Water Footprints

Water Footprints:

Lessons from Kenya’s floriculture sector

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

There are flowers to fit every occasion. But if you are celebrating World Water Week (26-31 August), you might want to think twice. A single rose – grown in Kenya, as many of the world’s cut flowers are – takes around 10 litres of water to produce, with the so-called water footprint, or virtual water export, of Kenya’s floriculture industry having more than doubled over the past 15 years, mostly to supply the Netherlands (69%), the UK (18%) and Germany (7%).

This notion of virtual water – the water embedded in the things that we trade – is gaining visibility as awareness of our global water crisis increases. I remember first getting to grips with the idea a few years ago when I interviewed Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry, for the University of Cambridge Top 50 Sustainability Books project. According to his calculations, to get us through the day, it takes about a hundred times our own weight in water.

Of course, water footprints are not the only impacts we find in our global supply chains. There are issues of labour rights, climate change, transparent governance, biodiversity loss and economic development, to mention but a few. The challenge is to manage and minimise the negative impacts. This is where I believe the example of Kenya’s cut-flower industry can help us to tease out some hard-won lessons, starting with the story behind the Horticultural Ethical Business Initiative (HEBI).

The seeds of the HEBI process were sown in November 1999 when local civil society organisations mounted a successful campaign against workers’ rights violations in Cirio Delmonte, one of Kenya’s largest pineapple growers. The success of this campaign raised concerns in the flower industry, prompting stakeholders to develop the Kenya Standard on Social Accountability and a Voluntary Private Initiative to oversee its implementation.

However, the real impetus for HEBI came from the pressure exerted by transnational alliances of NGOs and consumer groups. The Kenya Women Workers Organisation (KEWWO) was funded by the UK-based Women Working Worldwide (WWW) to gather evidence of the Ethical Trade Initiative Base Code violations. Their report catalogued various unacceptable conditions, from pesticide poisoning to sexual harassment and rape, and spurred a campaign dubbed Produce Safely or Quit. At the same time, the Kenya Human Rights Commission issued a three month ultimatum to flower producers to improve working conditions, failing which they would go international in their campaign.

When the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) was alerted to these serious labour rights violations in 2002, several of their corporate and NGO members visited Kenyan flower producers. In fear of losing their most significant market, Kenyan stakeholders came together for the first time to lay the groundwork for the formation of HEBI. What I find particular interesting is that the Horticultural Ethical Business Initiative (HEBI) did not arise from a vacuum of voluntary codes. On the contrary, there were already seven different international ethical codes being applied. However, they seemed to lack effectiveness and credibility …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/article_kenya_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Water Footprints (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2012) Water Footprints: Lessons from Kenya’s Floriculture Sector, The Guardian, 20 August 2012.

Share this page

Share

The DNA Model of CSR 2.0

The DNA Model of CSR 2.0:

Value Creation, Good Governance, Societal Contribution and Ecological Integrity

Article by Wayne Visser

I believe that CSR 2.0 – or Transformative CSR (I also sometimes call it Systemic CSR, Radical CSR or Holistic CSR, so use whichever you prefer) – represents a new holistic model of CSR. The essence of the CSR 2.0 DNA model are the four DNA Responsibility Bases, which are like the four nitrogenous bases of biological DNA (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine), sometimes abbreviated to the four-letters GCTA (which was the inspiration for the 1997 science fiction film GATTACA). In the case of CSR 2.0, the DNA Responsibility Bases:

  • Value creation;
  • Good governance;
  • Societal contribution; and
  • Environmental integrity

Hence, if we look at Value Creation

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/inspiration_dna_model_csr_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The DNA Model of CSR 2.0 (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2011) The DNA Model of CSR 2.0: Value Creation, Good Governance, Societal Contribution and Ecological Integrity, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 9.

Share this page

Share

Transforming Business

Transforming Business:

The Power of Perception

Chapter by Wayne Visser

Extract from Beyond Reasonable Greed

There is a growing body of literature on what could be loosely described as explorations in ‘new paradigm’ thinking. Included in this is an implicit belief about the nature of transformation. It is that revolutionary change is more often the result of new ways of thinking about things (i.e. changes in perception) than new ways of doing things.

This chapter attempts to apply this thinking to business, i.e. to explore more deeply the emerging new paradigm in business. What are the new perspectives which are beginning to challenge the old way of thinking about and doing business? And is there a common thread or theme which runs through the heart of these new insights?

