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Sustainable Strategy Goes Mainstream

During this week after such an historic presidential election, many are commenting, predicting and posting about what the next four years might hold. Let me share mine … A very strong conversation is going to build upon its fledging roots – the conversation of sustainability.  Over the past eight years, we have not spoken often about the environment. Today, we have a new leader who will throw down the gauntlet.

During this week after such an historic presidential election, many are commenting, predicting and posting about what the next four years might hold. Let me share mine … A very strong conversation is going to build upon its fledging roots – the conversation of sustainability.  Over the past eight years, we have not spoken often about the environment. Today, we have a new leader who will throw down the gauntlet. And this is not meant to be a political or biased statement of any kind: it is simply the truth. Corporations will now be expected not only demonstrate, but also articulate their strategies around how we re-tool our world.

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Now is the time when corporations must invest in innovation and in people more than ever.  These innovations should be directly tied to solving problems in our world.  An obvious example would include pharmaceutical companies investing in R&D to help solve health crises in third world countries; the less obvious example is of Duke Energy creating an online tool allowing individuals to calculate the environmental impact of their communities and providing resources to take action to reduce their footprints.  

As the world is resetting itself (and I could speak about this on economic, social and spiritual levels), corporations have a tremendous opportunity to be part of the change forward.  GE Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, says that his role is to turn FEAR into CONFIDENCE.  This is the paradigm shift that our social philosophers and modern day prophets say the new millennium is all about:  from the corporeal to the incorporeal.  In this light, sustainability moves from being a separate entity within corporations to a core component of the larger business model.  Sustainability and corporate social responsibility must become main stream, and become a strategic part of corporations’ modus operandi –central to how we make money and create an abundant world for the citizens of the planet.  How else will we be able to support the 9 billion people expected to dwell on the earth by 2050?  GE is to be commended for the momentum they have begun with Ecomagination.   http://ge.ecomagination.com/

Where Jeffrey Immelt and I differ is that his very first tenant of corporate social responsibility is to create competitiveness and win the corporate war of my products/ services versus yours. Mr. Immelt speaks more about a long-term dedication to competitiveness in order to support, innovation, strategic programs, productivity and technology. I respect that. However, if we are to truly advance our world, putting the goal to WIN at the heart of a corporate social responsibility strategy means that someone must lose.  In fact, many must lose, and when corporations lose, abundance is lost.  After all, isn’t the purpose of human life to grow and create abundance for yourself and others?  I believe we are all here to advance the next generation and they the next.  Now, I know my argument has many holes and you can certainly argue against this view.  But if only one wins, can we depend on that one to embrace and advance social responsibility?  In a socialist state, that role belongs to the government.  In a Capitalist state then would it not be the role of the Corporation?

Now, where I do agree with Mr. Immelt is on the remaining three tenants of corporate social responsibility as he defines them for GE.  Again, number one is to create competitiveness and win.   Number two: Run the company with Trust. Number three: Create a long- term dedication to people (education and training). And number four: Orient the company to solve social problems (such as technologies which benefit communities or society as a whole). This last point in particular is encouraging. When corporations understand that through technology, innovations and people, they can provide solutions for larger social issues (such as famine, climate change, disease, etc.), we will truly live in a world, which has INDEED retooled itself to embrace the new millennium.  And it is then that we will get our people and our planet back on track.