The folks who produced the first Earth Day knew what they were doing when they picked April 22 to celebrate. Perhaps they were inspired by the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” knowing April was the month when spring puts on a show of new life; reminding us of the precious, and at times, fragile nature of the earth, the health of our environment, and what’s possible if sustainability operates as a core value.
Some of us see managing our impact on the environment as an opportunity to demonstrate how responsible we are as individuals and corporate citizens, others see it as an opportunity to create new products and services that enable doing well and doing good at the same time.
It’s easy to see reducing our environmental footprint as a burden that limits our ability to do what we want where and when we want. Though a more enlightened way to think about protecting the planet may be to look to William McDonough (the author of Cradle to Cradle) for his wisdom:
We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?”
I can’t think of a more inspirational perspective than McDonough’s that encourages one to stand up, dive in, or step up to, and for sustainability. This commitment to creating the opportunities for abundant human creativity, culture, and productivity that delights is a spectacular operating environment.
In my new role as the Director of Work Better Programs for the design consultancy, OPX, I am working with my colleagues to build a community, a movement, of individuals and organizations invested in working better. Our Managing Partner, Steve, reminds us on a regular basis that our mission, we make good companies work better, is not a what, but a why. I spent the past fifteen years as the executive director of Greenspace, a nonprofit focused on making real estate, economic, and community development sustainable. Sustainability was my why, too, not my what. In my role at Greenspace, and now, at OPX, we want to focus on facilitating and supporting powerful results for the folks with whom we work and for whom we exist. In both sustainability and working better, an investment in providing the connective tissue necessary for successful inspiration, integration, implementation, and ideation is essential to deliver these aspirational outcomes.
Steve often remarks that almost all organizations could benefit from having a Chief Integration Officer. An individual or a team who is responsible for ongoing facilitation and support of changes that the organization goes through. Sustainability can be a powerful tool to establish connections between human and natural systems. One that celebrates creativity, culture, and productivity. It can be a critical component of working better, smarter, and, if done right, can produce abundance and delight.
We have seen our clients thrive when we can support them by bridging the gaps between leadership and employees through transparency, clear communications, and support for those essential changes that are a part of conducting business. It is a robust work culture that integrates sustainability into the fabric of working better. Those organizations who embed sustainability into their organization’s values, operations, and decision making are the ones that more easily enrich the health, vitality, beauty, and abundance of their organizations, our environment, and our lives.