August 30, 2007

RMI 25th, Part II (Optimism)

Some continuing thoughts on the excellent event in Aspen I went to a few weeks ago (earlier post here). One theme I heard repeatedly was how much sustainability can drive employee passion and loyalty.

I had an interesting conversation with James Murdoch, CEO of BskyB, the largest media company in the UK (and, oh yeah, son of Rupert). Under James' leadership, BskyB has become very interested in green, declaring that it will go climate neutral, and making many operational and product changes such as redesigning cable boxes to use 50% less energy. But one of the first things he said to me was that the company's green work has made recruiting easier.

Later, Ray Anderson put it powerfully: "In my 51 years in business, I've never seen an issue galvanize people in a company like sustainability."

I'm not surprised at statements like this anymore. Throughout my research for Green to Gold, and in many conversations since then, I've heard the same. Companies discover that the best audience for their CSR reports is actually their own employees, who are generally thrilled to find out what their companies are doing right. As a BP exec told me, the green stuff comes up in recruiting and training meetings all the time now.

Of course the pursuit of sustainability has also driven the work RMI employees and Amory Lovins. While it's more obvious to see this drive at RMI than at a cable company, it was still inspiring. It also helps explains what has kept Amory working so hard for 30+ years while he waited for the world to catch up to his thinking. Only passion can keep you going for decades. Amory's speech at the gala was incredible -- a vision of what a the future could look like.

This is the core issue: sustainability, once you get past the gloom and doom warnings about environmental issues, is fundamentally an optimistic pursuit — a vision of a healthier, stronger world for all.

Imagine what that kind of optimism can do for your employees and your company.

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