• The World Today (and My Own Frustrations)

    Jun 8 • Economic • 1769 Views

    According to UN projections, 2050 will dawn with over 9.5 billion people on the planet. The very good news about that situation is that prosperity is pulling more people out of poverty than ever before in man’s history. This means that nearly 40% of the 2050 population will be in emerging middle classes around the globe. Again, to put that into numbers, the middle classes in the world will reach nearly 4 billion people, versus 1.2 billion today.

    This outcome from prosperity means that 4 billion people will have the expectation of receiving many of the same things that the middle classes of today receive: cars, smartphones, flat screen TVs, more clothes, food selections, and more. This will translate to a dramatic increase in consumption, with the greatest growth in consumption in the ASEAN countries.

    Too, mankind has already reached a new “first” in its history. For the first time, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. In fact, the projection is that the emerging middle classes will continue to be a primary demographic of urban population, with people pouring into the cities, seeking the necessary opportunity of prosperity that the middle classes desire. Most futurists say that the cities of 2050 have not been built yet, and yet they must be built to accommodate this human flow rate, with the necessary infrastructure, support, and jobs to continue to build this burgeoning middle class.

    The bad news is that many planetary-watch organizations predict that planet Earth is not capable of providing the necessary resources to meet this demand. This is what I would call a “planetary crisis.” We have already reached the capacity level for food, water, and energy and production capacity. The great cities of today, particularly in the ASEAN countries, are bulging with capacity and overburdening the infrastructure of the cities. And many companies are beginning to realize that the unlimited supplies of raw materials that existed in the last century don’t exist now, and clearly won’t exist in the future.

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  • Déjà Vu All Over Again

    Jun 5 • Environmental • 1418 Views

    The Limits to Growth was written in 1972 by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. The four were systems specialists at MIT who were studying the impact between earth’s systems and human systems. In short, they were looking at demand and consumption and waste, versus supply and regeneration.

    18 Years to Go

    “In 1972, researchers at MIT released the seminal — and frightening, and controversial — report, Limits to Growth, predicting a catastrophic collapse in 2030, followed by decades of slow decline. The basic gist: if we continued to consume non-renewable resources at our usual pace, then sometime in the mid-21st century we’d experience an economic crash followed by rapid population decline. While some greeted this wake-up call as the nerdy version of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, many prominent economists excoriated the report’s methodology and findings.

    Now, 40 years later, Australian physicist Graham Turner has looked back at some of their data. Comparing actual results against the MIT team’s computer modeling, he looked at rates of industrial output, pollution, natural resources, and population growth, among other measures from 1970 to 2000. This alarming chart in Smithsonian shows that, for that thirty-year span, the MIT team’s projections were almost spot-on.”

    Excerpt from Morning Advantage, April 9, 2012; Harvard Business Review

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  • Hope through Social Innovation

    Jun 1 • Greg Balestrero, Social • 1482 Views

    Last year, I attended the Quality in Sustainability Conference in Anaheim, California. The conference was part of the World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI), sponsored by the American Society for Quality (ASQ). The conferences were great, and I met some wonderful people who believe in sustainability and the need for organizations to step up and take the lead in solving many global problems.

    However, I was really struck by one individual—another “hope builder”—by the name of Majora Carter. Majora is the entrepreneur who coined the phrase “Greening the Ghetto.”  She was the driver behind the initiative Sustainable South Bronx, which turned around a devastated area of Bronx, New York into a thriving community (www.ssbx.org). Go check this out. It is a demonstration of how vision, belief, a sense of real community, and creation of green collar jobs can breed incredible success. She essentially went back to her roots, said “I can change this area and make it thrive,” and created a miracle. Check out her speeches on TED. You will quickly see why Majora is so special.

    So, I had the unique opportunity to have breakfast with her, along with a few others whose belief in a sustainable future is part of their DNA. For those of us at the breakfast table, we all considered Majora the star because of how well-regarded and recognized she is. In fact, you could say I was a little giddy to meet her. Just to be sure you don’t think I am a bit off on my hormones, let me tell you about her.  She received a Liberty Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the New York Post, was described as “The Green Power Broker” by the New York Times, and named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine in 2010.  Okay,can you see why I was giddy?

