Reflection on sustainable value.

Image by Nomadic Memories |

Image by Nomadic Memories |

Why am I here and where do I start?
With a definition! the Professor retorts.
We struggle and celebrate the variety in our interpretations.
I’ve got the passion. Teach me about value-creation.
Is it in the millions or in the billions?
I need a clean reputation and brand recognition.

Is that even realistic? Does it go on for eternity?
It’s just a word. Heaven forbid it’s a marketing word. Ew.
Talk about green-washing; The devil you knew.
Or is it brand-washing?
Sabotage is what's happened to true sustainability.
Oh! it's about the triple-bottom-line.
Social. Economic. Environmental responsibility.

Put your money where your mouth is. Where do you invest?
All this talk about social responsibility makes me want to completely divest.
In oil. How ethical is ethical oil anyway?
In Chevron. In exploitation. It's time to take ownership and pay.
And patiently invest. 

But is environmental stewardship that easy?
Is it risky? -- Is it pricey?
What about electronic stewardship? And who gets my money!?
Where DO my taxes go???
Mmm Resilience. That's a word I can relate to.
Surviving the inevitable turbulence of modern times.

But where can we act, and have the most impact?
Is it water? Food and agriculture? Energy?
Is this the end of coal and emergence of green and clean?
And what does “zero carbon” even mean?
What the heck is a “virtual carbon footprint”? And you want me to measure that?
Forget this. I’m throwing in the towel and going full-on hippie.
Moving to the forest to survive on the blueberry.  

Or maybe it doesn’t have to be that extreme…
I’ll sew up these seams.
I’ll form a co-operative farming business, by Christmas.
With one seed. One, genetically modified seed.
I’ll target the BOP! Who’ve been ravaged by D.D.T…
Get me a soccer ball, a bank card, shoes on my feet – oh yes, let's get some new shoes!

Clean water in just 30 - minutes - flat.
Can I eat it – the packet - and purify H2O in the depths of my belly?
Is this philanthropy or charity?
Ah, the complexity. We’ve got to create value for the many (not just money).
Bingo! it's emerging innovation via co-creation.

The onus is falling - on the producer, on the consumer - on us.
Have I been brainwashed to want more STUFF?!
There are massive changes ahead. Just shake it off.
Balance the trade-offs.
How will I know what standards are required and those being met?
Oh, “I’ll just make up my own sustainability label”…How mortifying! 

And what was THAT!? A bird, a plane, an embryo? An egg? Pop. Pop.
Pop-culture. My culture; your culture. Culture-conflict. Culture…opportunities?!
Hope & Opportunity.
What is a bird? A duck? A rubber-ducky? A chemical-laden children’s toy.
I’m speechless. Much like the canary in the sustainable mine.
Without a sound. I think I’m loosing my moral ground.

Let's re-jig this agenda. We’ve got to get our twerk on – but no tweeking.
What’s stopping us from reinventing? And capacity-building?
20 minutes should be enough to get our points across, right?
But have our assumptions and conflicting values become embossed? 

If we can’t rely on the existing solutions, what will it take?
We need to destroy what has been created.
But doesn’t that cause quite a lot of trouble? We could get stuck.
Our vision of the future is cloudy; opaque with cataracts.
We need to create new goals. Bodacious goals. Let go!
Why are you standing by and waiting for someone else? 

I’m really scared. The walls are crashing down.
How do I put an emphasis on innovation and standardization?
Without creating tension? With creative tensions!
Remove “single-loop thinking”. And incorporate critical mindsets.

But who will audit the auditors!? And where’s the credibility?
Where’s the authenticity? The accountability?
We need to question the validity.
We’ve got to get-out-the-vote and speak-out with our wallets.

Let's raise the roof off this Holiday Inn.
They’re stuffing us with powdered eggs and it just doesn’t fit in.
Let's flip this business model and start to listen.

It's time to say goodbye, but our learning journey doesn’t end here.
It's a life-long practice. How does that make you feel?


*A creative harvest from Sustainable Value Creation (AGBU 6700) in the Sustainable Commerce MBA program at the University of Guelph.

Sincerest acknowledgements to Prof. Rumina Dhalla for sharing her expertise on sustainable commerce and encouraging us to look at the world through a different lens. Thanks to the entire class for their engagement and honesty. Inspired by Chris Corrigan, and of the Art of Hosting Water Dialogues workshop, with his never-ending creativity.

This article was original posted by Sustainable Collective, which has since joined forces with The Starfish Canada.