Sustainability Re-examined

Sustainability Re-examined

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Most people believe that sustaining the planet is a good idea, given the impacts that human civilization is having. Business has played a big role in creating those impacts, and has been playing a big role in trying to address them. The problem is that sustainability only looks at half of what needs to be taken into account when thinking about whole living systems. Sustainability primarily addresses reducing impacts and increasing efficiencies. Corporate sustainability programs are wrapped almost entirely around these goals. But every experienced businessperson knows you can’t make a healthy business by only reducing inefficiencies. The experience of running a successful business teaches that it’s the ability of a business to generate value that is the real source of its vitality and viability. You can only make a healthy business by figuring out what you want to grow, how to grow it effectively, and then defining inefficiency as

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Value-Adding as a Concept to Transform the Middle East

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Value-adding has gotten a bad rap. Mostly because we are used to hearing the term “value-added,” which has come to mean a financial reward for our step of the chain on the way to consumers. I spoke in Beirut in November to the ministers of energy, environment and other arenas, plus 120 CEOs of corporations in related industries. The video is above. Value-adding is the subject of the talk. Value-adding means to change positively the lives of the stakeholders every time you engage them. The ‘ing” is indicative of a never-ended commitment to increase the value to the system of stakeholders.

Developmental Economies® Emerge from Story of Place®

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Carol Sanford and Joel Glanzberg on Chautauqua, KVNF, Public Radio. We explore the meaning of Story of Place® in creating Developmental Economies® and regenerating communities. “Developmental Economies®” (DE) involve the Business community in a different and more effective way. DE is a way of improving the vitality and viability of existing business and creating and incubator for new businesses that extend the uniqueness of the region and its “vocation”. Every PLACE has a uniqueness and out of that comes an opportunity to create unique value-adding (rather than value-added) offerings that cannot be copied and as a result become valued in the region and beyond for their uniqueness and distinctiveness that mirrors the PLACE itself. The cities where this has happened, for examples Portland OR, Curitiba, Brazil, have increased greatly the wealth and prosperity of a place and overcome the hazards that traditional economic development causes. It also makes a more

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Developers Advance the Neighborhood

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Developers are defamed and condemned regularly for raping the earth. And it is true that a good number of developers are quite inured to their effects. But there is a whole new breed who not only care, but are intentional about bringing a significant value into the communities and neighborhoods where they design and build. And not just for public relations. They see value coming to everyone when they engage this way, including themselves. One example is the idea of considering every project to be one one where the developer is in investing into a Regenerative Neighborhood InitiativeTM (RNI).

Economics of Sustainability: From Commodity to Value-Adding Industries and Nations

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  Throughout history, countries that have shipped their raw materials to other counties for processing have lost out to the converters. The further along the conversion process a company is, in adding value, the more viable it is through time. Nations, and the businesses in them by and large, become stable and wealthy because they can make and provide goods and services, not because they own a source of basic commodities. Even with soaring international prices, the amount of income generated by mineral resources in a modern advanced economy remains relatively low compared to the converted products into which they are made. The tendency is to seek efficiencies for a competitive advantage, leaving other nations and businesses to make the real wealth off the resource. This is a losing strategy in the long run, and the long run is getting closer every day.

“Place” as the Path to Wholistic Business Certification: Integrating Fair Trade and Sustainable Purchasing and Contracting.

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I love chocolate. My favorite is the seventy percent cocoa kind. I always read the package for source information and buy Fair Trade Certified. Because of that certification, I am trusting that the contract manufacturers’ workers and the indigenous craftspeople and field harvesters are paid fairly. I trust that they work under safe conditions and under global standards of health protection. I am so thankful that someone is doing that checking for me. I also know that I am only achieving part of the goal that I have as a conscious consumer. It is necessary but not….well you know. When I buy household products, I want non-toxic products so when they go down the drain, or into the air, they are not harming the very sources of life (or humans). I want the materials that make it up to not destroy habitats with their by-products. I want raw materials to

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Many Sustainability Performance Indicators are False Leads

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Most managers, public or private, have a tendency to look for performance indicators that they can measure. This seems logical–you want to know how you are doing, so you look for acceptable ways to quantify your performance such as LEED building ratings, or how a supply chain is rated in terms of fair trade, or how much carbon you have as a footprint. Indicators gives a sense of security because you feel like they can tell you how much of a difference you’re making, or that they can predict, like an early warning system, when things might go wrong. Unfortunately, most of the time this does not happen. Indicators are often so off-base that they can cause disaster for the company or the environment. That is because most managers reduce performance indicators to what they can measure easily and directly. It seems so obvious that we cannot even conceive of

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Redefining “Highest and Best Use”

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Highest and best use is a concept in real estate appraisals. It states that the tax or sale value of a property is directly related to the use of that property; the “highest and best use” is the reasonably probable use that produces the highest property value. This use, the Highest and Best Use, may or may not be the current use of the property. But there is an attempt to recover that potential value in a sale or tax valuation as if it were. So even a landlord who is renting below the potential rent, she is stilled taxed at the most probably rent given the available information. Or a farmer is taxed for the “highest and best” value, which is the zoned value for typically something like commercial buildings.

The Economy of Cities: Incubating Meaningful Work

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Jane Jacobs’ eloquent defense of the life, and death, of great American cities still rings true. As associate director of Architectural Forum in the 1960’s, Jacobs admonished us to remember what really made cities lively and alive—their inherent ability to foster creativity and innovation. Cities that do not add new levels and natures of work stagnate. “More of the Same” is deadening and results in cities that are no longer vibrant.  Yet many cities base their economic development plans on the expansion or recruitment of a cluster of similar businesses as a way to create “synergies.” The modern economic development plan seeks “like” businesses and related suppliers that support them, believing that they can create a center of excellence. This was the idea that Bangalore, India had when it established itself as the world’s premiere call-center. And Dublin Ireland had in pursuing the “computer chip manufacturing capital of the world”

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The Future of Community, Economic and Education Development

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How to grow the wealth of a town, city or region without undermining its vitality and heritage: it’s an on-going challenge because we tend to see economic development and cultural and ecological stewardship as being at odds. But any viable future is going to require us to reconcile this apparent dichotomy.  I’m heartened by an integrated approach that emanates from a shared sense of uniqueness of a bioregion—a shared sense carried by its Story of Place. The story of a place is as old as its land and waterways. It is told and stewarded by native peoples and recent residents alike. Those who are drawn to a place represent it in their metaphors, prose and historical accounts. Story of place is made from the patterns that are apparent only on close observations—patterns that underlie all that is there. A place’s story guides what can and will be possible, whether or

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