Sustainability as a Profession

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a group of college students regarding sustainability. They had a list of questions that were centered around career opportunities. Such as, what kind of jobs are available, what kind of education and experience are required and will sustainability persist or will it fade away?

It occurred to me during the conversation that these were the same questions I have been asked by companies and organizations. I told the students that many of the companies they were looking to go to work with were asking the same type of questions.

I gave an example of a company that recently directed two recruiters to me. They had told the recruiters to ask me what type of person would be needed to fill the positions and to see if I knew of any viable candidates.

I thought this was a little strange. They didn’t ask me if I was interested in the positions, but they wanted me to help them understand the requirements and find people. Wasn’t I good enough to work for the company in one of the roles? But my favorite call so far has been the one where the recruiter called and told me that she had been hired to fill a Sr. Sustainability Director position. She wanted to know if I could tell her what that was. Continue reading

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Externalities and Sustainability

If you haven’t gotten your April issue of the Harvard Business Review, then go to your local news stand or book store and pick it up! Christopher Meyer and Julia Kirby have done an excellent job of presenting an article on corporate responsibility that is based on business strategy that even the toughest business leader can appreciate.

The title of their article is “Leadership in the Age of Transparency“, not one mention of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, philanthropy or green. They cut straight to the point, “Leadership”, the place where organizations want their brand! How many times have you sat through a corporate meeting and heard “We will position ourselves as the leader withing our industry.” Continue reading

The End of Sustainability? Part II

Thank you for all of the comments and emails. It seems that my last post, The End of Sustainability, contained something that many of you could relate with and have experienced in your careers. A good many of you wanted to know more. I was asked, “You only listed a few examples, could you give more examples of areas where I can look within my company?”

So, in this post we’ll go over a few and point you to other resources that you can use to help you spread sustainability throughout your organization.

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The End of Sustainability?

I was asked recently if this sustainability movement was over. I have to admit I was puzzled by the question. I asked my friend what he meant? He said, “You know, the leaked climate change emails, the Copenhagen meltdown,the head of the U.N. Climate Chief resigned, and BP, Caterpillar and ConocoPhillips not renewing their memberships in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. With all this bad news doesn’t that make you think that this sustainability thing has ran its course?”

That’s when it hit me. He thinks sustainability is only about climate change!

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Micro vs Macro Sustainability

Remember the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? That expression came to mind this past week during a discussion on sustainability.

I was having lunch with a colleague and she was saying that the Triple Bottom line should be described as “Profit, People and Planet”. I mentioned that it was most commonly referred to as “People, Planet and Profits”.

She said that we were saying the same thing, that it was just semantics and moved on to another topic. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I didn’t think we were really discussing semantics. Continue reading

What is Biomimicry?

I was in a meeting recently and one of the designers in the room said “I think we should use the newest approach to design, biomimicry.” I almost fell out of my chair. “Newest approach?” This approach isn’t new. Da Vinci studied birds in flight to better understand how man could fly.

I didn’t say anything, and trust me, that took great restraint.  I caught myself and realized that with all of the recent “green” and “sustainability” buzz going around some people were just now getting exposed to this and other sustainable development concepts.

Which brings us to today’s blog, “What is Biomimicry?”.

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Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson

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In 1994, Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson set an audacious goal for his commercial carpet company: to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth. Now, in the most inspiring business book of our time, Anderson leads the way forward and challenges all of industry to share that goal.

The Interface story is a compelling one: In 1994, making carpets was a toxic, petroleum-based process, releasing immense amounts of air and water pollution and creating tons of waste. Continue reading