Business Brains

The subversive side of sustainability. Or, why it may be less important to measure and more important to 'do'

Posting in Design

Got a chuckle out of this interview over at GreenerBiz.com with John R. Ehrenfeld, the author of "Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for ...

Got a chuckle out of this interview over at GreenerBiz.com with John R. Ehrenfeld, the author of "Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture." Not because the ideas within are ridiculous, but because they cut very close to the truth of the matter.

The basic premise of the comments (and Ehrenfeld's book) is that many businesses get too hung up on measuring the results of their various sustainability and green/environmental efforts, which can sometimes paralyze true progress. What you really measure, after all, is efforts to reduce unsustainability. What companies SHOULD encourage is far more profound and also far more subtle and that is a change in corporate culture and also consumer culture -- something that must be led by top management or, at the very least, someone very well-respected within the company.

Personally, I think another reason that sustainability efforts need to be somewhat sneaky is that so many skeptics discount the true impact because they think it's the fad du jour. Yet, if you adjust some operational problem that also happens to improve your company's sustainability stance, everyone winds up happy.

Similarly, many consumers are beginning to rethink brands. How many of you have thought twice before buying your traditional laundry detergent as opposed to one that was labeled as "green." But how many of you would also prefer just to buy the brand you like best and not worry about sustainability issues at all? I thought so. Done right, sustainability should be a core belief, not an afterthought or promotional gimic.

What weight does sustainability carry in your own company?

A preview of the complete book can be found here.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure