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As an author I’m learning that there is way more to publishing a book if you want it to make an impact. I’ve been attending a month long training for authors on what you next after you’re published called Build a Business with Your Book.

I was inspired by Lynn Kippel’s presentation and interview where she stimulated me to take the next step. All of you will be invited to the up coming free webinar called, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!: 4 strategies for the spiritually fluent leader, so keep a look out for the invitation. The webinar is based on the leadership chapter in the book I published in October of last year called, What’s It Mean – Shifting To Green? This webinar is also an introduction to the five -week online course called: Leadership as a Spiritual Challenge. I’m quite excited about this course as I believe that the spiritual aspect of leadership is rather hidden perhaps as a legacy from our belief in the separation between church and state. The class will deepen and make practical the four strategies outlined in the free webinar.

For me the whole issue of our climate/planetary crisis is fundamentally a crisis of values. I also believe that we won’t solve this threat without reassessing our ethics and values. In my humble opinion this is a spiritual crisis and an incredible opportunity to begin to align your values with your actions. That we haven’t done this (as a species) is why we are in this crisis, I believe.

The big question is how do we act from our spiritual beliefs in the world of business, what does being spiritually fluent mean? Some may even question if that is a viable business reason for doing so. Many business people actually fear that being ethical will limit their chances of making money. I hear the same fear when I talk to people about acting as if nature was important they also seem to feel that doing so will limit what they can do in their business. We will tackle these kinds of issues in both the free webinar and the online course.

Spirituality is practical! This is the foundational learning I hope everyone will have. It offers such a clear way of interfacing with everyday business issues that success can be startling. Acting from a place of nurturing and caring is not only empowering (for you and others), it also brings innovation into the workplace in very profound ways.

Understanding the gigantic impact leadership can have on an organizations success and how needed this shift is to successfully implement sustainability is eye opening. The four leverage points we will explore in both the free webinar and the five-week online course will bring a lot of ah ha’s to participants! Both of these are experiential, so people who register for either will receive a workbook and will be expected to apply what they are learning to their work situations. These are not your typical online webinars!

I’m so grateful for Lynn’s presence in this course! Her way of presenting the material set me on fire and now I’m very excited to get my online course out there. It also offered another gift to me. I got to look at my book with new eyes and see the richness of material that is in there! I’m looking forward to sharing the message from the book in this new, deeper format!


 

Kathryn Alexander, MA   is an author, speaker, and coach, and creator of Learning Parties™, she is an expert in ethics, systems thinking and change, she combines scientific insight, and spiritual sensibility as coach and mentor, working with values-based executives and business owners.

If you are interested you can click here to download a free check list to compare your own company with others and see how you measure up on the journey through the three stages of sustainability.

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When we make laws or contest the making of those laws, when we speak philosophically, we often forget that we are talking about human beings. There are three current news stories that make this point. The first is the hubris of Elliot Roger. People are wondering if being half Asian and half white drove him to kill. People are wondering if his class/status drove his to kill. Posh, his arrogance (tied to both of these) and his unwillingness to look into the mirror are see what an arrogant B****rd he was, is what allowed him to think he had the right to kill.

The second story has to do with the Open Carry Texas (OCT) brazen act of going, en mass, into a local burrito store carrying big guns across their chests and assuming that they had the right and privilege to scare everyone else. Their willingness to provoke everyone else in order to justify their behavior was simply hubris.

The third story has to do with Amazon and the tactics it is using to derail sales of the books published by Hachette. By ensuring that their books take 2-3 weeks to get to the purchaser, that there are no pre-order buy buttons, that their books cost more etc. They are trying to force that publisher to meet Amazon’s lower pricing demands. Andrew Leonard, in his Salon article about this makes a strong comparison with Walmart. When the true cost of any product is artificially manipulated, then the true costs are deflected onto others parts of the system and/or the quality suffers. This is a lose lose scenario – a race to the bottom. The whole situation stems from the fact that Amazon now controls the publishing industry because they control book selling. While it appears to help the consumer (cheaper books, etc.) it has the potential to destroy the publishing industry and majorly reduce the quality of the books that do get published (we are already seeing that). Amazon is doing this because it can, because Jim Bezos wants to be the winner in this contest of wills.

