The Iroquois concept that, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations,” is the origin of the company name ‘Seventh Generation.’
Jeffrey Hollender, the head of Seventh Generation, a company that manufactures and markets sustainable cleaning products, spoke about the company he founded 22 years ago and his new book “The Responsibility Revolution.”
The event was sponsored by the Sustainable Business Council (SBC) and was held at Steven Glenn’s home in Ocean Park. Glenn founded SBC to provide a local forum for businesspeople working to develop sustainable businesses. He is also the owner/developer of the pre-fab company www.livinghomes.net.
The decision to write the “The Responsibility Revolution came from Hollender’s realization that “although the concepts of responsible business are making their way into the larger business world, we are no where near what it will take to meet the problems we face.”
One of the challenges, says Hollender, is that “we have confused ‘less bad’ with ‘good’ and that will not get us to where we need to be. We need to repair the damage to the environment and the culture, not just to stop doing harm.”
In order not to fail, in order to force change, Hollender makes a series of suggestions beginning with requiring ‘full cost accounting.’ He suggests that we no longer allow companies to keep books that externalize costs. His example is agriculture. “Require agriculture to pay for costs of pollution to water, soil, air, and public health, which are caused by standard agricultural practices. Currently those costs are externalized and become public governmental or personal costs. “If agriculture paid for externalized costs then sustainable farming would be the more cost effective model.”
Transparency should be the rule in organizational structures as well as in bookkeeping. “Transparency is about what your stakeholders want to know rather than what you want to tell. Stakeholders want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is important to remember that disclosure of what is wrong is almost always helpful. More, transparency creates an authenticity that is beneficial.”
“I live,” said Hollender, “in a world of irreconcilable differences. I run a sustainable business. I sit on the Board of Greenpeace and I am a consultant with Wal-Mart. Five years ago I started the American Sustainable Business Council to be a counterforce to the Chamber of Commerce. We now have about 40,000 members and are becoming a voice that is listened to in Washington.”
“The rate at which our problems are accelerating makes me afraid that we will fail,” Hollender warns. He has a blog called the ‘inspired protagonist.’ The name suits him.
Crowded into the house were bankers and accountants, developers and architects, tech and green business owners, wanting to hear Jeff Hollender and also wanting to see the Ray Kappe designed, pre-fab home built and owned by Steven Glenn.
The 2500 square foot house had six sustainability criteria to meet. The “Z6” goals. Zero energy, zero water, zero carbon, zero emissions, zero waste, and zero ignorance. Glenn wanted to place a value on form, function, health, and sustainability and offer a beautiful alternative.
The house itself is modern, light and airy, with a two-story living space, a second story of bedrooms and studies connected to the outside with large decks.
You can see the rain chain and the native plants in the garden, but the elements of the house that meet the Z6 criteria are not immediately noticeable.
The steel used in the construction comes from steel in old cars; photovoltaics, used a sunscreen on a second story deck, provide power; gray water systems and a large, underground cistern provide garden irrigation; toilets are low flow and dual flush; the insulation rate is high; appliances are energy efficient.
For the final Z6 goal Glenn used his background in Internet technology and has created programs such as tracking systems for home energy use that provide feedback and offer alternatives. He thinks people are serious about wanting to make sustainable choices and his goal is to assist people to take their responsibility seriously.
Any of these ideas could be incorporated into existing buildings and all new buildings could be required to meet all these standards.
What Say You?
Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com