Could you help generate the next Ray Anderson?

More and more people these days know who Ray Anderson was – one of the great  global entrepreneurs, and a world leader in regenerative business.   It’s tempting to just accept the 20th century’s “super hero” assumption – but there was more to it than just inspiration.  Ray got inspired because he  had to be inspiring – giving a kick-off speech to his sustainability working party.

There was a process BEHIND Ray Anderson’s “aha” moment on sustainability…

I only met Ray through his books and videos, including “Business Lessons of a Radical Industrialist” and “Mid Course Correction”.  In my interpretation, Ray’s experience was:

  • An external prompt – ongoing demand from his customers – to do “more” about sustainability (persistently re-iterated by then research assistant Jim Hartzfeld).
  • The do-able first step – to form an internal working party (proposed by Jim Hartfeld).
  • A personal challenge to deliver internal inspiration (from Jim Hartzfeld to inspire the working party).
  • The timely provision of inspiration (the friend who sent him “The Ecology of Commerce”).
  • The realisation that humans CAN destroy eco-systems (in the book “The Ecology of Commerce”).
  • The vision of entrepreneurial possibilities for business (in the book “The Ecology of Commerce”).

In a number of sustainability stories I’ve heard recently, I’ve noticed that this story holds a recurring pattern.  It may happen across more than one person, and it tends to happen at the top of entrepreneurial organisations.  But it’s the same pattern:

  • Customers demanding “do more “.
  • One or more senior executives really understanding “we CAN wreck our finite ecosystem”.
  • Being entrepreneurs who loves a challenge.

It’s a repeatable process – one that you could repeat.

Applying six degrees thinking…

The idea of “six degrees of separation” proposes that  everyone is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world.  This means that you’re less than six steps away from an entrepreneurial decision-maker who could be inspired.

So let’s plant a seed in your “background processor” – an aspiration or intention for 2013.  (“Your mission, Jim – should you decide to accept it…”)

  • Where are you going to find a powerful someone to inspire about the opportunity side of sustainability?
  • How are you going to learn enough about what “rings their chimes” to present them the right sort of inspiration?
  • What resources are you going to develop so that you convince them you’re presenting an idea worth listening to?
  • What will you need to believe about yourself to be “sell” the opportunity side of sustainability?

Could you be the next Jim Hartzfeld?  Would that be a game worth playing?   Are you up for it?Corporate sustainability hero

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About Leigh


Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.