Monday, March 26, 2007

Dancing with the Tiger

I was MIA (Missing Internet Access) the last couple of days and I am happy to say that I survived! Once you get used to fast and cheap internet access, you can almost be assured of IWS (Internet Withdrawal Symptoms). The most obvious symptom is that you catch up on your book reading.

Dancing with the Tiger is required reading for the class that I am taking currently. I am glad it is.

Like I mentioned before, the term sustainability is defined in several ways and used in several different contexts. I have always wondered what a good definition and a good measure of sustainability would be. And after you understand it, how would one go about implementing it. This book answers just that.
The Natural Step provides a simple, yet elegant, framework to integrate environmental issues into the frame of business of reality and to move the company toward sustainable development. The framework provides a whole-systems perspective, first articulated by Dr. Karl Henrik Robèrt and Dr. john Holmberg, that explains systems in the simplest way so an organization can deal with complexity without either getting lost in it or denying that it exists.


The mechanisms through which human activities can deteriorate, or otherwise negatively effect, nature are then translated into statements concerning the minimum environmental criteria a society must meet to be sustainable. These statements are then articulated as the four System Conditions.

In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing...
1. ...concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust,
2. ...concentrations of substances produced by society, or
3. ...degradation by physical means;
and in that society
4. ...human needs are met worldwide.

As simple as that. The book tells the story of companies like Nike and Starbucks who have adopted the Natural Step. It looks at their successes, and their struggles on the road to sustainability. While the Natural Step framework provides a simple understandable premise, achieving true sustainability is in no measure easy.
As advisors on sustainable business practices and corporate responsibility working directly with the sustainability innovators and pathfinders within these organizations, we were able to share their triumphs and frustrations, come to understand their motivations, observe their behavior, and witness the challenges of their roles as internal change agents for sustainable development and greater corporate responsibility. It was through this experience that the metaphor "dancing with the tiger" arose. How does one dance with the tiger? You do it carefully, skillfully, courageously, and in tune to the same music, and advancing step by natural step
I am really digging this book! I hope to learn a dance step or two.


Surya said...

Isn't it nice when required reading and desired reading converge! Glad to see you are doing something you are so passionate about.


Riot said...

Yes. It is great when the two converge.