2012-02-02

Co.Exist

8 Imperatives To Guide The Vision Of A Values-Based Business

Lessons learned from the creation of Seventh Generation can inform any business that wants to focus on supporting values as well as the bottom line.

Imagine a world that creates opportunities for the wellness of people, planet, and all living things. At Seventh Generation, we used something we called “global imperatives” to represent our role in the world that we dream of—the world at its best, most sustainable and equitable state.

Global imperatives reinforce our belief that the corporation is the most powerful global institution in the world today, and that the role of business in society is one of the most important levers for change. These imperatives translate into objectives and strategies that could take 25, 50, even 100 years to achieve. That’s generally not the kind of timeframe within which business is comfortable thinking. But that’s what makes the pursuit of global imperatives so challenging, so important. Fulfilling them requires a complicated mix of a long-term commitments, cooperation with other businesses and NGOs, ongoing education and development, and looking systemically at everything we do.

That’s difficult because we live in a world that compartmentalizes almost everything, from business opportunities to environmental problems. None of the issues included in our global imperatives can be solved with a mind that looks at the world in a deconstructed manner.

The development of Seventh Generation’s global imperatives began with a question: What is Seventh Generation uniquely able to do that the world most needs? It’s a question that lies at the heart of our beliefs about the purpose and possibility of business. The likelihood of business having the type of long-term, widespread positive impact that this question implies is close to zero, unless the process of exploring and attempting to answer the question is as intentional as the development and pursuit of sales and earnings goals.

The question was the start of our process. We created a working document that provided imperatives that were scary, inspiring, hopeful, impossible, and awesome all at the same time, but were designed to change the way we do business.

  1. As a business we are committed to being educators and to encouraging those we educate to create with us a world of equity and justice, health and well-being.
  2. To achieve this we must create a world of more conscious workers, citizens, and consumers.
  3. We are committed to creating a world that is rich in value as contrasted to a world that is rich in artifacts.
  4. We will work to create governance and social systems that increase the capacity for understanding differing perspectives and points of view.
  5. We believe that our business and all businesses should engage in the personal development of everyone who works for them.
  6. We are committed to approaching everything we do from a systems perspective, a perspective that allows us to see the larger whole, not a fragmented, compartmentalized world, not just what we want to see, our own point of view, our own reality, but a world that is endlessly interconnected, in which everything we do affects everything else.
  7. We must ensure that, globally, natural resources are used and renewed at a rate that is always below their rate of depletion.
  8. And lastly, we are committed to creating a business where all our products’ raw materials, byproducts, and the processes by which they are made are not just sustainable but restorative, and enhance the potential of all of life’s systems.

The possibilities inherent in these imperatives are the force that got me up in the morning and into work. They’re also why I believe we had such a low turnover rate and so many people applying for every job opening. They accounted in part for our excellent reputation as a truly authentic company and for our rapid growth in sales as people wanted to be part of what we were working on.

Discussion of each of these imperatives was a never-ending process. One of my favorites is number three: “We are committed to creating a world that is rich in value as contrasted to a world that is rich in artifacts.” Sometimes I think that it is our obsession with the accumulation of stuff that lies at the heart of so much of what troubles the world. The belief that faster cars, bigger houses, private planes, and glittering diamonds will fill the void left by the absence of community, relationship, and connection to nature is misguided at best and catastrophic at worst. Yet, how often I fall into the very patterns that I hope to change! This is the way of learning to live our imperatives. It is a journey that most likely has no end and will be marked by a gradual progress that celebrates the trip and not the arrival at our destination.

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5 Comments

  • Ricardo Lousada

    It's the second time i comment on this post and my comment is erased? Why?

  • Sheena Medina

    Hi Ricardo. Your comment was held for moderation because it contained a link. We try our best to keep spammers out and keep our comments full of lively discussion by real people. Thanks for your patients.

  • Ricardo Lousada

    Hi Jeffrey, amazing article, I couldn't agree more. I'm very happy to know that I'm not the only one trying to build a better world based on the concept of business that can create value with values. I created a concept around this, called xstainable. I will be honored in having you as a reader in my blog. www.xstainable.com.