The 4th Principle of Sustainability
How linking People, Planet, Profit and Purpose will change the world
Note: This essay expounds on thoughts first presented in the Oct 24, 2009 posting “Lessons from my Green Grandma.”
The three accepted principles of sustainability People, Profit and Planet, have served us well. Through 40 years of innovation they have helped us to create increasingly powerful processes, procedures, technologies and techniques for saving our environment while simultaneously providing for the public good and economic growth. However, if the idea is to build a sustainable prosperity where we can hope for freedom and an increasing quality of life for generations to come, in my opinion there is still something missing. What is needed is a 4th principle that unites all that has been accomplished both green and non green, gives direction and puts sustainability to work to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s desires. I suggest this fourth principle is that of “Purpose.”
Moving Beyond Green
Theologian C.S. Lewis once suggested that there is very little in the understanding of human behavior that is new. Thus, most people do not need to be taught, they need only to be reminded. This holds true for the 4th Principle. Our purpose has always been the primary reason why we do things. It powers our passion and focuses our actions. It guides how we pick and choose the tools we use to achieve our dreams. Linking sustainability to purpose connects it with everything we do to succeed and prosper. By doing so it broadens the conversation beyond the environmental while keeping it as an integral part. Conversely it adds sustainability to conversations where it would not traditionally occur. Simply stated, if all our actions are focused on the same goal we cannot help but look for synergies and innovative ways for the parts to work together. In doing so new questions are stimulated and superior solutions found. Remember Grandma’s purpose was to best serve her family’s needs, not to be green. But green actions turned out to be the best way for her to achieve goals. (read lessons from my green grandma). And because they helped her to do what she was passionate about, she continued to use them. If you wish to make sustainability sustainable, make it useful. Linking sustainability and purpose accomplishes this task.
Linking Purpose and Sustainability is a powerful concept. Through it we can link Sustainability with the Arts, Sciences, Industry, Religion and all else that serves to benefit humanity and the world. Like a rediscovered school of art, it gives a better way of looking at everything we do. However, at the moment we are like children with crayons in our ability to make use of it. To harness its true power we must quickly become Rembrandts and Picassos and learn to combine all of the colors of the rainbow into new patterns of meaning and actions including but beyond shades of green. The next step is yours.
Send comments and responses to
Green Forward Blog
Tuesday, November 17, 2009