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SUSTAINABLE ENTERPRISES: Where Profits and Values Meet
In most people’s minds, for-profit companies are about making money and non-profit organizations are about “doing good,” and the two shall never meet. Truth be told, there are thousands of organizations, websites and available information that will inspire you, take you on journeys you never imagined and give you hope again. The level of creativity to make changes in our world is everywhere! We don’t have a problem with creativity, examples, opportunity and financing. We have a problem with allocation, access to knowledge and focus.
The hybrids of the traditional non-profit and for-profit companies are emerging everywhere: corporations are writing by-laws about the percentage of profits they donate to the causes/organizations they care deeply about; non-profits are buying patents, forming new companies, bringing products to market and those new companies are committing using those profits to fund education; new entrepreneurs are forming B-corps and social entrepreneurial companies; non-profits are diversifying their revenue streams; mega-corporations are instituting profit-sharing and employee-ownership programs; philanthropy is focused on self-reliance; new types of funding and loan sources are ensuring ownership in the hands of the innovators and employees; new types of public-private partnerships are emerging; and the list goes on.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee of an organization, small or gigantic, you can make a change to influence where profits meet values. You can make a difference. Let’s take the elephant in the room first: Walmart. If you are an employee, get involved in Walmart’s Green/Sustainability work. Apply for funds for a community project such as sourcing local food into the grocery department, grants for teaching children about healthy food choices, “green” your local store, ask the corporation to fund solar panels on all local schools, or develop a project close to your heart and ask this megalith of a corporation to help. This corporation has made a public commitment to such work and they just might fund your proposal.
If you are part of a large organization, convene a meeting with people from all levels of the organization and ask, “How do our profits meet our values? Are there ways we can improve the relationship between profits and values? What are examples and what are our options?”
If you are an entrepreneur and either have a small business or want to start one, talk with a social enterprise consultant, find investment money through your local bank, credit union, the Permaculture Credit Union, the La Montañita Loan Fund, crowd financing or other option. Study triple bottom line and sustainable businesses. Meet WAV Links (Waste as Value Links), where one organization’s waste is another’s material supplier for their products. Consider writing a business plan that takes seriously and yet is lighthearted about how you will bring profits and values together.
Here are just a few resources to explore and to cultivate inspiration:
- Read YES magazine, GreenBiz, Green Fire Times, or Paul Hawken’s book: Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
- Research social enterprise, Biomimicry, Beyond Benign, Green Chemistry and Bioneers
- Volunteer at a food kitchen, pantry or bank and be inspired and humbled
- Go to AllocateYourTaxDollars.org and let the federal government know how you want your tax money spent
- Check in with your favorite non-profit organization, and ask them about sustainability
- Join the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce
The changes in our world, where people are doing good things and earning a very decent living, are everywhere. First, together we must help each other open our eyes and share what we know. Second, every small action forward has a sister organization or an example somewhere. We are not alone. Others are traveling the same path. Third, there are those who will lend a helping hand and a good mind. Just ask and put the word out in places that may seem unusual. Follow your intuition. It is just as good as research. Do both. Finally, make a personal commitment to seek out the good news, the inspiring people, the quiet moments, and know that the world of profits for profit’s sake and the small minority of the wealthy is crumbling. Increasingly, products are being developed that have no waste, do not pollute the planet, take care of people and make scads of money! Teach your children they can become an engineer or a lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur, scientist or teacher, and do what they are passionate about, earn a good living, not pollute the planet, and have a wonderful life.
Based in Taos, NM, Erin Sanborn provides Executive Coaching and consulting services through Collaborative Green. 575.770.2991, firstname.lastname@example.org
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