Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sustainable Value Portfolio


For those familiar with "sustainability" and business, there's nothing new here, just a quick review of another of the many frameworks/tools to gauge an organization's (corporation's) adoption of sustainability principles. Maybe It'll be a good reminder.

I've been reviewing Stuart Hart's Capitalism at the Crossroads the past few days and thought the Sustainable Value Portfolio was something worth adding to the fray here. The figure may be hard to see and consists of four segments divided into "today & tomorrow" on the vertical axis and "internal & external" on the horizontal axis. The upper left is Clean Technology, upper right Base of the Pyramid (BoP), lower left Pollution Prevention and lower right Product Stewardship.

I'm not so sure that the upper right is the same (BoP) for all companies, I suppose it depends upon the size and the markets the company/organization serves. It must be said that true BoP efforts do not just treat "the poor" as customers, they are part of the economic value creation exercise, integral to the creation of a venture that benefits them in their geography, keeping capital invested locally.

I'm wagering that the vast majority of companies are in the lower left quadrant (if anywhere), just starting to get their operations in gear to prevent pollution in the first place, driven by risk reduction and operational leaning to shave costs. That's OK, and we have some work to do to get to the upper right quadrant.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My Manhattan Project - Blowing Up Wall Street


How I helped build the bomb that blew up Wall Street.

One of my (former) classmates at BGI turned me on to this article from The NewYorker. I found myself on the one hand questioning the writer's scruples and on the other hand thinking systemically about what Wall Street environment was like when he did his work. It's an interesting thing to think about; if the "system" is working in such a way as to support such activities, does that make it OK to go along with it? I don't think so. I mean, I'm part of the "mainstream" economy...it's not like I'm tossing it all and moving to a farm (maybe I'll do that soon!), yet I am asking some pretty hard questions of myself and my lifestyle that I try to share (in a non-threatening way) with those around me.

Of course, we all collectively created the system in which we function...

A short excerpt from the end of the article:
Last month, my neighbor, a retired schoolteacher, offered to deliver my oysters into the city. He had lost half his savings, and his pension had been cut by 30 percent. The chain of events from my computer to this guy’s pension is lengthy and intricate. But it’s there, somewhere. Buried like a keel in the sand. If you dive deep enough, you’ll see it. To know that a dozen years of diligent work somehow soured, and instead of benefiting society unhinged it, is humbling. I was never a player, a big swinger. I was behind the scenes, inside the boxes. My hard work, in its time and place, merited a reward, but it also contributed to what has become a massive, ever-expanding failure. For that, I must make a mea culpa. Not a mea maxima culpa, mind you, but some measure of responsibility, a few basis points of shame. Give my ego a haircut.