So what are these basic assumptions about business which have come on trial of late? There are many but this article will focus on only three of the most important, namely profit, competition and rationality. Discussion of each will be prefaced by a belief statement from the old paradigm and concluded with a suggested new paradigm belief statement.

Profit

The old paradigm belief statement is: The ultimate and sole function, goal and responsibility of business is to make a financial profit.

Although this belief has been tempered by a growing awareness of social responsibility since the 1960s, the mindset of the vast majority of business leaders still places exclusive profit making firmly at the apex of the business pyramid. Everything else is regarded as peripheral to this core process.

This emphasis on short-term individual gain all too often results in the long-term wellbeing of employees, the community, society and the environment being sacrificed as pawns in a ruthless game of corporate chess. This approach – with its tacit assumption that people are primarily motivated by conquest and material acquisition – has been a major limiting factor in managers’ ability to tap the human potential of their organisations in any significant way.

The call now being sounded therefore is for what US futurist Willis Harman would call a new “central project” in business. This transformed focus could include service to society as the key goal of business. Enhanced quality of life could be its guiding principle and a strong set of ethics and values its foundation. Further, the search for meaning and creativity in the work place as well as holistic personal and collective learning could become the key measures of performance within an organisation.

This image may not be as far-fetched as many would suppose. UK business commentator Francis Kinsman for example, cites evidence from an SRI International study which suggests that a growing proportion of British society (currently more than a third) is becoming ‘inner directed’ in nature. These are people whose behaviour is typically driven by non-materialistic factors and whose emphasis is more on the esoteric and qualitative than the material and quantitative …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/book_bf_chap1_transforming_business.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Transforming Business; The Power of Perception (chapter)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/business-frontiers”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this chapter

Visser, W. (2005) Transforming Business: The Power of Perception, In W. Visser, Business Frontiers: Social Responsibility, Sustainable Development and Economic Justice, Hyberabad: ICFAI University, 5-10.

Share this page

Share

Business

Business

Prose by Wayne Visser

Business is the lifeblood coursing through the veins of society, pulsing with creative spirit, transforming the earth’s raw gifts into food to sustain our needs, energy to power our imaginations, blocks to build our dreams.
 
The heart of business is service, flexing with tireless reciprocity, pumping multifarious products of enterprise through lubricant trade arteries to the farthest reaches of the global body-civic. 
 
When the heart is strong, and the arteries are clear, and the blood is clean, the constitution of civilization is likely to be healthy; But when service is sacrificed for greed, and trade is inequitably distributed, and business is corrupt of values, the integrity of the community is likely to be diseased. When the circulation of benefits is poor, numbness follows and rot eventually sets in; When wealth congeals in the hands of too few, it is only a matter of time before the clot causes a brain haemorrhage; When unethical behaviour builds up in the commercial system like viscous cholesterol, a cardiac arrest is the inevitable conclusion. 
 
Business serves its purpose best when it flows freely and widely, unbound by the constrictions of petty bureaucrats and their obsessive need to tie tourniquets of red-tape; Free from the interference of fickle politicians and their compulsive habit of pulling strings and trading favours; Free from the drain of financial vampires and their unquenchable thirst for higher growth and profits and packages at all costs. 
 
Business nourishes society when it is the conduit for sharing knowledge and passion and wisdom; When it is the stimulus for nurturing growth and development and integrity; When it is the means for meeting the needs of those most vulnerable, living on the desperate margins of the world. 
Business bleeds society when it thoughtlessly injures the planet or harms its people; When it incarcerates the human spirit or enslaves creative minds; When it becomes infected with the cancer of acquisitive means to selfish ends. 
 
Responsibility for business, be it good or ill, is always collective. Even to speak of business as a separate, engagable entity, is a fallacy, created for the convenience of theoreticians, philosophers and others who wish to stand aside and commentate on life, rather than experience it first hand. 
Business is not, can never be, separate from society, neither from the people who animate its communities, or the natural environment which sustains its continued existence. Where would one begin and the other end? 
 
We are all economic agents – customers, employees, shareholders, employers, managers – inextricably linked, permeable, interdependent – a grand synergy. In the final analysis, we – each, individually, and together, collectively – are business and business is us. It is the same life-giving blood that courses through all our veins.
 

