Capitalism opens up secrets to sustainability adoption

"Tell them it increases their earnings and decreases their expenses." That's how Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, recommended that management be pitched on eco solutions at the Corporate Eco Forum (around the 40:15 mark).

Or in the words of Bill Green, from VantagePoint Venture Partners:

“You really don’t want the chief sustainability officer, you want the chief financial officer,” he says. “We need to change this conversation around. The chief sustainability officer, man he’s your friend. He drinks the cool-aid, he wakes up in the morning, he reads your blog, he so gets this, he hates George Bush, it’s all good. That’s not going to get us to done.

“The chief financial officer wakes up and says ‘here, regardless of my personal view, my fiduciary responsibility is to earn money for company X. How does this work exactly?’


Over the last decades, great intentions from the sustainability movement have lost ground to worsening global conditions. Reading through the history of, and monitoring the sustainability movement, I'm really disappointed and frustrated by how much religion and group-think spiritualism is baked into the culture of sustainability. And even more so, how much lack there is of habitually mapping "sustie" goals into the business case. A lack of business acumen is endemic to the movement as a whole. Pitching the religion of sustainability won't work enough, because business has no religion. Pitching global warming as a science never had a chance, because science can be debated ad nauseum until it's so obvious that it's too late. And it's just too distant sounding to resonate with business. Even at the personal level, most people operate financially within a window of time of perhaps a few days to a few months.

So it was very refreshing to hear someone of stature divulge the guarded secret of success to sustainability; the emerald gem hidden in plain sight. Systemic thinking means finding more efficiencies, which means less waste, which means less costs. And generally it means a better system, which increases revenue. A better place to work means better employees, more productivity and less turn-over. Increase revenue, decrease costs. Duh!

With companies like Google adopting green options and recognizing huge ROI in relatively short periods, it's only a matter of time before competitive pressures drive others to do the same. And btw, don't all public companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits, lest they encounter shareholder agitation?

Disclosure: no positions