How it IS not how it WAS, or how you thought it was…

“When it comes to epidemics of disease, financial crises, political revolutions, social movements, and dangerous ideas, we are all connected by short chains of influence. It doesn’t matter if you know about them, and it doesn’t matter if you care, they will have their effect anyway. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand the first great lesson of the connected age: we may all have our own burdens, but like it or not, we must bear each other’s burdens as well”

Duncan Watts, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age

When I have the time I hope to sit down and prepare a presentation based around how a “post critical society” may look but I suspect it will frighten a lot of people and cast me as some kind of prophet of doom. That really isn’t me!

But I can see how we might arrive there unless people (you and me) start taking responsibility.

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Sustainability and the Supply Chain

Prof Richard Wilding from Cranfield School of Management, delivers a well timed reminder of the type of considerations that Companies NEED to weigh up in this modernity. The relentless pursuit of profit, without consideration for impact upon other, interdependent, domains within our Global ecosystem has been the norm.

But at last the message is being adopted by some of the largest global corporations and, through their own supply chains, they are ensuring that their “brand credentials” match their customer aspirations.

Greenwashing – companies that claim “green credentials” to aid sales – should be as unacceptable as use of child labour or other activities that exploit valuable resources for profit.

It is very interesting that Prof Wilding talks about biodiversity at a really personal level and “builds” to Corporate level. I can’t help but draw the comparison with Fractals  – the work of Benoit Mandelbrot identifying the recurrence of, apparently random, irregular patterns in nature – and Power Law distributions – a power law is a relationship in which one quantity A is proportional to another B taken to some power n. Power laws emerge naturally in systems that are decidedly not in equilibrium e.g. the Earth’s crust or the Internet, which evolve perpetually and never settle into an unchanging state.


Sustainability: recognising ecosystem interdependence

Prof Wilding refers to a recent TEEB report that I highlighted in a blog item, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, in November. A copy of the report can be downloaded from there.

Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity

To demonstrate the inter-connectedness that occurs at just about every level of our existence and to understand what Einstein meant (below) please “take 5” for this presentation.

“I wouldn’t give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”                                                                             Albert Einstein

Reducing complexity: Looking at the “big picture” – the macro or system view – makes it easier to deal with the small problems – to micro manage. Read more of this post

Nature’s 10 Simple Rules for Business Survival

The helix of sustainability - minimum environm...

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Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S published an excellent book last year: Strategy for Sustainability – Building sustainable businesses in turbulent times.

Like every significant business change it needs to come from within (inside to out) to ensure that it doesn’t just sound like “just another short-lived management initiative”! So forget “top down” and embrace “bottom up” to ensure employee engagement. This is the route to delivering and maintaining competitive advantage through sustainable stakeholder value including your supply chain.

“In the emerging fields of biomechanics and biomimicry, scientists are decoding rules that can help form businesses as hardy and long lasting as a forest. After all, nature is far harsher than the market: If you are not sustainable, you die. No second chances and no bailouts. Businesses that are capable of dealing with the challenges of a changing world will be better able to respond and to lead”.

1. Diversify across generations.

2. Adapt to the changing environment — and specialize.

3. Celebrate transparency. Every species knows which species will eat it and which will not.

4. Plan and execute systematically, not compartmentally. Every part of a plant contributes to its growth.

5. Form groups and protect the young. Most animals travel in flocks, gaggles, and prides. Packs offer strength and efficacy.

6. Integrate metrics. Nature brings the right information to the right place at the right time. When a tree needs water, the leaves curl; when there is rain, the curled leaves move more water to the root system.

7. Improve with each cycle. Evolution is a strategy for long-term survival.

8. Right-size regularly, rather than downsize occasionally. If an organism grows too big to support itself, it collapses; if it withers, it is eaten.

9. Foster longevity, not immediate gratification. Nature does not buy on credit and uses resources only to the level that they can be renewed.

10. Waste nothing, recycle everything. Some of the greatest opportunities in the 21st century will be turning waste — including inefficiency and underutilization — into profit.”

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