"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
D is Design as the Place to Begin: Freddie Mercury: ”Is this the world we created? What did we do it for? Our current economy of relentless consumption is a lack of design problem. Nobody in their right mind would design a system that is so consistently wasteful and capable of altering the very atmospheric conditions that allow life to thrive. Yet here we are. So, what can we do? Start by designing your own life. Be your own Lean consultant. Cut waste. Keep what gives life. Life creates the conditions conducive to life. Get to work!
E is for the Edges Where Economy and Ecology Meet: Peter Gabriel: “What ever may come and whatever may go that river’s flowing.” Either now or later the economy we’ve built on air will settle back down to it’s earthly foundations. As consumers I suggest we help it along. Invest in that which enriches your Value Web. Find those opportunities services and things which provide value to you and to the people around you while enriching our cities and communities while enhancing the health of the environment that holds us. We’ve been “conquering” and “subduing” nature for long enough. It’s time to go with the flow…
F is for the Flow of Feedback Beneath our Feet: Mike Patton: “It’s it. What is it?” Call it what we will: Karma. What goes around comes around. We are what we eat. We do as we do. We get what we get. Sometimes you get the bear-sometimes the bear gets you. We do not live, experience, think, intend or act in a vacuum. We are living, open systems. That means we affect and are affected by everything that goes on around us. What we consume consumes us. If we pay attention, the feedback we receive-instant or otherwise-is constant and instructive. What we choose to eat, buy, keep and throw away have very real ramifications in our lives and reverberate throughout the Value Web. As a consumer you can ignore “it” and continue being eroded and washed away in a muddied, waste strewn stream or accept and acknowledge “it” and start taking responsibility for “it.”
The survey is divided into four categories: Energy and Climate, Material Efficiency, Natural Resources, People and Community. In essence, it will function as an baseline measurement tool that sorts suppliers by having them demonstrate they are in control of their energy (GHG), waste (solid/water) management and reduction initiatives, material sourcing (production/certification), and community engagement (awareness of impact). At best, it points toward Cooperation. Basically, though, it sets a bar of Compliance for companies that want to do business with Wal-Mart
Though the first category is titled “Energy and Climate” a more appropriate heading would be “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” The four questions in the category are focused completely through the lens of reporting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The second category, “Material Efficiency”, is dedicated to reduction of solid waste and water use. Linked closely to Wal-Mart’s Packaging Scorecard and their Zero-Waste initiative, it is asking companies to demonstrate how they “reduce waste and enhance quality.”
Category three, “Natural Resources” focuses mainly on sourcing and certification, asking companies to report on origin of materials, purchasing guidelines and 3rd-party certification.
The fourth category is “People and Community” and centers on corporate awareness of and engagement with the communities in which they operate. The first question is telling. It asks if companies know where all of their production and manufacturing facilities are. It’s a start…
Relatively unexceptional in its content it still has very strong potential to be a game-changing move. The reason is simple: as a supplier, to do business with Wal-Mart means doing business their way. Though they are not setting any baseline requirements at the moment, nor are they auditing suppliers (answers to the 15-question survey are received in good faith) they are asking suppliers to complete the survey. To do so means you want (and really need) to have policies and controls in place or risk getting pushed out by companies that do.
Ultimately, this points to the development of an embedded system of and processes for sustainable business. The question suppliers for Wal-Mart have to answer is: “How far do we want to go?” Simple Compliance or Conformity? Cooperation? Collaboration and Coherence? Or, systemic Constellation?
Up next: How sustainable is the Wal-Mart Sustainability Index?
Tags: Climate, Coherence, collaboration, Community, Compliance, Conformity, Constellation, cooperation, Energy, GHG, greenhouse gases, Material Efficiency, Natural Resources, Packaging Scorecard, Sustainability Index, Wal-Mart, waste, zero waste
Here’s a couple of perspectives from Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart taken from Cradle to Cradle:
If we were to have intentionally designed the industrial revolution here are some of the specs we would have needed to follow:
- put billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water and soil every year
- produce some materials so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations
- create gigantic amounts of waste
- put valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
- require thousands of complex regulations-not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly
- measure productivity by how few people are working
- create prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying them or burning them
- erode the diversity of species and cultural practices
Now, if we were to do a redesign around eco-efficiency and other current definitions of doing less harm the specs would look like this:
- release fewer pounds of toxic wastes into the air, soil and water every year
- measure prosperity by less activity
- meet the stipulations of thousands of complex regulations to keep people and natural systems from being poisoned too quickly
- produce fewer materials that are so dangerous that they will require future generations to maintain constant vigilance while living in terror
- create smaller amounts of useless waste
- put smaller amounts of valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
A couple of key points here. No one designed the industrial revolution and, really, we aren’t doing a very good job of designing for a sustainable, much less an abundant future. No one intended to flood their communities with toxic compounds, create large whorls of plastic trash in our oceans, collapse the banking system and kick off a worldwide recession or alter the climate of the planet on which we depend for existence.
We, all of us, just drove on oblivious to the signs warning that a pretty precipitous cliff lay dead ahead. Now we are flailing around with a lot of our energy being expended on figuring out how to drive toward (and off) the cliff more slowly. Not good.
It’s hard. Just ask Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the rest of the House of Representatives and legislators, policy makers and leaders all over the world as they wrestle with climate change legislation and regulations. Let’s face it, most of us, in some way, depend on the current state of things to get by.
Yet, the question I think we should be asking is not “How to we keep what we’ve got?” but “How do we give up what we’ve got in order to get more for all of us in the future?” In aikido (thanks to the late Terry Dobson) we call this “giving in to get your way”
So, what to do? We’ve got to get everyone involved. Less bad is still bad. Less bad is unsustainable. As we continue to meet the needs of the present we’ve got to come together and design for a future that is not less bad but more good. While meeting the needs of the present we need to collectively imagine, design and implement a future that gives us, our children and grandchildren our best shot at living lives of sustainable abundance.
This goes beyond ideology, industry and ego. It is at the heart of community and living and working together well. This is a game we all can play. The rules? Design, develop and implement for a sustainable present and abundant future. Do it together. Do it well. Be present, build resilience. Be disciplined. Do it ASAP. Have fun!
Tags: aikido, banking system, Bill McDonough, climate change, climate change legislation, collapse, Cradle to cradle, design, eco-efficiency, Ed Markey, Henry Waxman, Michael Braungart, recession, resilience, Terry Dobson, toxic material, waste
Saw this awhile back. Wonderful animated narrative about how we create, sell, (often not wisely) use stuff. Great educational material. Thank you Annie Leonard!
The website is here: The Story of Stuff