photo from bgu.businessschool.com
What is a Sustainable Business? And can a sustainable business find business sustainability? These are an important questions, and one that every business owner should be asking themselves now, and not necessarily because of our global climate whether it be societal or geological, but because sustainable business for business sustainability is where the future of business is headed.
A Sustainable Business is one that has as low as possible an impact on an environment, a society, a community, and the economy. Essentially it’s a business that meets what is known as the Triple Bottom Line, a framework to evaluate the outcome of your business in three parts: Social, Economic, and Environmental. Sustainable Businesses are conscious businesses that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the present world without compromising the needs for future generations. Most people, when thinking about a Sustainable Business, automatically think of a Green Business, or a business which focuses primarily on the benefits of the planet. The Triple Bottom Line recognizes the importance of our social, economic, and environmental impact equally, which is to say that the environmental impact is only a third of the demands of a Sustainable Business.
I do believe in the importance of limiting our impact on the planet, as much as possible, and I appreciate that there are a number of very large, profitable companies that are maintaining Sustainable Business practices, Game Changers 500 is an organization, similar to Fortune 500, which releases a list of Sustainable, Triple Bottom Line practicing companies that are growing, and are massively profitable.
A good example of a great start is that most large, skyscraper buildings being built today practice low impact building, while developing buildings that are themselves low to negative impact. A LEED seal or plaque on display within or on the building is an indication of the more modern advanced environmentally friendly buildings. A number of these buildings are consuming CO2 from the atmosphere while actually producing O2, it’s amazing. That means these buildings are behaving like trees!
One of the impacts Sustainable Business focuses on is our social impact, and by that I mean many businesses are helping to provide better lifestyles for people living in underdeveloped countries, they are helping to bring these people up out of poverty, while helping to establish higher income families, that will, over the generations, be able to become consumers themselves. The idea is that helping to bring communities out of poverty will develop consumer friendly, and consciously spending people who may otherwise not have had the money to put back into the economy. When a business is conscious of its market, its environment, its employees, and its impact both now and in the future, it can only benefit the global economy. Our current economic system, and business development, though it is shifting dramatically to that of Sustainability, is one that either keeps people in-, or forces people further into poverty. But how does that benefit a business?
There are business of all kinds making sustainable changes: publishing companies, wineries, groceries, coffee and teahouses, banks, construction, and more.
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It’s important as a business owner, and a consumer to understand the benefits of Sustainable Business.
As a consumer we must recognize that, especially in The United States, the way that we spend our money is the loudest, and most demanding means of conscious and effective voting that we have, and we are polling daily. Where, and how we spend our money will help to provide the foundation of business--and political transitioning—for our future, and the types of business that will thrive. Be conscious about it.
As a business owner, especially a small business, look into the benefits of using local materials, recyclable materials, and look for ways to help your community, and to invest in your community, and to invest in the people in your community. Small things really do make a difference. People will go to one coffeeshop over another because of where they get their milk, or whether it’s organic or not. And this is true of every business we shop at, and develop.
There are creative ways of being a Sustainable Business. CommuniTea Books, my bookstore in Boerne, Texas, buys Organic Fair Trade teas, and is constantly looking for ways to better the community where the tea leaves come from—all over the world. Guayakí brand Yerba Maté is giving a large percentage of their profits back to the region in South America where Maté is grown. The tea plant isn’t healthy in its indigenous area, and a lot of the forests are dying. Guayakí is helping to restore the regions forests so that the plant can once again grow naturally, and healthy so that not only the region can mature, and develop again naturally and economically, but also so that Guayakí can continue to provide a better product to the companies customers.
When you get the opportunity watch the documentary PROSPERITY. It is an amazing account of exactly what I’m talking about, and provides further insight into the benefits of Sustainable Business. Our current systems are not based on the practices of conscious commerce, and as a result they do not maintain sustainability. In order to maintain business sustainability in the future you will have to be a sustainable business.
Get behind companies such as Collective Evolution, Rodale Inc., Thrive Market, The Container Store, Change.org, Aspiration, Reserveage, Natural Grocers and more, and look in New Resource Bank, and demand that your community offers a banking system as conscious, and community friendly as New Resource.
There are 5 ways that you can start making a difference, as an individual:
I had a rough morning...
It started out fine, I slept in—until about 8:15—then I showered—I shower in the morning: it wakes me up, relaxes my muscles, clears my mind, and, kind of, lets me outline my day, although my day never actually unfolds as framed—I stepped out of the shower, dressed, and walked to my bedside table where I keep my glasses, completely unwittingly, assuming, of course, that my morning routine will continue, as normal, and I would make some breakfast, some tea, put on some classical music, check my email, collect orders that were placed over the night, audit my ads balances, and update my website, however after I put on my glasses, in the semi-dark room that is my bedroom, I noticed a slightly darker spot on my nice, white comforter, and thought, “Oh, if that little shit did it again...”