Wayne Visser © 2005

Download

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/prose_waynevisser_on_business.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Business (prose)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/seize-the-day”]Page[/button] Seize the Day (book)

Share this page

Share

Sustainable Business Futures

Sustainable Business Futures:

Setting the Global Agenda for Corporate Responsibility and ‘Ubuntu’ Capitalism

Article by Wayne Visser

Within the space of a decade, South African business has moved from being pariahs of the world to leaders in the global corporate responsibility movement. This section highlights the significant progress which has been made by the private sector, as well as the potential for South Africa to continue to shape a new agenda for capitalism across seven key dimensions.

Legal Reform

Building on the ANC’s Reconstruction and Development agenda (which in turn was based on the Freedom Charter), human rights, sustainable development and corporate transparency became enshrined in the 1996 constitution and embedded in what is widely regarded as some of the most progressive legislation in socio-economic and environmental development in the world. For example, the environmental rights now enshrined in the Bill of Rights are hailed worldwide.

While many countries still rely on outdated legislation, the wave of reform over the past decade in South Africa has resulted in brand new statutes on ecological responsibility (e.g. the National Environmental Management Act), occupational health and safety (e.g. the Mine Health and Safety Act), investment in human capital (e.g. the Employment Equity Act), governance (e.g. the Promotion of Access to Information Act), ethics (e.g. the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act) and socio-economic development (e.g. the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act).

By inextricably linking social, economic and ecological development in its legal framework, South Africa is showing the world that the old conflicts between environmental conservation, social development and economic growth can be resolved by adopting a new model of integrated sustainable development. The foundation for improved quality of life has therefore been laid and in the next 10 years in South Africa we can expect to see:

  • Civil society demonstrating increasingly healthy activism to bring about environmental and social justice;
  • Government continuing to enact and refine progressive legislation and to enhance its enforcement capacity; and
  • Business becoming the primary vehicle for ensuring that integrated sustainable development is delivered on the ground.

Corporate Governance

When the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoD) published the King Report on Corporate Governance in South Africa in 1992, it was the first of all the governance codes in the world to stress the importance of wider stakeholder interests beyond narrow shareholder demands. This global thought leadership was once again demonstrated when, in its revised King Report in 2002 (King II), the IoD included a whole chapter on sustainability reporting, including extensive referencing to two leading-edge international standards, the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, and Accountability’s AA1000 framework.

The King II requirement that “every company should report at least annually on the nature and extent of its social, transformation, ethical, safety, health and environmental management policies and practices” has already paid dividends. Surveys by KPMG show that 85% South Africa’s top 100 listed companies in 2003 were already reporting on sustainability-related issues, compared with only 48% in 1997. This remarkable progress is assisted by the fact that the Johannesburg Securities Exchange has made compliance with King II a listing requirement.

In King II, therefore, we see that South Africa’s progressive legislation is backed up by a voluntary …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_ubuntu_capitalism_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Sustainable Business Futures (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/corporate-citizenship-in-africa”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2004) Sustainable Business Futures: Setting the Global Agenda for Corporate Responsibility and ‘Ubuntu’ Capitalism. In South Africa 2014: The Story of Our Future, edited by Bret Bowes, Guy Lundy & Steuart Pennington, SA Good News: Johannesburg.

Share this page

Share

In Search of Business on the Elephant Trail

In Search of Business on the Elephant Trail

Article by Wayne Visser

In a previous article, I talked about the need for companies to “shapeshift” – to change their underlying natures – from embodying the characteristics of a lion (a competitive, selfish predator) to being more like an elephant (a more cooperative, harmonious creature). This analogy is based on the book I co-authored with Clem Sunter entitled Beyond Reasonable Greed: Why Sustainable Business is a Much Better Idea! (Human & Rousseau Tafelberg, 2002).

The question still remains, however: what does an elephant company look like? Like trying to convince caterpillars that going into a cocoon is a good idea, it helps if we can show the remarkable end result, namely a beautiful butterfly flying free. That is why, in this article, I want to highlight some companies that have already gone a long way down the elephant trail; businesses that have begun transforming themselves into agents of positive change in a world that desperately needs visionary leadership.

There are seven critical areas in which elephant companies distinguish themselves from lion companies, namely: values, vision, work, governance, relationships, communication and services. We will explore each of these themes briefly and give examples of those companies and business leaders that are blazing a trail for others to follow. So, hang on to your whiskers, the shapeshifting is about to begin.