Can you see the thread that ties all of these stories together? Try arrogance and ego and an incredible indifference to the impact of the chosen behavior on anyone else. Try a sense of superiority and entitlement – a feeling of being “special” with no need to be accountable or respectful of anyone else. This, my friends, is what power does to human nature. Is anyone immune? I doubt it. The bigger question is how do we, as a society handle it? There was a time in our history when both religion and community could bring some pressure to bear in these kinds of situations. That is why we used to have checks and balances in our governmental structure – to counterbalance this tendency. That is the claim made for the ‘free’ market 9a whole other article) and the seduction of many other utopian dreams. If only, if only people didn’t have egos, if only power didn’t corrupt – but it does!

Today the true counterbalance is massive public indignation. That too, seems to be disappearing. We are feeling less powerful not more, we are too busy trying survive to turn our attention to anything outside of our own survival. We are too much in debt to take the risks we need to take to ensure that the system works. We are tired and scared and choose distraction and entertainment to the hard work of change. We can, however, look into our own mirrors and see our own entitlements and deal with those. If we do not, then we will co-conspire with others who won’t and rationalize that it was race, class, or greed that caused them to act that way, tisk, tisk, tisk. That allows us to continue to go on feeling good about ourselves, feeling sure that we are different and maybe just a little bit special.

The news that we will surpass 4 degrees in global temperature is dire news. How do you feel with a 4 degree temperature, that’s 102 degrees? Life cannot sustain that. We ALL live in a fairly narrow temperature band.

As critical as removing carbon is, there is more than one way to skin a cat…the use of biochar is very promising! This is an example of reframing problem from energy to carbon reduction. Understanding the depth and breadth of the change we need to make is critical.

Sustainability is a journey, with three stages. The first is the wise use of resources, the second is thinking systemically and achieving zero waste. The third is when business practices actually are regenerative and refresh the Earth. This year I started a research project seeking companies that have made it to the third stage of sustainability.

The good news is that I’ve found about a dozen, so far. They are in all industries, but what they all have in common is that they have made nature a partner in their business. They are constantly asking “what would nature do” and tweaking their business practices to replicate her actions.

The Permaculture Credit Union lends money for impact, not profit. They make loans only if the impact is large. Impact trumps yield and this strategy has allowed them to grow and profit without the reliance on fees that the rest of the financial world seems to deem necessary.

Regenesis Group is a land development company that helps develop site and even regional development plans that are designed to allow nature to successfully evolve in concert with human habitation. By integrating watershed and land formation into the desired use they ensure the long-term success of the project and the long-term health of the ecosystem.

Reflective Images is a jewelry company that uses free trade gold and gem stones. Over the years they have developed an international network of indigenous people who harvest gold and gems without harming the Earth. This benefits not only the environment, but makes a reasonable living possible for thousands of people who are normally shut out of the profits in the jewelry industry, creating a win-win-win situation.

These examples are important, because in so much of what we do in sustainability today, the Earth as no voice. We work hard to reduce our impact, but we have yet to really grapple with what it will take to partner with nature to create a healthy planet. We still justify pollution, the destruction of pristine forests and salmon spawning grounds instead of investing the same amount of time and money in seeking true alternatives.

In each of the examples above the potential for industry transformation is apparent. By using the needs of nature as the discipline for rethinking how they do business, each business has the potential to become a market leader. However, with the exception of the Permaculture Credit Union, all appreciate that small is better. The Credit Union is being pushed to grow because the demand outstrips their ability to grow within the legal constraints they are bound by the FDIC.

If we really follow the path of sustainability to its logical conclusion, we will remake the face of business on this planet. Zero waste, alone, practiced with the understanding that everything we don’t use must become food for something else, is a game changer. We saw that in the story of Interface Carpets. Money is made, cost is reduced, new products, processes and tools all increase the profit margins of those companies willing to go the extra mile. These companies are unique because they are not agricultural of tightly tied to agricultural practices. They are important because they prove that any company in any industry has the potential to make breakthroughs in their sustainable business practices.

So, exactly how do you begin to listen to nature? You can hire someone who is versed in permaculture design principles to help you think like nature. You can use the Sustainable Values Set® to ask the right questions, and you can work to develop a culture that is committed strategically, engaged and empowered. This is not a task that rests with one person or one department. Without the commitment and engagement of the entire organization, the many opportunities for change will be overlooked.

