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Can we ensure sustainability? No. 1 - The Direction
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Friday, 29 June 2007
The most critical question for any organisation today is: "Can we operate in a sustainable way?"
And following close behind: "How do we know we're sustainable?" and "Can we prove it?"

First we have to define sustainability in a way that everyone agrees, otherwise we are leaving the door open to disputation and 'greenwash'.

There is only one way that I know to define it and that's to define an ideal world that we and our grandchildren's children would be happy to live in. This was the idea of Professor Emeritus Roger Kaufman (of Florida State University) in 1992.

Now you might ask, how will people ever agree on that! Well, fact is they do, most probably you do. How about: no war, no disease, no poverty (make poverty history), no accidents... And if you agree that you don't want to do anything that would contribute to those things, then how about adding: no pollution, no use of non-renewable resources, no loss of biodiversity... It's not so hard! We could sign up most of the world to that. And let's add a bit about people, their wellbeing, living out their potential, happy with what they're doing...

But wait a minute, isn't that too 'idealistic' - we're never going to get all that!
Maybe we never will, but let's aim for it, we'll get closer as we go.

If we are going to make this vision a reality (not greenwash) then everything in it must be measureable - and these things are. You can count wars, accidents, pollution (already happens), and you can survey people about happines (as in Nepal and elsewhere) and wellbeing (already done).

All of this adds up to what Kaufman called a "Minimum Ideal Vision". Accept that as your guiding star, add to any local flavour that fits for you (but doesn't contradict it) and you're started: you have a direction, you know where you're going.
(To be continued).
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posted by Dr Ron @ 13:42  
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