Values: It’s in His Kiss

Values are exactly what they say they are – a reflection of the things we value. In a corporate context, they are not motherhood and apple pie statements in annual reports, or candyfloss principles framed on the boardroom wall. If you want to know what values a lion lives by, the answer lies not in his well-groomed mane or his charming smile; as the rock ‘n roll classic goes: “It’s in his kiss!” In other words, company values are betrayed by the way they behave.

Let’s take the issue of equity in the workplace as an example. It is a fact that the gap between rich and poor has widened in the past fifty years, with three billion people (half the world’s population) still living on less than $2 a day. And yet how many companies look to themselves as one of the sources of this growing inequity? How can it be otherwise when, in 1960, Chief Executives in the United States earned on average 40 times more than the average worker, but by 1990, this factor had gone up to 80 times and today is around 120. Taken to an extreme to illustrate the point, do you know that it would take one Haitian worker producing Disney clothes and dolls 166 years to earn as much as Disney president Michael Eisner earns in one day. In lion companies, the benefits always seem to trickle upwards to feed the fat cats.

By contrast, America’s popular ice-cream chain, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc, chose equity in the workplace was one of their fundamental values. Importantly, it didn’t stop with words, but rather translated into action. The inspirational founders of Ben & Jerry’s insisted on a top to bottom salary …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_elephant_trail_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] In Search of Business on the Elephant Trail (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/business-frontiers”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2003) In Search of Business on the Elephant Trail. Namaste, Volume 21, July/August.

Share this page

Share

Can We Survive the Future

Can We Survive the Future:

Only if Business Shapeshifts from Lions into Elephants

Article by Wayne Visser

Rabbit Holes and Boiled Frogs

Being in business these days is a lot like falling down a rabbit hole. The latter, if you remember Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a chaotic and confusing place to be. All the tried and tested rules of the past don’t seem to work so well anymore. The formerly familiar environment keeps transforming itself into new, unrecognisable landscapes. Strange, distracting characters have a habit of popping up randomly and then suddenly disappearing. And the clear, rational perspectives that used to spell out solutions keep getting stretched, warped and turned on their head, like the reflected images in a house of weird mirrors.

To illustrate what I mean, the demigod once known as the shareholder has mutated into a multi-headed beast called the stakeholder. Accounting, the time-honoured introspective discipline of counting beans (or gold or money or shares), has been turned inside out and become nerve-racking accountability to the big wide world out there. And profitability, which used to be a trustworthy financial measure, has multiplied into a triple bottom line by blurring together economic, social and environmental performance.

To survive in this whirlwind of chaotic change, companies have become adept at rapidly adapting to dramatic changes. What business has been less skilled at doing is recognizing or responding to long-term effects of gradual changes. In this sense, it displays the classic “boiled frog syndrome”. If a frog is placed in boiling water, it immediately jumps out providing it is free to do so. However, if the water temperature is cool to begin with and then gradually increased, the frog fails to register any threat to its well-being and consequently allows itself to be literally boiled alive.

There are many examples of threats that could boil the corporate toads: creeping income inequality; the spread of HIV/AIDS; marginalisation of certain regions in the world economy; the cancerous burden of Third World debt; alienation of people with low incomes or no jobs; accelerating biodiversity loss; global climate change; rising chemical concentrations in the Earth’s water systems; disintegration of cultural identities; and the spread of violent crime among the youth, to mention but a few.

Trading in Fangs for Tusks

At the heart of all of these challenges is one of the most profound drivers for step-change in business and the world – sustainability. Sustainability refers to improving human well-being by seeking a proper balance between social, economic and environmental change over the long term. The old ways, which have dominated for the past century or more, are no longer appropriate for a post-industrial, sustainability-driven society. Sustainability is not only a new scientific, political, social and legal concept, but an entirely new business philosophy based on a new mythology. It requires that business think differently about its role in society and how it goes about what it does.

The changes needed in order for business to survive and thrive in an age of sustainability are so fundamental that they are akin to changing its identity, its underlying nature. At the moment, we  …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_survive_future_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Can We Survive the Future (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/beyond-reasonable-greed”]Page[/button] Beyond Reasonable Greed (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2002) Can We Survive the Future? Only if Business Shapeshifts From Lions into Elephants. Namaste, Volume 19, October.

