Climbing Mt. Sustainability: Doing Well by Doing Good in the New Ecology of Business

With Ray Anderson.

“We expect by the year 2020 to operate our petro-intensive company in such a way as to take from the Earth only that which the Earth can renew rapidly and naturally. Not another fresh drop of oil, and to do no harm to the biosphere. Zero footprint by 2020 – mission zero.”

Paul Hawken’s 1994 book The Ecology of Commerce, presented a sobering calculation of the radical decline of Earth’s life-support systems. It pointed above all to an industrial system that has thrived financially while plundering the planet and degrading society, an industrial system where “making a killing” is the measure of success is killing the planet. As such, Hawken concluded, business must take a lead in transforming its industrial practices to actually ENHANCE and restore the wellbeing of the environment and society.

A handful of global business leaders has been blazing trails to a biologically based “eco-nomics.” They are fundamentally recalculating core assumptions to allow business to make a fine living without killing the planet.

These visionary leaders are fast becoming models of sustainability, in no small part because they’ve shown dramatic benefits for their bottom lines. They may just change the course of commerce and ecology.

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