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Author: daHotTOMATO Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 1656  
Subject: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 4/30/2002 4:29 AM
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Natural Capitalism thread (short but has a good link)

http://boards.fool.co.uk/Message.asp?mid=7111790

The World We're In (good thread among much repetitive noise about Israel/Palestine)

http://boards.fool.co.uk/Message.asp?mid=7118382


But if any of you can get copies of NewScientist there's a series of articles running for this week and the next three entitled "Time to Rethink Everything, The Great Globalisation Debate" with an interesting piece from George Soros titled The Trouble with Trade from his recent book George Soros on Globalisation.

Sustainable Business is a buzz word, a sound bite and essentially meaningless IMO.

I mean to say what is a 'Sustainable Business'?
Is it one that can stay in business, thus sustaining its existence?
Is it one that cares about the environment and environemental issues?
Is it one that uses as little energy as possible in its day to day running?
Or is it a business that takes its roles and responsibilities within the community within which it operates as equally important as the bottom line; making money?

For me this latter option is how I currently would define sustainable business. The roles and responsibilites towards its community are social, economic and environmental. The community within it operates might be the local town or indeed global.

But for sustainable business to remain sustainable they must also stay in business, but rather than a company's single mission being to deliver shareholder value, the primary goal should be significantly less selfish and ignorant of others.

Regards
the
hot|Tomato
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Author: Inahaze One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1641 of 1656
Subject: Re: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 5/13/2002 9:00 PM
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Or is it a business that takes its roles and responsibilities within the community within which it operates as equally important as the bottom line; making money?

Thorny issue, this. One I've wrangled with personally and when trying to convince others that business can indeed "walk lightly" on the Earth.

I like your definition because it hits at the heart of what has become something of a conundrum: in order to do good, a business needs to do well; in doing well, however, doing good seems so easily subordinated to increasing the "well." At some point--perhaps when it has grown beyond the point where the individuals with similar ideals can no longer hold onto the reins? or when it is swallowed up by some Wall Street deathstar?--all sight seems to get lost of what was once an important part of why the business was founded. (For example, what's up with Sears and Land's End? Am I being naive in thinking that a genuinely upstanding company has buckled under?)

I bring this up because I continually find myself banging my head up against this seeming incompatibility between capitalism and enlightened business. Am I simply too lazy (or overwhelmed) to delve sufficiently deeply into industries and companies to determine if what they really do is the same as what they say they do)? Or--and this I suspect is closer to the truth--am I too afraid of what I may find. My tendency toward the cynical doesn't leave me with a lot of hope that I will find that tangent where the well-meaning grazes the well-to-do.

Thanks for bringing this up.

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Author: DeadheadFool Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1642 of 1656
Subject: Re: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 5/14/2002 11:12 AM
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Here are the defintions I am working with:

Definitions of Sustainability

Natural Step – Non-profit organization
http://www.naturalstep.org/

4 System Conditions:

1. Nature's functions and diversity are not systematically subject to increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust.
2. Nature's functions and diversity are not systematically subject to increasing concentrations of substances produced by society.
3. Nature's functions and diversity are not systematically impoverished by overharvesting or other forms of ecosystem manipulation.
4. Resources are used fairly and efficiently in order to meet basic human needs worldwide.

Natural Capitalism – Book by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins & Hunter Lovins
http://www.naturalstep.org/

4 Central Strategies:

1. Radical Resource Productivity
2. Biomimicry
3. Service and Flow Economy
4. Investing in Natural Capital

Cradle to Cradle – Book by William McDonough & Michael Braungart
http://www.mbdc.com/

5 Steps to Eco-Effectiveness:

1. Get “free of” known culprits
2. Follow informed personal preferences
a. Prefer ecological intelligence
b. Prefer respect
c. Prefer delight, celebration and fun
3. Create a “passive positive” list
a. The X list
b. The gray list
c. The P list (positive list)
4. Activate the positive list
5. Reinvent

5 Guiding Principles

1. Signal your intention
2. Restore
3. Be ready to innovate further
4. Understand and prepare for the learning curve
5. Exert intergenerational responsibility


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Author: DeadheadFool Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1643 of 1656
Subject: Re: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 5/14/2002 11:17 AM
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At some point--perhaps when it has grown beyond the point where the individuals with similar ideals can no longer hold onto the reins? or when it is swallowed up by some Wall Street deathstar?--all sight seems to get lost of what was once an important part of why the business was founded. (For example, what's up with Sears and Land's End? Am I being naive in thinking that a genuinely upstanding company has buckled under?)


