Subtitle: Practice, Practice, Practice
In his response to President George W. Bush’s speech on climate change (via The Naib), Oxfam America president Raymond C. Offenheiser plainly stated that leadership is sorely needed in the United States to reduce our impact on the planet from anthropogenic carbon emissions. “If not, food scarcity will increase, food prices will continue to soar, and nations large and small will suffer the consequences.”
Actually, we have leadership; delay, censorship, dismembering previous initiative; such action requires direction (and sometimes direct interference) from the top. I do believe that Mr. Offenheiser is stating a preference for a different type of leadership.
Last night I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people,” Obama told the North Carolina crowd. “Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices.
Please note in his remark the absence of any mention about the most serious problem facing our country and the entire globe.
In recovery, there is reference to the dead white elephant in the middle of the living room about which no one speaks. The mainline media is doing their very best to enable the candidates to ignore the elephants falling from the skies.
Upon seeing Obama’s remark, my first thought was, “Well, after all, you are running to replace Bush and our fossil fuel masters do want to see that you can entertain the folks while saying nothing” (as they “pull the strings“).
Speaking of denial, you should be pleased to know that some 6 figure salaried executives really do care. In the vein of Amory Lovins advising us not to pay much attention to what Congress is doing, Michael Potts, chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Institute, believes that there are companies with sustainability initiatives, “lead by executives who have a personal passion for these issues, leaders who lead with a moral imperative. And, sometimes these executives make decisions to do the right thing even when the payback alone does not justify them.”
Snarky note: And, when they don’t do the right thing, they feel quite remorseful. Sometimes, it even effects their handicap.
Potts made this observation in a post on Harvard Business Review’s Green blog. Contributors to the blog include executives from Sun Microsystems, Herman Miller, General Electric, and Yale School of Management, among others. Wall Street behemoth Goldman Sachs is one of the site’s sponsors. (Aside from “You Are Only As Green As Your Supply Chain,” Topics covered on the blog, which has been up and running since January 2008, include:
- “Green Stakeholders: Pesky Activists or Productive Allies,”
- “Staying Green in a Tough Economic Climate,”
- “Winners and Losers in a Carbon-Constrained World,” and
- “Don’t Bother with the ‘Green’ Consumer.”)
The point made by Potts is that
mainline “mainstream American businesses are finally waking up to the fact that sustainability matters, and not just from a bottom-line business perspective.”
Sure, money is part of it, as it must be for any business that hopes to remain a functioning, in-the-black enterprise. But there’s more going on here. As Brian Walker, CEO of furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, puts it, his company initiated its Perfect Vision environmental program in 2003 “because we believed it was the right thing to do and because we saw the potential for a clear business benefit.”
Similarly, but on a much larger scale, Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott recently announced that the company is going to require its suppliers to meet specific environmental, social and quality standards, and it will make compliance with those standards part of all its contracts. Now, a cynic might question Wal-Mart’s motives with the initiative. Is there a PR payoff? Sure. But there are other payoffs as well, only some of which are financial. Heck, perhaps the initiative even allows Scott and his 1.9 million employees worldwide to pursue a path that makes them a little prouder of themselves, their jobs, their place in the world. If Wal-Mart’s sales and brand value rises in the meantime, so be it.
As RMI’s Potts optimistically puts it in the HBR Green blog, “The winners in this new age… will not be the ones with the calculators and spreadsheets. They will be the courageous thought leaders that drive their businesses forward in line with their personal values.” Well said, and reflective of a trend. A trend whereby corporations are embracing sustainability programs because their customers expect it, the market rewards it, and yes, their leaders and employees actually believe it matters.
For more ranting on the subject, with just the right touch of snarkiness, see “One of Time Magazine’s Fifteen Favorite Websites for the Environment.”
But, first, Tipper, this little ad that you can find embedded in The Goracle’s new slide show.