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This site will be revamped soon. Please check back. Thanks, Mac

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I have been so busy with client work recently that I have been delinquent in sharing my thoughts. I plan to do so soon.

For those of you who don’t know me, please review old posts (some very old) and learn more about what I think about. My values and priorities remain the same. Always happy to hear from you.

And in the meantime, my apologies for not keeping current. Mac

Too many people are blaming the poor and the unemployed and underemployed when not enough are willing to address the issues of the loss of working class jobs.

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/01/01/letter-to-the-editor-devil-is-in-the-details-on-food-stamp-cut/

In my work with sustainable businesses, I never forget that social responsibility includes jobs.

fhttp://www.pressherald.com/2014/11/29/maine-voices-businesses-could-stimulate-states-economy-by-embracing-buy-local

SVN is basically my tribe. Having been a member since 1989, I have done almost 100% of my work directly or indirectly with its members- people who believe that business can be- must be- the catalyst for social and environmental common sense.

I went to 18 consecutive meetings through the 90s, but work kept me away for most of the last ten years, except for a few. So, it was with joy that I returned to Baltimore last weekend to reconnect with friends, to have an audience who are genuinely interested in what I am thinking about- especially employing the disenfranchised, and to identify new fellow travelers to do consulting with.

I am particularly excited to have already heard from two local community groups from former mid-sized industrial cities that now have daunting poverty, weak prospects and that are looking to develop an integrated model that will build stronger community with the inclusion of its most fragile citizens. I am looking forward to the possibility that I will be able to help them through this process, which will require the participation of groups that don’t always play well together.

 

 

 

 

I have spent the last two months studying postings on LinkedIn and Facebook as well as announcements regarding conferences, webinars and multiple other formats, all under the broad heading of SUSTAINABILITY or SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS. My survey confirmed  what I had already suspected. The Sustainability community is effectively 100% devoted to issues related to Climate Change and the Environment, more often than not about technology, measurement and investment strategies; and the People/Social Equity component, with rare exception, has gone off the radar screen. I find this to be a disappointing trend. I continue to be an ardent supporter of all climate/environment/green initiatives; but the dropping of the parallel priority is disheartening, as the impact of the deteriorating state of the middle and particularly the lower middle class on our economy is getting almost insurmountable.

I can already feel the rumblings of a response that says: we are already working as hard as we can. Why is this the job of sustainable business? HERE’S WHY:

As a full-time consultant and CEO in the Socially Responsible Business world since 1989, I have an historical perspective which informs my thinking. Using the benchmark of the founding of Social Venture Network in 1987, the commitment of members of this community (and its early spinoff affiliates: Business for Social Responsibility, Students for Responsible Business (now Net Impact) and Investor’s Circle) was simultaneously to “planet, people and profit,” with “people” referring particularly to the folks who do the real labor. The change in the early language from double bottomline to triple bottomline only confirmed that each of the three legs of the stool was important.

On the social equity front, there were early attempts by socially responsble entrepreneurs to address fairness for all participants in the capitalist system. Not all were successful, and some may have even been utopian or naive; but they all demonstrated a commitment to reasonable equity:

     –     When I was hired to run a large natural foods coop distributor (all workers were owners), I accepted a salary that was no more than five times the lowest paid worker. Other companies had similar models, with a range of ratios.

     –     Even in relatively low pay fields, there was a commitment to pay for a majority, if not more, of health insurance for all employees.

     –     With more jobs moving overseas, some fought the tide and kept jobs in this country- even if it put them at a competitive disadvantage. As exemplified by Ben and Jerry’s and the Greyston Bakery (which I ran for three years), some reached out to suppliers that were employers in underserved communities.

There remains a short list of companies and categories where the “people factor” is still part of the commitment. Individual companies like Eileen Fisher and IceStone are aware of the impact their business decisions have on the average worker, both inside and outside their companies, and try to respond as best as they can in a competitive marketplace. And segments of the natural foods industry demonstrate their commitment both internationally via Fair Trade and domestically in their work with local farmers. But the list is indeed short.

As the Socially Responsible business world morphed into the Sustainable Business world, many of us assumed that all the priorities of the earlier community would carry forward. They have not. The marketplace rules and is driven by competition, unrelenting cost management, expectations of investors, regulatory oversight and a multitude of the other factors of doing business.

But, since the late 70s in this country, the impact on working people of globalization and the “efficiencies” of technology is a crisis that is getting worse. To create a partial list, that impact on the now multiple millions of unemployed and underemployed includes, for many: family disruption, food insecurity, spousal abuse, addiction and incarceration. Their sense of self worth and hope for the future is shattered, and in one way or another we are devoting a steadily increasing amount of our governmental, personal and charitable dollars in response.

So, I can hear the question rising again: why is this the responsibility of sustainable business? Frankly, it is everyone’s responsibility; but it needs to be inspired by a community that has made VALUES part of its business model. If a few companies commit, either internally or through their supply chain, to a small piece of business that employs people who have been excluded, whether urban or rural, it could create a tidal wave of ethical response, not dissimilar to the slow but steady growth in green practices in the broader business world.

I have made a personal commitment to prioritize this problem in my work and am seeking out fellow travelers (entrepreneurs, foundations, non-profits) to partner with. I am not naive enough to think that we are ever going to return  to the core manufacturing jobs that started disappearing thirty or more years ago; but this is a disease that will only get worse if we don’t try to treat it. We must be inventive about new opportunities that are not simply service sector  jobs that pay minimally and are a poor fit for many.

I expect that this will take an hybridic effort with business and non-profit alliances, and even faith-based communities,  that together can walk the narrow and complex path between social mission and profitable enterprise. Remember that a lot of folks have now been disconnected for more than a generation, and the reentry is more complex than “giving them a job.” Frankly, we all know that government is not going to do it, and picketing Walmart and fast food chains for higher wages is a bandaid that may not even yield any results.

I understand this complexity and would love to hear from anyone who would like my help.

I am also interested in hearing stories of successful models that may be replicated. Please share them with me.

I plan to be writing more about this challenging subject, so sign up for my blog to hear more.

Mac

The Cathedral Church of Saint Luke

Invites you to a Talk by

Tetsugen Bernie Glassman

“Living a Life that Matters”

Tuesday, Oct. 8th, 7 pm at St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St., Portland

Freewill offering to support the work of St. Luke’s Cathedral

Bernie Glassman is a renowned Zen Buddhist teacher. After two decades as senior student of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Bernie moved from Los Angeles to Yonkers, NY and created the Greyston Foundation, a network of social business and services that is recognized as a model of conscious business practice and urban poverty reduction. The Greyston Bakery is known for making the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s best-selling Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream.

Bernie more recently founded Zen Peacemakers and has led thousands of participants in street retreats and the annual interfaith Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. Zen Peacemakers today consists of a network of 73 formal affiliates on 5 continents.

This year Bernie released a new book The Dude and the Zen Master (written with his friend, actor Jeff Bridges). He will sign copies purchased after the talk.

Come schmooze with Bernie at a light supper the previous evening (Monday, October 7th, 6:00) and support the work of St. Luke’s Cathedral at Local Sprouts, 649 Congress Street, Portland.  Reservations at  https://www.eventbrite.com/event/8269202407.  ($50.00 to attend)

For Information: Contact St. Luke’s Cathedral  772-5434  office@cathedralofstluke.org