Business and Sustainability: Still Not Getting It

Deloitte recently published a survey of business sustainability aspirations and practices. Titled, “Sustainability in business today: A cross-industry view,” the report showcases the responses from businesses in a wide range of sectors. Deloitte’s header highlighted the following arguments for paying attention to sustainability: “Increasing regulation, investor activism and changing consumer behavior have increased the importance of “going green.” Not a whisper about the state of the world. I get from this that business lives in a corporate cocoon with its sensors tuned only to those that affect its bottom line or stockholder value (or more likely, the salary of its CEO). What about the world outside? Environment health and justice… Read More

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The Pursuit of Happiness

One of the students in my course at Marlboro College posted a link to Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, a work from positive psychology containing a taxonomy of traits that connect to the “good life.” The student suggested that these might form the basis for defining human flourishing. I agree. The authors describe the work as: > The classification is the result of a thorough study of the philosophies of the antiquities, the major world religions, the distinctions offered by historic and current social organizations. Twenty four specific strengths under six broad virtues consistently emerged across history and culture: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each… Read More

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WalMart’s Sustainability Index Program–Too Hard or Just Misguided

The Walmart Sustainability Index project is one year old and the bloggers, and newsy sites are flying. It is clear from the news that the project has moved slower than Walmart’s initial enthusiastic send-off heralded. I looked back at my own blog posts and see that I expressed at that time a good deal of skepticism that seems to be borne out a year later. It seems that even a company as large and powerful as Walmart can stumble a bit when taking on an issue as challenging as sustainability. But that’s not surprising. The smarts that have made Walmart what it is are mostly not relevant or helpful when… Read More

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

“Reluctance to Spend” This quote comes from an article in Newsweek arguing for a do-it-yourself economic recovery in the face of an incomplete government program. Counting on the market to offer enough incentives (t-shirts and smart phones) to sleeping consumers to get them back into the habit of buying with funds they do not have, the business sector is picked to be the best way out, sort of bootstrapping the recovery. Sounds good? Politically it appeals to the market champions. Economists love it, although many say this will not be enough to restart the growth dynamic. Now think about this in the light of another recent article on Alternet that… Read More

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Facing Death

The industrial ecology conference is now in the past and I am at Marlboro College Graduate center teaching to the MBA for Managing Sustainability program. We have been reading Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth as the class text, adding a few ancillary articles. We’re just at the point of discussing a steady-state economy (SSE)–what we mean by it, how critical is it, and how would we get there. The last two parts get all mixed together in the students’ responses in class and in their answers on the assignments. They have some trouble understanding what a SSE is. I do too. But that’s not the point I want to… Read More

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Still Away at a Conference

I am still attending the Industrial Ecology Gordon Research Conference and will be away pretty much until next Monday. The Conference rules do not allow blogging abut what is being discussed, but I am sure it is OK to talk about it in general terms. The idea of the Conferences is to facilitate open discussion of the latest research without attribution or specific reference so that the group can explore work in progress without fear of premature exposure. I gave some of the details a few days ago. I guessed right about the tenor of the presentations and, so, have been pretty busy during the discussions. Like all professional gatherings… Read More

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Still More Synchronicity Today

Just after posting the last entry, I read David Brooks column in the NYTimes. Titled, “The Medium Is the Medium,” Brooks notes that children who read real books do better than those who do not. Just living in a house with a library leads to improved performance at school. There seems to be something about a “book” that somehow adds to intellectual development. Here’s his bottom line: > . . . [T]he literary world is still better [than the Internet] at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import.” > > Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may… Read More

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Synchronicity: July 9, 2010

Only yesterday, I wrote about the shortcomings of technological communication systems. They may increase the number of links among people dramatically, but can only diminish the quality and authenticity of what passes over the links. This morning I read an essay (registration required) by Tony Judt, entitled “Words” in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. While I will comment on a relevant part of the essay in a few moments, I must first note its poignancy. Judt, writing on the critical role words play in expressing our selves and our thoughts, has become increasingly disabled by a neurological disease, and is no longer able to express… Read More

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Let’s Improve Our Brain First

Robert Wright wrote a semi-facetious piece in the Times about how technology is gradually networking our cognitive functions on the way ultimately to produce one monster global brain. I found the article quite confused as it tries to make a critical argument against Nick Carr‘s concerns about the distractive power of technology into a loosely connected positive story about the coalescence of individual cognitive functions into one big brain. Carr has written extensively on the distractive consequences of the heavy use of screens and other forms of information technology. Recent scientific surveys, particularly on young people (see my own reporting ), bear out the impacts. The Times earlier reported on… Read More

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Designing Greener Goods

I’m getting ready to go off for a week to New Hampshire to attend this year’s Gordon Research Conference on Industrial Ecology. I always find it somewhat of a drag to pick up and leave our place on the Maine Coast at the peak of the summer. But the last few days have not been the best. Global warming is certainly coming, judging from the intense heat of the last few days even here right on the coast. This year the focus of the Conference is on design–a subject I am always keenly interested in. As one of the first persons to work within this still very young academic discipline,… Read More

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