Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

For those that are wondering, yes, I know how to spell awareness (and so does my spell checker)!

I recently read the book “Awearness”, by Kenneth Cole, yes, that, Kenneth Cole, the fashion designer. (Thanks for the gift Jane!). I must admit, I was not AWARE of Mr. Cole’s involvement in social, environmental and political issues. He truly leads his company with a triple bottom line approach of People, Planet and Profit.

 It was my reading of this book that inspired me to create the “Rivers of Change Action Alert” that many of you received. (If you did not receive it and would like to receive a periodic email highlighting areas in which you can become involved, or you would like to see a sample, please drop me an email or post to this blog).

 The chapters in the book are divided into issues confronting the world such as: Political Activism, Human Rights, Civil Liberties, AIDs, the Environment and more. Each chapter begins with an introduction of the topic by Mr. Cole. Following the introduction are articles written various people, some who have reached celebrity status and some who may not be household names. These articles zero in on specific aspects of the issues. One of the things that set this book apart in my mind is the way each chapter closes.

 Each chapter ends with a section titled “HOW TO…” which details several ways an individual can get involved with the issue covered in the chapter. These actions are categorized by “Time”, “Items”, “Expertise”, and “Dollars”. Following that is the “WHERE TO…” section which provides descriptions and web addresses for a multitude of organizations working on that particular issue.

 This book has something for everyone from Robert Redford writing on free speech to Rachael Ray on nutrition for kids. The list of authors is incredible: Melissa Etheridge, Martin Luther King III, Ashley Judd, Russell Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi, Lauren Bush, Lance Armstrong, Dr. Victoria Hale, President Bill Clinton, Sir Elton John, Ludacris, Sarah Brady, and many, many, more!

 The Environment chapter, titled “Is It Us, or Is It Warm in Here?” begins with an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. about kicking our carbon addiction, moves through Avery Hairston encouraging youth involvement and Woody Harrelson on sustainable living and ends with Alicia Silverstone on the impacts of our diets on the environment and Lance Bass on how to spread the word. The “HOW TO…” section has suggestions for using our Time to become politically involved or encouraging involvement at work or school, and thinking green at home. The Items category recommends BYOB (Bring your own bag) shopping or building a rainwater-catching system. It goes on to encourage using our Expertise to produce a website, become a public speaker, or start a community garden. We can also put our Dollars to use by buying local, or save money by saving energy, or sponsoring and endangered animal.

 I am certainly not doing the book justice here. I encourage you to check out KennethCole.Com or Awearnessblog.Com and of course read the book! And please, let me know your thoughts after you do!

Valley Forge, PA.-The site of George Washington’s famous winter at Valley Forge soon will be home to the nation’s newest power plant. Approval was granted today for the construction of a 250-Megawatt Coal-fired power plant adjacent to the Valley Forge National Park. While the main generating station will not be on park grounds, plans call for four 300+ foot wind turbines and a 400+ smokestack to be located on park property near General Washington’s winter command. Water for the plant will be obtained from the Schuylkill River. Project Manager Tom Jackson, a self-proclaimed revolutionary war buff, states, “I don’t believe the presence of these structures will detract from the historical significance of the park at all. In fact, the steam and exhaust from the smokestack may add to the experience as you envision the smoke from the campfires rising above…”


Ok, now that I have your attention, let me tell you the announcement above is not true. But didn’t it raise some concern? Weren’t you thinking, “How could they do that to such an historic site?” What if instead, I had chosen the Gettysburg Battlefields, or the site of Mount Rushmore, or anyone of our nation’s historic sites? Would that move you to stand up and say, “No!”? What if I told you it was happening in Montana?

 
Over 200 years ago, Captains Lewis and Clark and their team of 30+ men, Sacagawea and her baby were making their way up the Missouri River on their way to the Pacific Ocean. After rowing, poling, and pulling upstream for over 2,000 miles and being away from U.S. civilization for over 14 months they encountered the Great Falls of the Missouri. The falls, while beautiful, were not one cascade as they had understood, but five and were a formidable obstacle between them and the way west. What they thought would be a minor inconvenience of a portage, was in fact over 18 miles and delayed them almost a month while they moved their gear around the falls. Pushing, pulling, and sometimes crawling while they transported hundreds of pounds of provisions in the brutal heat, across punishing prickly pear cactus. It was an epic effort like few others in American history.