I turned on the light and, sure enough, my little Calico cat had left a nice spot of pee on my comforter. Dinah, my Calico, has been doing this lately, she’s unsatisfied with my level of attention towards her these past few days—I’ve washed that comforter a couple of times in the past week--in fact, the first time she did it, I left her enclosed in the bathroom with some food, water, and a litter box, you know, to teach her a lesson, of course she hasn’t got a clue why she’s spending the day in the bathroom, so although my pride might feel slightly less tarnished...; she got out of the bathroom and climbed on my lap while I worked that evening, all the while knowing that just moments before she had left another surprise for me, a surprise that I would not find until much later.
I keep two litter boxes in my house, and I’m very vigilant about changing them, because who likes the consuming smell of ammonia as it quickly fills every crevasse of your dwelling? I’ll tell you who: nobody, not even cats because I had neglected to clean out the most popular of the two litter boxes as often as normal, and my entitled little Calico decided she would show me exactly how she felt about that.
So, I cleaned out the litter box.
I decided, also, to clean out the other, although it had hardly been used, the “other” litter box is the nicer of the two, it’s got a door; it was this litter box that I left with Dinah while she spent her punishment day in the bathroom, it was still in the bathroom this morning because I just hadn’t gotten around to moving it back to where I keep it. So, I lifted it to take it back, and underneath the litter box was a tiny puff of smashed poo. I am never going to fully understand how my tiny Calico managed to move this large, fairly heavy litter box, take a poo, and then move it directly over her poo, and somehow drop it so that it smashed, almost perfectly, and not slid all over the bathroom floor, as well as the bottom of the box.
So, I was standing in my bathroom looking, first, at this squashed poo, and then back at the pile of my comforter and sheets on the floor, and back at the poo, and, again, the pile on the floor. I take the litter box outside to give it a good rinse on this beautiful, wet, cold day and left it out there to dry, and then I came back inside. I started organizing some things, including my wash, because I figured, “What the hell, today’s just going to be the perfect day to take care of it anyway.” And then, after I started my wash and some, at that point, light cleaning, before getting back to my breakfast, tea, Mozart, emails, orders, audits, and updates, I noticed several little smudges on my coated, cement floor so I opted to investigate. I followed the smudges, erratically throughout my cottage, and reasoned that I should start my investigation with the...bottom...of...my...shoe.
At some point, while I was outside cleaning poo off of the litter box, I stepped in dog poo, and then dragged it haphazardly around the entirety of my home...
I sat down, in order to, you know, kind of, appraise my morning:
“My cat had pee’d on my comforter because I hadn’t changed the litter box, which she, apparently, doesn’t actually use, in favor of the space beneath said box, and while cleaning the poo off the box--that she doesn’t actually use—I then, gracefully managed to step in poo, which was also not in, but in the immediate vicinity of the box, and took it inside in order to trek it around my cottage managing, auspiciously, to aid in the very crime that my lovely little Dinah had originally attempted, which in fact, inadvertently, started...everything.”
After several minutes of reassessing my life choices, and realizing that, sometimes, your only option is to just start somewhere, and it really doesn't matter where, I lit a few candles and a diffuser, started boiling some water, played a little ditty on the banjo, and leapt into action.
Needless to say, my cottage is now very clean, it smells like Eucalyptus and "Ocean Breeze", the floors have been swept and mopped, twice with Citra-solve, and, yes, I did have that cuppa tea while the reposing melody of Mozart blended with the Eucalyptus and "Ocean Breeze", and now, all I have left to do is start a fire, and wait for Dinah to find the perfect spot on my comforter to leave a spotta pee.
I initially wrote, and published this in the fall of 2010, and although it was written as an excerpt for a piece of short fiction I thought I'd include it in this collection.
The Invention of the Relationship
I caught up with her at the station. The train was idling, as if it were waiting for something, a steam was clearing while friends and families were embracing: they were chatting, and crying, tears for loved ones leaving, and for others returning. I nearly lost myself in the crowd looking for her, worried that I missed her.
The train whistled, a warning that she would be leaving soon, I pushed through the crowd now with an anxious brutishness. She was sitting on a bench hugging her bag when I noticed her. From this distance it looked as if she were crying—I had hoped that I would have learned from my assumptions, but I am constantly taken back by my lack of intuition, for someone who has been wrong as often as I should likely have been right by now, even accidentally—she was laughing, and not at all surprised to see me, in fact, she was expecting me, and had been considering whether it would be more “fun” to watch me chase the train as it left or to wait, to witness, first hand, the look on my face as she walked away; she then stood, and left.
