We have all heard of various calls from many corners of society to become more socially responsible the most recent of which was the Academy Award-winning documentary featuring Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth.”Whatever your politics there is no denying that whether the issues are environmental, economic, social or political, the effects of globalization and technology have linked our local communities together in many ways. What we do impacts the lives and fortunes of others with whom we may never come in contact.What has always been missing from this debate has been to understand the business case for becoming more socially responsible so that industry can become more proactive in this great struggle.And then a good friend told me to read “Mid-Course Correct: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise” by Ray Anderson the CEO of Interface, a $1billion carpet company. This diagram is the Interface view of the destination they are striving to reach – to become not just a sustainable business (zero carbon footprint) but also to become a regenerative company.Their quest is nothing short of redefining themselves from how they make money to what organic materials they use to produce carpet. Imagine…. a billion dollar for-profit, publicly traded business that is highly profitable yet feels they can do better by becoming not only an engine of commerce but a steward of the environment. THIS IS A CARPET COMPANY not a environmental group.Ray Anderson says, “we are redesigning for greater resource efficiency.” But that’s not all. He sees the need for us to redesign commerce “in the next industrial revolution” by rethinking our roles as manufacturers and suppliers of products and services.Is social responsibility a strategic opportunity to enhance the value , strategy, and infrastructure of an organization? Can it attract and retain stronger customer or member loyalty especially as the very socially-conscious NetGeneration comes of age?Many of the largest and most profitable companies are exploring sustainable business and development which extends far beyond simple CSR practices.  Here in their words is the World Business Council on Sustainable Development.This section will explore some of the “players” who represent some of the foundational work in making social responsibility a mission we can all embrace.

  • Interface – seeks to become the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits – by 2020 – and in doing so we will become restorative through the power of influence
  • AIGA -founded as the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1914, AIGA is the professional association for the design community and has launched the Center for Sustainable Design and the Design for Democracy campaign as practical strategies to meet social need
  • MBDC – a product and process design firm dedicated to revolutionizing the design of products and services worldwide to promote and shape the “Next Industrial Revolution” through the introduction of a new design paradigm called Cradle to Cradle Design, and the implementation of eco-effective design principles


One response

2 07 2007

Be careful of whom you hold up as models. One is a late entrant in the eco-design responsibility field and MBDC, the last I heard, does not address toxicity, a serious flaw in its formula. Check out IDSA/Interest Sections for the Okala eco-design curriculum, which is terrific.



I checked with MBDC. FYI regarding toxicity and Cradle to Cradle

To assist companies in (re)designing eco-effective products, MBDC uses the Cradle to Cradle Design Protocol to assess materials used in products and production processes. The Protocol is founded on the “Intelligent Products System” developed by Michael Braungart and his colleagues at EPEA.

In applying the Protocol, materials in products are first inventoried and then evaluated according to their characteristics within the desired application, and placed into one of four categories (Green, Yellow, Orange, or Red) based on human health and environmental relevance criteria. After all chemicals are assessed, the materials in a product application are optimized by positively selecting replacements for chemicals characterized as Red and using Green chemicals as they are available.


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