Thomas Friedman Op-Ed, and the Correction

Sun, Mar 8, 2009

8. News

My grandparents had enough money to be comfortable. But they never stopped being careful about how they spent their money. My grandfather was an attorney and a CPA and had a great career with the government. But I’ll always remember calling them and getting rushed off the phone ‘because long distance is very expensive.’ These comments came well after long distance calls were cost prohibitive.

Their values for spending came out of the depression. Ours come from a time period quite the opposite.

Thomas L. Friedman addressed this in his outstanding editorial today. This guy is mandatory reading for all things in general, and for climate related topics in particular. You may agree, you may disagree, but you will be provoked.

In today’s editorial, “The Inflection is Near,” Friedman writes “What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsuitable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: ‘No More.'”


Businesses don’t assign enough priority to understanding the waste in their system, and then looking at ways to reduce that waste. Don’t concern yourself with whether you accept the notion of human-caused global warming. (Though I hope you do.) Just focus on reducing waste. All waste. No business person can disagree with that.

And after waste reduction, focus your business on value creation. Like Mr. Friedman, I don’t think this is a mere recession. I think we are paying the sins for our indulgence of the past. We overspent, overconsumed, and undersaved. We were not lean. Just as children of the depression struggled to spend once it was over, we will take from this ‘correction’ I hope, to be leaner.

The sustainability movement offers tools to lean businesses. The lens of sustainability applied to your business ought not to just see carbon. It ought to see the things that speak to overuse, underutilization, and inefficiency.

Sustainability may or may not be a core strategy for your business. It should though be an enabler for every strategy that is core to your business. Governments will have to price out the environmental costs to production and hopefully they will; it won’t hurt to prepare for this now.

This is no recession. This is a correction. Let this correction be the impetus for a leaner business, less waste, and an economy that fully accounts for the cost of production.

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