Breathing New Life Into the Sustainability Movement

The sustainability movement has led to amazing innovations, new green industries, and competitive advantage for businesses that truly shift their strategies, as opposed to engage in greening their public relations efforts.  Unfortunately, the depth of our societal investment in sustainability is falling far short of what’s really needed.  Do we need a more compelling vision and stronger motivation than the “defensive mindset” that seeks to do less harm?  

Flourishing, defined as thriving, being in a vigorous state, and prospering, potentially offers a more attractive pull towards feeling fully alive.  Flourishing involves being awake to our own life’s purpose, and experiencing connection with others and nature in a way that evokes feelings of love, serenity, and inspiration.  It is a way of being that we have joyfully tasted, written poetry about, aspire to, but easily forget while carrying out our day to day responsibilities in our “business as usual” world of work. 

Our Fellows team inquiry led us to conclude that for the planet to flourish, we must have business flourish, and for business to flourish we must have individuals flourish.  For this to occur, we need business leaders who care about the whole human being, not just the economic human being.  Can you imagine if your CEO insisted that every weekly meeting began with an authentic check in on the team’s individual well-being and vitality?  What if your company values were deeply embraced as the foundation of your financial performance?  What if every business mission was directed at flourishing as an agent of world benefit?  

These ideas, from small to gigantic, are within the grasp of the human being who declares these changes are not merely possible, but non-negotiable.  And, it will take a different kind of work to flourish in this way.

Only by connecting to a more meaningful way of being can we build the necessary foundations for caring, thinking, acting, and innovating in ways that enable us to flourish as individuals, a business, society, and the planet at the same time. Our consciousness must expand from taking care of our own, to owning the care of everything.  Our opportunity is to truly experience our interconnectedness and shared purpose.  Then we will naturally and joyfully engage in intentional actions that incorporate a sense of responsibility to others and future generations. 

Business leaders, who can embody this commitment to flourishing at every level, will find themselves with passionately engaged and creative people.  They will expand beyond the limited paradigms of externally driven incentive programs and performance management systems.  They will tap into something more profound and powerful.  They will unleash the human spirit that longs to flourish and contribute.

So, if we thought the work of sustainability began with the environment, we may want to consider that it must begin again – within the human heart that needs to be reawakened. Perhaps spirituality, more powerfully embraced in its infinite forms by every culture in its own way, may be what’s been missing.  And, just perhaps, business leaders who care about building long term, meaningful success for everyone, are the best people to lead the way.

Posted by Paul Werder

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