I sat on the bench at the station for a while and watched the sun slowly set in a distance, until the light had faded, and disappeared. I thought about the invention of the relationship, and couldn't escape thinking about what it is that really makes a relationship work, and what it means exactly to be in one--it’s not always better late than never.
I thought about expectations, and how easily they can direct and influence our relationships; the expectations that we accepted mutually and were capable of working on, those we tried to compromise on, as well as those that seem to separate us. It occurred to me that there are only so few of our expectations that we can communicate to one another, the rest are conditioned and latent such as the influence our parents relationships have on us, the general opinions we form subconsciously from our experiences, and those that develop, subtly as a result of our cultural, religious, or political affiliations. The only way to work through these is a willingness of continued sacrifice, and really getting to know and to feel comfortable with our significant other.
We find ourselves making the subconscious presumption that because we have been conditioned with certain, distinct expectations, everyone has. It almost seems too obvious to mention but we really do have to learn how to communicate to each other, as well as how to be as honest as possible while communicating; it's easy early in a relationship to want to say what you think the other person wants to hear, but don't do that; we did that, a lot of people do that. Be honest.
I remember several years back we were sitting on a bench in a park in the center of town, near a gazebo that we had carved a heart and our initials in one afternoon on impulse, and we laughed about it and held each other. We sat there talking about our future, and our dreams, and we revised them, a little, to include each other, and then we latched on to some common interest and we simply ignored everything else. It may seem too early on, when all you want to be is playful, to talk about how serious a relationship you are looking for: who you want to be, what you want to do, having kids, etc., but starting this conversation early just makes it that much easier to have later, as well as anything else that you might want to talk to about, and it’s OK for everything to change, no one should expect that conversation you had months ago in that relationship to bet set in stone, but continue to talk about it, and other things. When it came to that point, we didn't know how to talk to each other, simply because it wasn't something that we had developed. And, then we just forgot to know each other; I did realize this, and still I couldn't say anything, I just didn’t know how, we didn’t know, because had never developed it.
And then one morning, I woke up to a note left on the fridge, I ran to the train station to catch up to her, and have since been sitting alone on a bench watching a train disappear in the horizon. I would, every few minuets, quiet my thoughts thinking that I heard in the distance a train whistle. I sat silently for a while until I realized it was only my imagination. I think I tried to hard to grow with her. I had this idea that in order for us to work we needed to grow, closer, you know, to, essentially, become one, but, thinking about it now, it seems ridiculous to expect that. If I was going to expect anything at all I should expect us to grow independent of each other, not away from, not towards, just near. We should have grown independently, together, and shared that with one another.
One evening we were taking a walk through town talking about any number of things that we could fathom between here and there, and we disagreed about something, and you would have thought it was the end of our world, I felt compelled to apologize just because I thought differently. Having generally similar interests is not something that many people are thinking about, at least beyond having like interests. What I mean is that obviously having common ground is important—especially to her in this situation—nevertheless it isn't something we think about because it’s, just, a common understanding, having the right shared interest, but the thought is incomplete, you also need to have the right contrast—the right differences, as well. Everyone is familiar with the idea that opposites attract, but do we really consider what that actually means, though? Our differences are just as, if not more, important in a relationship than our similarities.
Firstly, it means there is still a degree of self, meaning we haven't spent this time slowly becoming the same person. And, secondly, we’ll have something important to continue to talk about. It is easier and more interesting to have a conversation with someone about something you think differently on than something you agree about. This is, after all, how we learn. And it might allow you to come to similar conclusions via different means, and how amazing is it that you can continue to learn about one another, even after having spent so much time together? Also, you can see how well you react to one another when you disagree. You will agree on some things, but not everything, and when you do disagree are you capable of being accepting of that. Can you discuss it without arguing?
Regardless, I've been sitting here for hours, the warm evening air has now turned cold and damp, a full moon distracts me from being...distracted. I'm still, however, just as confused now as I have always been, and even if I did have some profound moment of enlightenment it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference next time around, because the rules change. It's all general. I'll hope next time around that what I've learned: to try and communicate as well as possible as early as possible, to not assume that everyone thinks and reacts the exact same way I do, and realize that it probably isn't personal will help to make sense of our individual feelings. These relationships are something that we cherish, and will continue to cherish, they make a difference in our lives; when you don't have one you want one and when you have them sometimes you catch yourself questioning your sanity. You know you'll get hurt again, but we believe its worth it, or at least that this one will be different, and it will be, but, how?
I have written both music, and advice columns that covered a wide variety of topics, such as: relationships, communication, lifestyle, business, and life (coaching)