Ford Motor Company, at their River Rouge plant has a green roof, planted with living things and a parking lot with permeable asphalt. This a baby step in working with nature instead of blocking her, but we can  and must do better. Ford saves money in heating and cooling and in their waste water bill, so even these small steps carry a significant financial payback. These are long-term fixes with long-term benefits – start NOW.

The current crop of sustainability oriented companies are reducing resource use, and that will give us time, but we need to rethink how we interact with nature to prevent a reoccurrence of the situation we now face. These companies are leading the way!

These are the real rock stars of business, even if you’ve never heard of them and they aren’t gigantic in size, and perhaps that’s part of the point. What makes them rock stars is their ability to be true to themselves and express themselves through the music of their business. The people I’m interviewing are exactly like this. Rock stars know they have achieved something when their audience responds. These business people look for their response in the responses from their employees, the community and the Earth.

These business people have listened to their own internal voices and they are creating businesses that bring Life, Life to their employees, Life to their communities and Life to our beautiful planet! There are a few famous companies, Interface Carpets, Inc., now Interface Global, Inc., is a shining example, but in my research I’m finding small firms that are not ‘famous’ but who are making a profound difference through their work. More importantly, they are proving that you don’t need vast resources to rethink your business, you just need clarity and commitment.

There is no one industry; I’ve talked to a financial institution, land developer, jeweler, hotel, high-tech contracting firm, architecture consulting firm, an educator, a spiritual development program, a legal firm and an entrepreneur incubator firm so far. People with this vision and commitment are everywhere! They act as beacons so others can see what is possible.

The role of the entrepreneur has been cast as a path to wealth, and that may be. The more important role, however, is as a creator of our culture and community. We are struggling to redefine success and the role of money in all aspects of our lives. Social entrepreneurs have started this process by seeing business as a means to solving many of our most pressing problems. Regenerative businesses go farther in that the how of business is as important as the what.

What other models do we look to to shape our own decisions about our own life? We have come to believe that being good – respecting ourselves and others, almost ensures struggle and diminished ‘success.’ Some business people are afraid to explore ethics because they fear it will limit their choices and make them uncompetitive!

In this time of change, how shall we live? We need to understand our relationship to nature in a new way, but what does that look like? What will we ‘lose,’ what will we have, if we do things differently? These heroes prove that we lose nothing and gain everything that’s important as we rethink this most basic relationship. Our very survival has always been rooted in nature, we have forgotten this and we tremble when we remember.

We have come to the point where we are willing to sacrifice our children’s health and future for high school football success. The culture of just keeping going, no matter what the cost, said by Frank Deford about the culture in football, is equally true for business. The cost matters and much of our ‘success’ is not worth it! Cost and pain are both indicators, nature’s way of saying, “no.” We have gotten very good at stretching our limits, at refusing to recognize we need to go slow and become more thoughtful. It has become ‘wimpish’ to take care of yourself. A ‘real man’ self-destructs…for what?

These rebels are disproving so many of these myths. Banks and credit unions are now proclaiming they can’t make money without fees. This is a race to the bottom with banks betting their futures on the inability of their customers to meet their rules. Caught in an unexamined system they collude with a struggling industry to siphon from the poorest, thus weakening the system. Instead of building capacity they are undermining the entire systems financial health. We need models to disprove these kinds of illusions!

The Permaculture Credit Union is doing just that. Functioning from ‘enoughness’ and focusing on impact, not profit, they are able to grow faster than the system will allow. They make their money from loans, as all banks used to do. They pay a bit less interest on deposits and get a bit more from loans, but they don’t engage in out bidding other banks, so they don’t need to create another revenue stream to subsidize the losses in these areas as other financial institutions are having to do.

To learn more about these rebels and to learn how you can join them, invite me to speak,  request coaching, take a webinar or subscribe to a course. I believe that there is a tsunami of smaller businesses that are playing by a brand new rule book. They are not about sacrificing, they don’t sacrifice themselves as leaders, they don’t sacrifice their employees, their communities or the Earth, but they do make ‘enough’ money, they do exceptional work, and they have lives they can proud of. They are doing business by celebrating the joy of Life – not sacrificing it!

Check out our website: Ethical Impact L3C

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Three stages of Green May 9 11AM MST http://bit.ly/AieVIB free with code RIL-JAN #sustainability #leadership

Three stages of Green May 9 11AM MST http://bit.ly/AieVIB free with code RIL-JAN #sustainability #leadership