Last week I found a paper from my freshman philosophy class in which I had written, "advancement of knowledge empowers us by expanding our awareness, but apathy to apply it to our actions diminishes us even more." As I read this it was clear to me just how much the realization I had then has been a driver what I've done since then.
My research, efforts and work in sustainability, and b-corps have driven by not just the desire to share my knowledge but also to share my enthusiasm, and passion. As an early adopter of certified B-Corps (and Benefit Corporations ), I’ve devoted a great deal of time and energy to evangelizing their purpose, sharing my knowledge and research on these sustainable businesses and hybrid organizations. But how did I get on this track, and why B-Corps?
It all started in the Spring of 2010. I was an undergraduate business student at Marymount Manhattan College. I was taking a summer course entitled Business and Society. As the title suggests the class focused on examining the changing relationship between business and society, and critically assessing the future role of business for a sustainable world.
The morning before the second class meeting I had picked up the course textbook and sat down on the bench outside the bookstore to take a quick look-through. I opened the book to a page about mid-way through, and in the upper right hand corner, there was a small rectangle that caught my attention. “B-Corps are one example of emerging practices in sustainable business.” I pulled out my phone and googled “b-corps”. The language around sustainable business was confusing and a bit unclear. I was not totally sure what B-Corps were. However, I was certain, and intuitively knew - without a doubt, that they were something that was smart, good, and that it mattered.
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The lived experience of his passing greatly expanded my known feeling of being alive. When I read Sophie's World in 2005, I had underlined the quote above as I understood it and knew the importance of its message - but now, I feel its meaning and known wisdom much more acutely. With this my dedication to being my greatest self and living my most fullest life has surfaced to the forefront of my awareness, renewed with full energy, faith and absolute necessity. "I will do my biggest, best life and be my fullest self." I affirmed.
"But what would that be?"
I thought to myself, "Fearless."
"So, then, I need to figure out - where am I holding back? ..."
Luckily, before my mind had time to take hold of these questions in the tiresome way that minds sometimes do, the answer came to me, literally. It was just a few days ago. I was organizing the book shelves in the closet of my childhood bedroom and I knocked a couple of notebooks off the shelf. They fell to the ground and a loose page came out, with the heading, "Lauren's Legacy".
I was in Boulder, CO last September (2013), where I attended the B-Corporation Champion's Retreat. An unforgettable experience, it was a total immersion into conscious capitalism, sustainability driven business and integral perspectives, in action. Never had I been surrounded by so much visionary good. The entire retreat carried a distinctive energy of something wonderful.
This experience was so special that despite everything I know about the B-Corp movement and what it means (and my friends and family can account for it being A LOT), still, I had to ask, "what is it?". What makes B-corp businesses and actors so, well, so good? So inspiring? It's not as if they are doing crazy alien things, like teleporting or growing angel wings. So then, what is it? What is the that distinguishes these businesses and individuals into a class of their own? After much thought, it spontaneously all came to together - as insight like this usually does.
It was almost too obvious to see at first, that, it's not what they do, rather, it's the manner in which these businesses and professionals do what they do. It's not that they are responsible, it’s how they are responsible. It’s how they treat their employees. It's how they work with their suppliers. It's how they design products or services. It's how they engage with their local communities. It's how , as individuals, how they are and how they live their lives. HOW in this case: conscious and (sustainable) values driven.
This how of B-Corps is precisely the point Dov Seidman brings to focus in his book, HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything. I had read Seidman's work a few years ago and after my trip in Boulder I revisited the fundamental ideas he proposes. While I won't go into too much detail, here is an overview and my key take aways.
As Seidman explains the world has gone from being connected to interconnected to interdependent - so many more people can now connect and collaborate in much deeper ways. When the world is tied together this intimately, everyone’s values and behavior matter more than ever, because they impact more people than ever. Thus, he makes the point, it is no longer what you do or what you know that counts most. It is how you do what you do that has become today’s greatest source of advantage. Of course how we do what we do has always mattered. But today, how consume, how we build trust in our relationships, and how we relate to others matters more than ever before.
Seidman believes all behavior is guided by one of two categories of values: Situational Values or Sustainable Values. Relationships propelled by situational values are all about exploiting short-term opportunities- what we can and cannot do in any given situation. Sustainable values are all about what we should and should not do in all situations. Sustainable values connect us deeply as humans: integrity, honesty, truth, shared responsibility and hope.How is the crux of sustainability- in all shapes and forms, in business and in life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my hows. How I live, consumer, connect, work. Overall, how I do anything that I do.
“Too often in the last decade we have been governed on short-term situational gain opposed to sustainable value. This cause the economic meltdown..too many financial companies became disconnected from fundamental values. Banks, lenders, borrowers and shareholders pursued short-term relationships founded on inadequate situational values of trust. We need to re-connect with our sustainable values.” - Dov Seidman
I've learned that it’s how that has lead me to where I am now. It’s how that drove my academic pursuits on the B-Corp movement, sustainable development, and and it's how that kept my focus there, like a moth to the light. It’s how that fuels my perseverance for and unwavering commitment to a purpose driven career, rather than settling for whatever I can get. It's how, that lead me to start the The Radically Good, and imagine a world built upon a conscious paradigm.
There could be no better starting point for this blog than a How call to action. Take a How trip. Honestly and critically assess yourself. How do you do you anything that you do? Is your behavior driven by situational values or sustainable values?
I challenge you to challenge yourself to be the highest standard of How in all areas of your lives.
With love, Lauren.