Actually, I was pleasantly surprised recently when I heard the former CEO of Odwalla speaking about their takeover by Coke last fall. Coke has not touched the culture that Odwalla had established, and has in fact invested more money in their manufacturing processes and plans to role out an organic product line soon. Yes, Coke is going to sell an organic juice! I think that's awesome!! So Coke bought a company that they saw value in as it was being run. Not to change it and assimilate it. Yes, they still sell expensive sugar water as their main product, but it's a step in the right direction IMO.

Chris

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Author: Inahaze One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1645 of 1656
Subject: Re: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 5/14/2002 12:16 PM
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So Coke bought a company that they saw value in as it was being run. Not to change it and assimilate it. Yes, they still sell expensive sugar water as their main product, but it's a step in the right direction IMO,

Absolutely, assuming it continues that way. My cynicism comes in part from first-hand experience at Little, Brown, the independent publisher that, at 150+ years old, was purchased by TimeWarner (pre AOL), with the explicit intent of not altering L,B's approach to acquisitions, etc.; maintaining the company's Boston-based presence; and not trying to wring $$$ out of a notoriously low-margin industry. I began working at L,B a couple of years later, by which time the entertainment elements of TW were driving corporate policy and "synergy" was on everyone's lips--and in the understanding of very few. By the time I left (1994),sales & marketing for all of L,B had been moved to New York, as had the trade editorial functions. Soon thereafter, L,B's sales/mktg div was all but subsumed by Warner Books, the only book division of TW that fits the high-margin requirements of movies, television, pop music, magazine publishing. As of last month, all but L,B's back-office has been moved to NY.

Coke may have no intention of doing this with Odwalla--indeed, may never do so--but management changes, those with enlightened attitudes move along and are replaced by clueless number-crunchers. (Imagine that the person with final say on book acquisitions seldom reads anything that does not come formatted as a spreadsheet and you get the idea--also a big part of my reason for leaving and starting my own business.)

I will be first to praise TW for the good it did for what had become a stodgy, hidebound publisher. Ultimately, however, L,B was re-created in TW's pop-culture image and shows very little improvement in the venerable publisher's bottom line to pay for the tremendous erosion in respect and good will it has undergone. With a company like Coke, the potential for doing good is enormous--then there's that flip side.

I will admit that my generally grumpy attitude vis a vis Coca Cola is now a bit less critical, thanks to your info. Thanks!

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Author: daHotTOMATO Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1646 of 1656
Subject: Re: What is a Sustainable Business? Date: 5/14/2002 1:19 PM
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Many years back there used to be a TV show in the UK where this 'business guru' (read 'accountant' and I cannot remember his name for the life of me) would go around companies in the UK and give them a health check. His tactic was to go in and look for savings, streamlining, better ways to do things and generally to increase the revenue of those companies getting the treatment.

Indeed he could show how to raise their revenues for the next couple of years but it was obvious from the programmes that not only did he did not give a toss about the long term prospects of the companies he went to see, but also that the raised revenues were unsustainable. Of course many of the companies that he gave this treatment to did suffer for the guru's advice several years on.

Fortunately one company saw straight through the bull and told him so. This company, a car manufacturer, had always used a labour intensive approach to handmaking their cars. They had (and still do I think) a waiting list of a couple years for orders, which this 'guru' wanted to realise sooner to maximise the profits. His idea was to automate the process, outsource some elements and generally do things in a more streamlined manner.

Well none of the advice was taken on board as the MD turned around and pointed out that in fact the whole raison d'etre of the company was based on its exclusivity and well known crafted manufacturing technique. This was the reason why there was a waiting list in the first place. Sure, they could have cashed in on their waiting list and realised a few years extra profits, but I'm pretty confident they would have struggled to maintain their unique character and market position.

The company was Morgan, one of the very last surviving UK car manufacturers.

Regards
the
hot|Tomato

PS - The Economy of Nature arrives tomorrow, so I shall look forward to having a perusal and report back here.


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