 
It is here, at the site of a National Historic Landmark designating the location where the men of the Expedition left the Missouri River and began their toil across the Montana plains, that SME Electric is actually building a 250 Megawatt Coal-fired power plant. The Highwood Generating Plan makes provisions for the wind turbines and smokestack described in my hypothetical story above: they are to be located on and adjacent to the Landmark. In one of the few places left on the 4000+ mile Lewis and Clark Trail that one can still stand and see pretty much what they saw 200 years ago there will now be an enormous power plant, towering wind turbines, smokestacks… and tons and tons of coal ash. This unique site will be lost for eternity.

 
Several organizations are working to halt construction. Some due to environmental concerns, some due to historical preservation concerns, while some say the area just simply does not need the power the plant will generate. Rather than replicating that information here, please take the time to review the links below (I urge you to review the Great Falls Tribune link, it contains some excellent pictures, charts and maps of the area designated for the plant, as well as links to up to the minute news).

 
Links:

Montana Environmental Information Center
Preservationnation.org
Montana Preservation Alliance
Great Falls Tribune
Citizens for Clean Energy

Construction has already begun, but it is not too late to stop the destruction of this piece of our national heritage. I implore you to write your congressmen, your senators and others asking them to step in and stop this project. In addition, please write to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, The National Park Service and the US Army Corp of Engineers.

Richard Opper, Director Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Karen Breslin, National Parks Service

US Army Corps of Engineers – Helena, MT – (406) 444-6670

A friend of mine from Paris sent me an article that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times (no, I normally don’t receive my U.S. news from France… just another indicator that the world is flat!): “Flat-screen TVs to Face Energy-Efficiency Rules” (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-tv3-2009jan03,0,2869589.story). The article describes the reaction of the consumer electronics industry to the proposed regulations to limit the TVs retailers are able to sell: only those sets consuming power under a certain limit will be allowed to be stocked. While these regulations have not been adopted by the state of California, it is very likely that they will be before mid-year. The industry is opposed… it will lead to higher consumer costs, it will lead to lower sales, it will lead to fewer jobs, it will lead to lower sales tax revenue for the state.  Sounds like a familiar argument? They go on to say that consumer demand will drive the innovations anyway, so why regulate it? Anyone remember the gas crisis of the 70’s? 

Another example is the movement toward green building concepts. Buildings are one of the largest consumers of power in this country, and rank above the automobile on the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere. Yet, there are still many builders today that build to the building codes and nothing more. Some of the excuses are the same ones given by the consumer electronics industry, or the auto industry or the energy industry.

This energy crisis is real. It doesn’t matter if you are a disciple of Al Gore or a follower of T. Boone Pickens. The problem is here to stay and business strategies should address it. Your business may be strictly a consumer of energy or your product may consume energy throughout its lifecycle. In both cases, you or your customers will be looking for ways to reduce that consumption.  Whether the changes are legally mandated or consumer driven the impact to your business is the same.

This does point out a very valuable lesson, and underscores the importance of a sustainable approach to business. A truly sustainable business operates on not just the financial bottom line but at the confluence of the triple bottom lines of people, planet AND profit. People meaning all of your company’s stakeholders, including your customers, your employees, your stockholders, your community and in this case government agencies and regulators. If you are like most businesses, incorporating these strategies into your business will be much less disruptive than waiting until it is legally required of you to do so.

The point is that these are complicated issues that are not going to be solved by only looking to the financial bottom line. It has to be an integrated approach that uses input from all stakeholders. In this difficult financial economy, looking out beyond the next payroll feels like science fiction. But we have to continually project ourselves 3, 5, 7, 30, even 50 years ahead as we plan strategy. We need to continue to evolve our businesses. Those that can and do will sustain. Those that don’t will simply cease to exist.

Follow me

INSIGHTS

Insights is the weekly, thought-provoking newsletter from Jeffrey S. Ton.
Every Tuesday – Delivered to your inbox.

A different focus each week:

Leadership Thought – A lesson-learned, an insight shared
Leadership Q&A – A response to a reader’s or a connection’s question
Leadership Spotlight – A highlight of a person or company helping others to grow their leadership
Rivers of Thought – A more personal thought, observation or musing

Search

Blog Archives

Blog Categories