Maybe a Village is Not the Answer

Dick Pastor photo

Dick Pastor

I read with interest the blog from Mark Posson on August 8, 2011 entitled “Community Engagement is the Key to Climate Action.”  My immediate thought was that perhaps he was right.  After all, didn’t we all agree that it takes a village to raise a child?  The more I thought about it, though, I was drawn to the fact that perhaps by community he must have meant individuals and not organizations.

Isn’t it really the choices that individuals make that will impact any changes that we wish to bring about?

It is individual behavior changes that will result in progress really being made. Not government, not corporations, and not organizations, but in reality the individuals who make up all these entities.   While you can try and make an individual’s choice easy, financially attractive and provide some type of immediate gratification, when you get below the surface the reasons an individual makes a choice is because they really believe it is the right thing to do. The personal satisfaction of “doing the right thing” is the gratification people get.  This premise is what we have always been told.  When you face a question the best course of action is to do the right thing.

Now, I am not saying that the decision of what is the right thing to do will always be easy.  In fact some of our greatest internal issues have dealt with what is right.  Just Google the term, “doing what is right”, and you will find more than 10,200,000 entries, ranging from moralists and philosophers all expounding about how they approach the question.  It is interesting to note that there is even an online course at Harvard, taught by Michael Sandel, where one of his critical sessions is entitled “What’s the right thing to do?”

To get the major changes we desire then we must look to the individual to make the right choices and these choices should be based on what they perceive as their person responsibility.  What is your personal responsibility?

About Dick Pastor

Dick Pastor is Vice President with Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure. He has more than 40 years of experience in the environmental field, positions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as Director of Environmental Services for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he played a significant role in the early development of the company’s sustainability program. He is a past president of NAEM.

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1 Comment
  1. Rick Lebherz

    November 30, 2011

    I dont think the two are mutually exclusive. I believe it is a combination of both. It comes down to the correct individuals in a company or organization to make the right decisions, but it also involves listening to the community, whether that is internal employees, external suppliers, customers…etc. The feedback they provide will help shape and drive what is important to them and potentially what should be important to you as well. I agree that financially it should make sense as well, but its about weighing the needs of an organization with the reality.

    While I am not a huge fan of forced governmental regulations, historically private sector is resistant to change. If more companies would take on these projects voluntarily and allow more visibility into this information potential regulations could be avoided.

    At issue for me is developed nations like the US, Canada, Europe have one set of standards and emerging nations have another(if any). People around the world are hungry and competition for jobs is high right now. But without a level playing field we put ourselves at a disadvantage by taking on the responsibilities when others do not. But if you consider the possible long term consequences or short cuts such as long term clean up issues or other unintended consequences it is more complex than that. If climate change is valid, what would the current status quos impact be on industry such as agriculture for example. And who should I be concerned with this if I am not in that industry? I believe it is more challenging that just short term costs. But we live in a short term society where we manage for a 1/4 at a time.

    Its a hard issue to fully approach because there are so many variables and players involved in the possible requirements and consequences. That why I think a community approach is important early on.

    At the end of the day I believe it will take major players, such as walmart or apple, to set the tone and drive this information as a competitive advantage both from a green marketing stand point as well as an operational efficiency management approach. At the end of the day all this information gives a better picture of true operations and we are in the period of adding new lines to the ledger. But which ones do we need and in which countries? Maybe a standard approach like the GRI can help lead the way?

    Thats my rant for the day.

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