Share this page

Share

Ten Predictions for a Sustainable Future for Business

Ten Predictions for a Sustainable Future for Business

Article by Wayne Visser

After the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, we should take care not to mistake this single event for the greater symphony of change that it heralds. Like fleas on an elephant, we need to jump back and see the greater whole – the challenge of creating a sustainable world. However you want to define it, in the end, it comes down to our ability to endure. Those that understand how social and environmental drivers will be shaping the landscape over the coming decades will be better placed to survive. This article ventures ten predictions about how the future will be different.

Prediction 1

In the future, the number of banned substances will increase exponentially

Many chemicals and metals (especially persistent compounds) that are commonly used today, and still more that have yet to be created, will be linked to serious human health impacts (birth defects, cancers, immune deficiencies) and ecosystem destruction (habitat decline, mutant species, collapsing populations). The speed of this trend is being driven by the rate at which synthetic chemical compounds are being created and the rapid build up of persistent substances in the ecosystem, versus the tolerance thresholds of our immune systems and the environment. Sustainable companies will apply the precautionary principle and actively seek substitutes for hazardous or persistent compounds.

Prediction 2

In the future, forensic sustainability will emerge as a new professional discipline

There will be groups of professionals, with a combination of legal, investigative, sociological, eco-toxicological and medical expertise, which will track down companies responsible for illegal, indiscriminate social and environmental violations. Using leading-edge forensic techniques, they will trace evidence from the crime scene (an illegal waste dump, contaminated land, a toxic spill, an afflicted community, a sick set of customers) back to the companies that can be in any way linked to the substance, process or product that caused the damage. Damage claims and sustainability insurance will grow exponentially. Sustainable companies will apply extensive internal and external investigative, auditing and assurance techniques to avoid being an unknowing accomplice to sustainability violations.

Prediction 3

In the future, governments and civil organisations will maintain and publicise corporate grey-lists

Any company that consistently violates sustainability principles (environmental integrity, community health, human rights, health and safety) will be “greylisted” by governments, multilateral agencies and civil organisations. Some governments will forbid the greylisted companies from operating in their countries. Activists will use the greylists to mount boycotts. Financial analysts and shareholders will use the greylists to inform their choice of investments. Sustainable companies will actively embrace a transparent, triple bottom line approach to their strategies and operations in order to avoid future greylisting.

Prediction 4

In the future, companies will employ sophisticated, real-time corporate stakeholder monitoring

Like professional athletes that monitor every aspect of their bodies’ performance, companies will be expected to have their finger on the pulse of each of their sets of stakeholders. Using a combination of new technologies and new industrial psychology techniques, companies will receive almost constant electronic feedback on the health, well being and level of satisfaction their stakeholders …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_ten_predictions_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Ten Predictions for a Sustainable Future for Business (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/corporate-citizenship-in-africa”]Page[/button] Business Frontier (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2002) Ten Predictions for a Sustainable Future for Business. Ethical Corporation, 6 September.

Share this page

Share

Reformation and Pragmagic

Reformation and Pragmagic

Chapter by Wayne Visser

Extract from Beyond Reasonable Greed

As we write this introduction we are very conscious of magic. Magic, it seems, is a catchy theme right now, both in our own lives and in the world around us. This is hardly surprising, what with J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories having come to life on the big silver screen. But the magic we are talking about is not of the wizardry kind. Merlin can stay in his cave. Nor is it of the David Copperfield genre where the audience knows that they’re being hoodwinked but are prepared to suspend their belief in the interests of excitement. No, we are talking about something more genuine, more tangible, more practical – what brain-mind researcher Marilyn Ferguson called ‘pragmagic’.

In our interpretation of the word, magic is the revelation that results from a profound change in perception or understanding. The superstitious world of the Middle Ages was magically transformed by the wizards of art and science – Da Vinci, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton. Then the quantum physicists waved their wands and subtly altered Newton’s clockwork universe. Today, the magic continues as the seemingly impossible is conjured up with breakthroughs in areas like biotechnology, artificial intelligence and human consciousness.

But magic is not restricted to the sciences. Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk weaved their own form of magic to create the New South Africa. Unlike in art and the sciences where the magic is normally provided by individuals working on their own, the magic in politics often comes from the development of a positive chemistry between the leading players. This chemistry then leads to an outcome greater than the contribution of any individual member and takes them all by surprise.

Nevertheless, as with everything in life, there’s good magic and bad magic. The Swastika was bad magic. When Hitler unfurled it, he temporarily turned the most scientifically advanced nation on Earth back into savage barbarians. In his footsteps followed Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who turned their followers into killing machines of their own people. By the millions. And the chemistry was pure evil. Today bad magic continues to bedevil regions like the Middle East and Northern Ireland where thirst for revenge plunges ordinary people into acts of lunacy and callousness. In the name of God or Allah. And He is always on your side.

