• Hope through Social Innovation

    Jun 1 • Greg Balestrero, Social • 2487 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 • 2593 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 • 34142 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 • 2902 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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