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Sustainable Business |

Sustainable Business

November 29, 2011

Business is a hugely influential force, and much of business operates single-mindedly based on monetary profit at the expense of social and environmental concerns (Bakan, 2005; Hartmann, 2010; Korten, 2001). Because of this, many people see business as the devil incarnate. But the growing sustainable business movement is showing that this influential force has considerable potential to contribute to the quality of life on earth for all (Anderson & White, 2009; Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 2000; Kofman, 2006; Sisodia, Wolfe, & Sheth, 2007). (Read about an MBA program whose mission is to help change business for the good.)

While business can feel like a large, impersonal force much of the time, it is comprised of the personal—people who are conducting work through relationships with other people. At the forefront of business are its leaders. It is these leaders who can often lead business awry, and it is these leaders who can change business for the good. One of these leaders was Ray Anderson, who started Interface, Inc. in 1973.

Interface became a world leader in modular carpet operating on a “business as usual” model with a single bottom line of monetary profit. In 1993, Anderson read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins. Upon finishing the book, he realized that what he had created with Interface (by then a global corporation) was a monster. He vowed to change the way business was conducted there. Anderson wanted

Interface, a company so oil intensive you could think of them as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be the first enterprise in history to be truly sustainable—to shut down its smokestacks, close off its effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment, and to take nothing from the earth not easily renewed by the earth. (p. 2)

This was 1994 and Anderson was sixty years old. He did what he set out to do before he died just this year—he created an exemplary model for a sustainable business.

We need more leaders like Ray Anderson!

Stay tune for next week’s post on sustainable business, leadership and attention…

Anderson, R. C., & White, R. (2009). Confessions of a radical industrialist: Profits, people, purpose–doing business by respecting the earth. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Bakan, J. (2005). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power. Free Press.

Hartmann, T. (2010). Unequal protection: How corporations became “people” - and how you can fight back (2nd ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Hawken, P., Lovins, A., & Lovins, L. H. (2000). Natural capitalism: Creating the next industrial revolution (1st ed.). New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Kofman, F. (2006). Conscious business: How to build value through values (annotated edition.). Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Incorporated.

Korten, D. C. (2001). When corporations rule the world (2nd ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Sisodia, R. S., Wolfe, D. B., & Sheth, J. N. (2007). Firms of endearment: How world-class companies profit from passion and purpose (1st ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

(To comment, click on the title of this post above. The comment box will then appear below.)


2 Responses to “Sustainable Business”

  1. Ben Drury on December 6th, 2011 11:33 pm

    The movement is gaining momentum and Lisa you are a catalyst fanning the flame that is bringing sweeping change, Thank You!
    I suggest Blessed Unrest as an addition to your bibliography.

  2. ATCLisa on December 7th, 2011 4:32 pm

    Thank you, Benjamin. Hawken’s work in Blessed Unrest is quite incredible. Thank you for the recommendation!

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