Friday, June 01, 2012

Biocapacity And Billboards

Located in Durham, North Carolina, where I live, Duke University takes sustainability very seriously, but someone hasn’t connected the dots for marketers there who are apparently still practicing desecration marketing.

As one of North Carolina’s largest private employers, Duke’s commitment to  sustainability is broadly evident from the comprehensiveness of its incredible strategic policy to “boots on the ground” elements such as the The Center for Sustainability and Commerce and The Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

The hypocrisy of Duke’s health system marketers using static roadside billboards to promote Duke Primary Care while enabling billboard companies to circumvent Durham tree ordinances along state roadways with clear cutting may be lost on some but hopefully not on Duke officials.

The irony isn’t lost on marketoonist Tom Fishburne, whose image “eco-friendly” is shown in this blog.

Some of the most cogent alarms about sustainability are coming from the private sector including the essay by Hardin Tibbs on pages 7-10 of the current issue of FutureProof

Lamenting that a consumer focus is too short term and that “democratic governments seem increasingly populist rather than strategic, and wait for electoral pressure before risking policy initiatives,” Tibbs notes that this “leaves business in the hot seat.”

Tibbs provides evidence showing that we overshot the world’s biocapacity in the 1970s and by as much as 50% by 2007.  He argues that business “owns and controls the part of the economy that needs fixing.”

He illustrates that “global-scale sustainability” requires a strategic-challenge approach to turning “the three global system fundamentals” (resources, value and design) from “chains into loops” including .

I first began to follow Tibbs more than twenty years ago when he published the white paper entitled Industrial Ecology – An Environmental Agenda for Industry on behalf of Arthur D. Little Inc. a little more than a year after I relocated to Durham.

It is the first time I remember seeing the term “green corporation” and the idea of production “loops” that would incorporate environmental costs.  But my first understanding of sustainability goes back to a prediction in 1972, the year I graduated from college, which turned out to be right on the button.

Today, forty years after that initial prediction and twenty years after Tibbs’ model for industrial ecology, the widow for sustainability is rapidly closing.

He warns in the April issue of FutureProof that, if business doesn’t step in and rise to the challenge, “the global industrial economy will collapse within 20 years if we don’t reinvent it to work on different technological principles.”

As illustrated by bio-activ technology for businesses as small as the family farm, it isn’t just for the good of humanity, the environmental loop model is just good business.

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