Goleman sees this new way of shaping consumer choice as a prime example of radical transparency, defined as providing enough information to a buyer so as to shift choice towards the best performing products according to a complex sustainability scoring system. I saw the complexity to be the antithesis of transparency. Today I read an [article](http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/07/30/b2b-the-real-radical-transparency-opportunity) on [Greener Design](http://www.greenerdesign.com/) that makes the same argument. It’s always nice to have company, especially when… Read More

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Can Greener Equal Better?

Joel Makower has a [recent column](http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/07/27/why-doesnt-green-better) asking why greener doesn’t or can’t equate to “better.” Here’s his list of what kinds of categories determine better products in consumers’ values. > • cheaper to buy > • cheaper to own > • enhanced features > • healthier > • higher performance > • improves my image > • innovative > • less wasteful > • more convenient > • more durable > • more stylish > • repairable > • reusable > • upgradeable > • uses less energy > All except the last items on the list refer to some utility for the user. Makower concedes that his argument takes… Read More

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The New Economics

My book rests largely on a critique of modernity, particularly the hegemonic use of technology to solve every problem, large and small. The few chapters offer a framework for remedying what I see as the root causes of unsustainability. But it is rather modest and focused on using technology to carry new ideas and practices into daily life, and slowly changing current cultural behavior patterns. Over and above what I have written, I have often been asked what can “I” do by many readers and others concerned about sustainability. This is a difficult and perplexing question for me. The focus in the book was largely on re-designing everyday artifacts to… Read More

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Sustainability–I Can Can’t Get It for You Wholesale

Synchronicity, the experience of very closely related events coming at essentially the same time, always alerts me to be very aware of what is going on around me. This time the awareness started a few days ago when I read a [book review in the New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/books/review/Shapiro-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=book%20review%20discount%20high%20cost&st=cse) of Ellen Ruppel Schell’s new book, *Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture*. It continued when I watched the film, Food Inc. which showed the dangers of becoming dependent on only a few sources for the stuff we eat. Then, today, I got our weekly email from the farmer who operates the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm we own a summer share… Read More

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Food, Inc.

I went to see [Food, Inc.](http://www.foodincmovie.com/) last night. The showing was in a funky, mostly organic food restaurant cinema combination here in Brunswick, Maine. Appropriately the ticketing is on the honor system. I had read Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma some time ago so some of the film was familiar. Most of the reviews of the film I read had focused on the gore and gristly shots of the life and death of chickens, beef, and porkers. The film lives up to this aspect. But what I found most disconcerting was the parts of the film that exposed the way Food, Inc. operates. After having just suffered the effects of… Read More

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Here a Label; There a Label

Just to make sure that I do not come off as as a sustainability Scrooge, I want to follow my last post about Wal-Mart with some comments from the cyberspace. The number of news and others articles about the Wal-Mart announcement is very large, not surprising as it is truly a big deal. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, [writing on her blog](http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/kanter/2009/07/walmarts-environmental-gamecha.html?cm_mmc=npv-_-DAILY_ALERT-_-AWEBER-_-DATE) in the Harvard Business Press says: > Wal-Mart’s unilateral decision to put its purchasing and communication power behind going green also shows that a single company using its unique clout can accelerate public action to reduce greenhouse gases and reverse climate change. > Joel Makower, always an informed voice on… Read More

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Twas Brillig and the Slithy Toves. . .

Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (John Tenniel’s original image is pictured here) is often quoted as an example of nonsense, but nonsense that has become familiar to a large audience. We will be seeing a different kind of example shortly when Wal-Mart releases details of their much anticipated “Sustainability Index.” [Widely reported in the media](http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/07/14/inside-walmarts-sustainability-index), the news sends a couple of shivers up my spine. Slate has a long and informative story. > The giant retailer ($406 billion in revenues in 2008) is developing an ambitious, comprehensive, and fiendishly complex plan to measure the sustainability of every product it sells. Wal-Mart has been working quietly on what it calls a “sustainability index”… Read More

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Check Out My Interview in Sloan Management Review

An [extended interview](http://sloanreview.mit.edu/beyond-green/flourishing-forever/) with the Michael S. Hopkins, Editor-in-Chief of the Sloan Management Review has been published on the web. This is one of a series of interviews about sustainability as seen by a group of people with ties to MIT. Here is what the SMR says about this series. > The MIT Sustainability Interview features thought leaders from arenas as diverse as management, urban studies, history, energy science, civil engineering, and design. The conversations are wildly varied, but at root their goal is to help leading managers answer two crucial questions: “As sustainability—economic, environmental, social, and personal—becomes the defining business issue of our times, what decisions will I need… Read More

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Summer Slowdown

Summer has finally come to Maine at least for a few days. I will try to enjoy it while it lasts. The forecasts are showing more rain and overcast skies. Family and friends will be arriving over the next few weeks. I’ll be posting articles I find interesting and relate to sustainability in some way without much comment of my own. I have been following the writer of this piece, Umair Haque, for a while. While we are of different generations, I resonate with his thoughts. It must be quite a stretch for the Harvard Business Press to maintain his postings. He has just published a [Manifesto for Generation M](http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/haque/2009/07/today_in_capitalism_20_1.html)… Read More

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