Category Archives: Sustainability

Poignant Dreams of Produce Gone By

Tomatoes from GardenIn many ways, I had an idyllic up-bringing.  My parents loved each other, my brothers and sisters were (mostly) fun to be around, and my grandparents were retired farmers.  You would think that what your grandparents did for a living before they retired would have very little bearing on your life.  But when that occupation is farming, well… There’s really no such thing as a retired farmer. Continue reading

The Dark Side of Process Automation (Part 1)

Robot FactoryMy avocation is process efficiency.  I spend my time helping businesses come up with ways to do things smarter, faster, better.  My teams think it a big success to decrease the time it takes to do something by 50% or more.  Yet… I’m concerned about how all this efficiency, including automation and “right-sourcing”, are affecting the long-term prospects for human employment. Continue reading

It’s Okay That the Corporation Has No Soul…

Man Facing the SunIt’s a well known maxim – “the corporation has no soul”.  I believe that with my whole heart.  People have souls, enterprises don’t.  Sometimes, the culture of an organization allows the collective souls of its employees to set a shining example, but those efforts are still led by feeling, thinking humans.

There are lots of reasons for business to exist, but the overwhelming and primary reason is to make money.  And… if a corporation focuses on that goal without wavering, they will do a lot of good along the way.

Most of us understand the basics of the enterprise.  Every business in the world – from Campbell to Planters – has followed one script… Continue reading

How to Justify Your Sustainability Program

Rooftop GardenI’m regularly surprised by questions about how to justify a sustainability program.  It’s an easy answer.  It takes time and money to run a sustainability initiative and you justify it in the same way you justify ANY company expense.

Business “value” is quantified in just a few ways.  Revenue and current cost savings are considered hard value.  Productivity gains and cost avoidance are soft value.  Goodwill and reputation value are even softer still.

Hard Value.  Discussions of hard value are easy.  Continue reading

“Bee” The Change You Want to See

Bee with Clover

My grandfather kept bees.  By the time I was a child, they had sold the farm and moved to a 2-acre parcel where my grandmother kept a kitchen garden and my grandfather kept bees.

A few years ago, when we started hearing about colony collapse disorder, I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather’s bees.  I wondered vaguely if the problem might be coming from the industrialization of beekeeping operations.  Maybe the variety of backyard beekeeping made for happier bees.  There is a remarkable small company in Oregon – Bee Thinking – whose owners must have wondered the same thing.

Continue reading

The Speed of Knowledge

Genetic Code June 2013In 1987, the US Department of Energy announced a 15-year project to map the human genome, with a projected start date of 1990.  By 2000, scientists working on the project submitted a draft of the human genome, and submitted the final fully-mapped genome by April of 2003.

Yesterday, Eric Lander spoke about the project at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, illuminating the stunning progress that has been made in the decade that has passed since we completed the first map of a single human being’s genome.

That’s what I want to write about here.  Not just the progress of this particular scientific achievement, but the exponential speed of progress when a community is focused on a goal.  And the economics society experiences as products and services move from invention to mass production. Continue reading