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  • What Hope Looks Like

    May 30 • Social • 1444 Views

    True story time…

    One of my friends, Robert, was helping a colleague, Jim, through a very difficult time in his life due to loss of work and looming financial challenges ahead. Jim was consumed with the difficulty in his life, wrapped up in a very small world of grief, and his daily calls to Robert were filled with monologues of “Why me?”

    Robert decided that he would ask Jim to do something different.  He said, “Jim, to get you over the hump in this period in your life, do me a favor; spend the next two days walking around and observing everything around you and just look for hope. Then come back to me in a couple of days and let me know what hope looks like.” Jim’s first reaction was that Robert had, well, gone over the edge. However, long-term respect for one another made Jim go out and try it.

    I am sure that you can figure out the result. Within a few days, Jim had seen hope all around him—individuals faced with the same dilemma, acting and working on clear solutions. They “dropped the rocks” in their backpacks and started to pick up the pace of working on solutions—lots of them. Jim began working on his own solutions, one day at a time, one step at a time. It was a fabulous example to me.

    I use this often in my own life and with my own challenges, sustainability being one of the big ones. It could be easy to say that the glass is half empty and we will never fill it, so why try?—or we can see how many people around us are making small steps that are making a big difference. Let me tell you about someone I met recently who fits the “hope” model.

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  • Are We at a Tipping Point?

    May 25 • Featured II, Social • 33030 Views

    I am a Malcolm Gladwell fan. I have read all of his books, and one of his best is The Tipping Point. He usesthe book as a premise to describe a variety of disparate activities which have one thing in common: There comes a point in development where a critical mass is reached and all related activities accelerate toward a desired (or unintended!) consequence. The way he describes it on his website is:

    “It’s that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics.”

    This principle works in socioeconomic situations, scientific and medical realms, and in business. For me, I am still asking the question: Are we finally reaching a tipping point for organizations to embrace sustainable operations, where it will spread like an “infectious social disease” across the globe?

    I wish I were clairvoyant. I could look ahead and know for a fact. There is as much information saying we are, as there is saying we are not. For example, I just read a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group for MIT, called “Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point.” It was published in the Winter 2012 issue of MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW. The article focuses on the results of an annual survey conducted by BCG to 4000 executives, plus additional academics and SMEs from a variety of industrial sectors around the world. Those surveyed were asked about sustainability activities of their companies.  The results of the survey were presented at the World Economic Forum in 2011.

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  • It Is About Trust… About PUBLIC Trust!

    May 9 • Ethical • 1945 Views

    Okay, so why do I bring up trust at this juncture. Well, I believe that organizational sustainability is about being trusted by your stakeholders…that is, do people trust you will do the right thing; that you will bring forward products and services of value to the community; that you will react appropriately and quickly when you make a mistake; will you keep your brand promises over the long haul; and finally, will can investors, buyers, customers, and employees be “proud” to be associated with the organization.

    Now that seems like a big deal, and maybe a lot to ask a company. Most companies think that a good quality product, brought forward at the right price and at the right time should be all that is necessary to sustain growth and markets share.  As they say on the televised game JEOPARDY: WRONG ANSWER! From what I have seen, there is a latent expectation that companies will do the right thing, and quickly, to stay in business.

    Let me give you a great example. Many of you may not remember, but in 1982, there was a tremendous crisis that took place with Extra-Strength Tylenol®, manufactured and distributed by Tylenol. There was an apparent tampering and contamination with cyanide of several bottles of Tylenol. People died from the contamination. Overnight, Tylenol became a dreaded weapon of death. But what made this a remarkable case is that CEO James Burke immediately recalled and pulled off the shelf all bottles of ES Tylenol in inventories throughout the world, at a cost of $100 million. It also ceased production of all ES Tylenol worldwide. The justification of the action was simple: Burke had referred to the credo written by the Robert Johnson, in 1943, and knew exactly what to do:

    “We believe our first responsibility is to doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers, and fathers, and to all others who use our products and services.”


    It was painful. They went from 35% market share, to 8% before the year was up. Continue Reading

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