[Ok-sus] Redefining the 3 R's

Eric Pollard ewpollard at gmail.com
Tue Oct 9 15:47:09 CDT 2012

 Published on *Sustainable Industries* (http://www.sustainableindustries.com

Redefining the 3 R's
By Vince Siciliano, President and CEO, New Resource Bank
Created *Sep 13 2012 - 12:12pm*

Every sustainable business knows the three R’s mantra: reduce, reuse,
recycle. I’ve been thinking and speaking about building on that successful
shorthand for conservation principles by suggesting a new version of the
three R’s that distills larger ideas about sustainability: rethink,
rebuild, renew.  With this mantra, we can focus our thinking on the
systemic changes needed to create a truly sustainable society.

*Rethink *

True sustainability requires rethinking the assumptions and processes that
drive our economy. These include:

Linear design, which results in products that deplete resources in their
creation and end their lives in landfill. Rethinking this approach means
embracing cradle-to-cradle design, which requires a complete lifecycle
approach to making products and ensuring that their parts can be reused or
disposed of harmlessly, so that everything is in a continuous flow of use
and reuse.

Unlimited competition, which can lead to social Darwinism and encourage
individuals to define their self-worth based on personal achievements and
the approval of others. This, in turn, leads to excessive self-interest and
a lack of social responsibility. The end result is a fragmented society
whose members suffer from isolation, fear, and anxiety. In this situation,
community support structures are weak and the frontier ethic rules. A
different world is possible: what if instead we measured personal success
by how much good we do for our community?

Endless growth as the measure of economic success, which results in
unsustainable consumption and has failed to solve the problems of poverty
and unequal access to opportunity. What’s the alternative? We need to
connect the workplace and its outputs to the goals of strengthening
communities and enabling everyone to lead a wholesome, integrated life with
access to human essentials such as food, health, housing, and education.

Business practices that would help us make this connection include:

   - Expanding our accounting system to more completely account for all
   costs and benefits—for example, the costs of air and water pollution or the
   benefits of paid employee volunteer time. We need to stop ignoring
   businesses’ impact, both positive and negative, on communities and the
   - Accounting on our balance sheets for the value of employees and other
   important intangibles that are an essential part of a company’s value.
   - Encouraging businesses to address the triple bottom line in their
   annual shareholder reports by providing a true “balanced scorecard.”

A great example of rethinking in action is B Lab’s work on creating the B
Corporation certification and working to pass benefit corporation
legislation in every state, which will allow mission-based companies to
stay true to their mission as they grow, without fear of shareholder


Rebuilding is rethinking moving into action: rebuilding companies to have
this new focus, rebuilding finance structures to support sustainable
businesses, and rebuilding our crumbling physical infrastructure on the
principles of energy efficiency, resource conservation, and long-term value.

This rebuilding includes expanding the number of financial institutions
that will lend to triple-bottom-line companies; providing legal protection
for such companies (already under way with the benefit corporation
movement); establishing lending standards that recognize the economic
benefits of sustainable approaches, such as energy-efficient buildings; and
reorienting the investment world toward longer-term returns.

Changing the way we look at the future is essential to successful
rebuilding, from both a practical and a philosophical perspective. If we
looked at needs from a 100-year vantage point, and included consideration
of environmental and social effects, how would we build things? The issue
is that we typically look at the future through a present lens, and we
always use a discount model—we consider long-term values and impacts and
conclude that they’re not really worth much today. But if we were thinking
about our grandchildren and great grandchildren, and we valued their lives
as much as we value our own, we would approach things differently. It’s
hard to imagine that we would proceed as we typically do today.

I’m not saying any of this is easy—it’s legacy thinking. We’ve tended to
believe that technology or the market alone will solve long-term problems,
and therefore we don’t need to worry about them. But when we look at issues
like climate change, it’s obvious that this is not true.


Renewal is what we are ultimately aiming for with rethinking and
rebuilding. That means renewing our sense of meaning and purpose, which for
many of us has been subsumed in the rat race. (As Lily Tomlin once said,
the problem with winning the rat race is that you’re still a rat.) It also
means renewing our spirits, reconnecting with our passions and our true
strengths, and articulating a personal life vision—which will mean a
different path for everyone.  Finally, it means renewing our models for
growth to recognize joy, peace, and happiness—along with the preservation
and renewal of our ecosystems—as measures of welfare.

Most of us seek first to achieve basic financial security in our lives, and
then to work toward success, which our society defines as the accumulation
of wealth and power. Eventually, we come to seek significance—to pursue a
legacy and to do good. I believe we cannot wait to move from security to
success to significance: we need to connect all three now. We need to renew
our sense of meaning and purpose in all we do. We can only do this when we
work toward a greater goal—a goal that’s greater than our personal
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*Source URL:*

Eric W. Pollard
C: (918) 804-2011
Twitter <https://twitter.com/#%21/ewpollard>
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