What, you may be asking, has all this to do with business? Well, magic has everything to do with business and this book. For the simple reason that bad magic has moved many companies into a state that is beyond reasonable greed. And the public have a good idea of the boundary between ‘reasonable’ and ‘obscene’. Recently, in South Africa, we have had several disclosures on the size of individual packages and the terms of share incentive schemes which have caused tremendous hue and cry. They have been clearly out of wack with the norm. To give companies the benefit of the doubt, they may not have consciously exceeded the limits of reasonableness. Their boards probably comprise the normal spectrum of saints and sinners; but somehow they have allowed themselves to be collectively swept along by the prevailing paradigm of success which is purely financial, and that in turn has led to unreasonable behaviour. …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/book_brg_chap1_introduction.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Reformation and Pragmagic (chapter)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/beyond-reasonable-greed”]Page[/button] Beyond Reasonable Greed (book)

Cite this chapter

Visser, W. (2002) Reformation and Pragmagic, In W. Visser, Beyond Reasonable Greed: Why Sustainable Business is a Much Better Idea! Cape Town: Tafelberg Human & Rousseau,  11-17.

Love this page

Click on the pink heart in the heading if you LOVE this page

Share this page

Share

Productivity Through Interdependence

Productivity Through Interdependence:

Heeding the Lessons of Nature

Article by Wayne Visser

In our modern economies and businesses, unlimited growth is constantly striven for, institutionalised, almost idolised.  We hold it up as the measure of success.  Yet, by doing this, we could be sowing the seeds of our own destruction.  We know this because in nature, unlimited physical growth is almost nowhere to be seen.

When it does occur, we call it cancer, or imminent species collapse, or ecosystem decline.  Also, we are already seeing many of the signs of exceeding what environmental scientist Donella Meadows called ‘the limits to growth’.

Growth in Nature

In his visionary book on the evolution of life (The Awakening Earth), scientist and business author Peter Russell makes the critical observation that, while exponential growth does frequently occur in nature, it always levels off into an S-shaped curve as soon as a harmonious and life-supporting situation has been reached.  What actually happens is that quantitative growth is always superseded by qualitative growth after a healthy infrastructure has been established.  Our own human growth patterns are testimony to this.  US ecological economist Herman Daly extends this principle to the economy, suggesting that a distinction needs to be made between traditional economic growth (typically measured by Gross National Product), and holistic development.

According to Daly, ‘growth’ means a quantitative increase in the scale of the physical dimensions of the economy, while ‘development’ means the qualitative improvement in the structure, design and composition of the physical stocks of wealth that results from greater knowledge, both of technique and of purpose.

A growing economy is getting bigger; a developing economy is getting better.  In a business context, impetus for this change has already been provided by MIT Professor Peter Senge’s concept of a ‘learning organisation’ and World Business Academy fellows Willis Harman and John Hormann’s notion of Creative Work, in which “employment exists primarily for self development, and is only secondarily concerned with the production of goods and services.”

Practically, this shift away from blind growth will only occur as companies begin to value, measure and integrate qualitative dimensions into their strategic planning, operations and public reporting processes.  Two excellent tools for achieving this are the Balanced Scorecard and Social Auditing.

Productivity in Nature

Another common misconception about Nature is the dominance of competition in its processes – the so-called ‘survival of the fittest’ adage.  In fact, in nature, competition is the exception and cooperation and symbiotic relationships are the rule.  The principle incorrectly ascribed to Darwin could more appropriately read ‘survival of the species best adapted or integrated within their dynamic environment’.  Size, strength or physical agility are seldom the best survival qualities (remember the dinosaurs?).

Among the unsung prophets of the 20th century who first described the dynamic complexity of Nature in these terms was former South African Prime Minister, Jan Smuts.  His Theory of Holism was the precursor to modern day Living Systems Theory, which Fritjof Capra has subsequently applied to the economy and Peter Senge has applied to business organisations.  According to their observations, the key to productivity is synergy – creating the cooperative relationships which …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_lessons_nature_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Productivity Through Interdependence (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/business-frontiers”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (1998) Productivity through Interdependence: Heeding the Lessons of Nature. Earthyear, Edition 17, June.

Share this page

Share