Seeding the Sustainability Revolution
What if people, businesses and organizations got more appreciation for laying the groundwork of something incredible than they got solely or mainly for creating dramatic end results or products? To a degree, and especially in sustainability and social entrepreneurship circles, we should be living in that world now. Smaller businesses and nonprofits are doing incredible things that are absolutely seeding a huge revolution, and now is when we need to celebrate their building momentum – especially since it must continue.
In the past few months alone and just in my own small circles, I’ve gotten to know the people behind startup endeavors that are creating templates and building scalability for more effectively “greening” existing home stock (Green Canopy Homes), for developing more female social entrepreneurship angel investors (Pipeline Fellowship), and for helping put urban rooftops to use in hyperlocal, hydroponic agriculture (Urban Harvest).
Their “deliverables” are not single-use products or just-for-fun smartphone apps. Rather, the innovations of these companies are truly seeding the sustainability revolution. The entrepreneurs behind these ideas – and the many others you know of in your own communities – are quietly doing incredibly time and resource consuming research, development and partnering that will not only lead to strong businesses, but also lead to huge change for their respective industries and the world. And, while the particular examples I’ve cited here may garner some quiet recognition along the way, such notice probably won’t ever equal the potential their sustainable developments hold.
It is often said that sustainability is a journey. And, that may challenge the notion of what typically motivates an entrepreneurial mind and ego. First – today’s innovations will likely not reach their full potential for sustainability until some future generation. So, there’s no immediate recognition. Two – while some of these journeys start with what seems to be a single person’s own brilliant idea, the truth is that some unnamed person or group likely did related and significant foundational work over previous decades or generations. This journey is a continuum, which makes it very difficult to lay a static claim.
Sustainable business journeys don’t have an obvious beginning, nor do they have an absolute end. The paths businesses tread are complex, long – and dynamic. Such ventures will always involve many hands, hearts and minds across the generations. So, can that be OK? Is laying some foundational work enough to keep today’s entrepreneurial minds motivated, moving forward to address the important sustainability and social change problems that need their help? Here’s hoping.
Consider Ray C. Anderson, the founder of the pioneering sustainable textile manufacturer, Interface. That company’s success in making such an impenetrably toxic industry greener and more sustainable has been a relatively quiet one, developing small step by small step into what is still a continuing journey. But, the reverberations of what Anderson and Interface started in the mid-1990s are nowhere near quieting. Only history will show the astounding effect of the sustainability seeds they have planted.
Perhaps the self-help cliche gets this right: The sustainability change begins with each of us.
Whether or not your organization gets the recognition it already deserves for seeding this revolution, and as with Interface, history will prove undeniable even your small part in creating a more sustainable future. Rest assured.