Run a $100 Million Triple-Bottom-Line Company for Five Years, in Just 3 days

Happy to share this 3BL piece I wrote for Transitioning to Green and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

What if new technology-enabled, hands-on training programs could help business people gain years of sustainability leadership insight in just days?

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the GlobStrat program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”

There’s growing momentum in the business world to respond to the global challenges laid out by Andrew Winston in The Big Pivot.

But actually making it happen — at scale — is still a huge practical challenge. There’s a gap between knowing what to do, and actually doing it. A Dec. 2013 report by MIT SMR neatly defined it as the divide between the “talkers” and “walkers.”*

There is the tried-and-true way to handle this, of course. If you want to get good at running a profitable business that’s also socially responsible, run one. Enter new markets. Develop new products. Invest in sustainable practices. Give yourself 5 years. I bet you’ll win some. You’ll lose some (maybe a lot). But you’ll learn.

The trouble is, the world can’t wait for all the leaders we need to run a $100M triple-bottom-line company for 5 years. Or to shoulder all the risks involved if they fail.

And compounding that inertia is that the scale of the problems we face today means that we need getting more employees — not just senior types — up to speed on what goes into running a profitable, socially and environmentally responsible company.

So the gap isn’t about why businesses should pursue more sustainable outcomes, or even what to do. It’s managing the heavy trade-offs of cash flow and share price and real-world complications. It’s answering the question: What should we do and how are we going to pay for it?

Last year, I took a course that speeds up learning as a solution to this problem. It uses a combination of classroom learning, virtual meetings, intense teamwork, and an online business simulation platform. I came out of it a better business person with a vastly broadened understanding of how every part of a business has to work together if you want to achieve sustainable outcomes.

A compressed 3-day version of the Leadership for Sustainability program is running July 30-Aug. 1 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C. Here’s a link to learn more.

The course features an online business simulation called GlobStrat where teams compete head-to-head to build and grow a triple-bottom-line company. Each team gets $100m in capital to run their company successfully — or into the ground — over 5 years, completely risk-free.

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”

Many non-finance people (including me) in my class reported that this gave them a completely new understanding and appreciation of the CFO’s role in achieving sustainable outcomes.

Each decision gets weighed from a financial perspective by exploring the cost-benefit analysis from a triple-bottom-line perspective. The GlobStrat game bakes in all those choices, so my team could see how a decision changed the balance sheet dashboard, in real time, often for the better.

The course is led by Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg (author of the 2014 book, Building a Culture for Sustainability, with a foreword by Andrew Winston) and her team at Transitioning to Green. A previous class last winter included senior and middle level leaders from BASF, Honeywell, Novartis, Alcoa, Church and Dwight, Sanofi, and Alcatel-Lucent.

And there are two more good reasons why this course might be just what you and your team have been looking for.

I’m encouraged that this course is being hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, right across the street from the White House. The Foundation is a separate nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I personally find this to be a hopeful setting for a sustainability leadership program that addresses environmental issues head-on as one of the major challenges leaders and businesses face today.

Here’s the second. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Hartzfeld, formerly of Interface, speak at a conference. He talked about how he, Ray Anderson and their colleagues never talked about technologies. Rather, they talked about people. Hartzfeld said that our job as sustainability professionals should be about, “Accelerating learning rather than being an expert of knowing.” What he meant by this is that sustainability know-how has to live and breathe beyond senior-level or siloed departments. Knowing how to run a business sustainably—for people, the planet and profit—is a leadership responsibility at all levels and every function.

If you agree with this assessment, then the Jul 30-Aug. 1 Leadership for Sustainability program is worth checking out.

The problems we face are fundamentally beyond the reach and influence of any of us as individuals, employees of a company, or citizens of a country. We need to collaborate, negotiate, take risks, and accept responsibility for the consequences of our decisions and the results and impacts we produce — together. And the faster we learn to do that, the better.

This course is a step in that direction.

This week’s Reading, Writing and Links

Kudos to my colleague Jeana Wirtenberg for her Stanford Social Innovation Review piece on 3 transformative business sustainability trends

Three takeaways from the July 9 Do Sustainability webinar “Creating a Sustainable Brand” with Henk Campher @AngryAfrican and Mike Berry @planamikebarry

1. “Is it relevant to ME?” is the KEY consumer question for creating sustainable products, which are the bedrock of a sustainable brand

2. A cigarette is still a harmful product, no matter how sustainably it’s made. Great @AngryAfrican insight regarding product vs. process.

3. Henk Campfer lays out how companies embed sustainability as a value proposition journey, from Marlboro to Method:









Because money. NJspotlight Opinion: Why Doesn’t the NJDEP Believe in Global #Climate Change?

Helpful level-setting: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Private Equity’s Sustainability Progress

Breaking the “Isn’t it tacky?” taboo re foodwaste. Nope. Waste is tacky.

Let’s hope so. Can thousands of environmental and social justice groups in US join forces to challenge the economic status quo?

Carbonbrief asked energy companies if climate action could lead to ‘stranded assets’. Their response:

Nicely done. “In Truth There Is Beauty”

Can Quirky model serve corporate sustainability behavior change as well as making more things?

Restraint as a value for greater good. @timoreilly “Orgs should actively resist winner-takes-all strategies”

Cogent thinking on Resilience as a strategic frame. The End of #Sustainability

Rubber meet road. Andrew Winston’s free ebook on setting context/science-based metrics & targets.

This Week’s Reading, Writing and Links

“Reducing risk” rules over “More profits” PwC Survey Finds Majority of Investors Consider #Sustainability

Kudos to the Alabama planning director working with climate deniers to help his state. Tough job #actonclimate

A MINING exec talking about sustainable license to operate, zero-waste, zero-harm. Asking the right questions

Vision! Revived Longitude Prize offers £10m to solve greatest scientific challenges/

Important & encouraging: Evangelicals in Florida working for climate change.

Some practical “where-to-invest-once-you-divest” suggestions.

My latest: The ‘CVS Effect’ in Action: Lessons from Chipotle’s #BurritosNotBullets CSR Win.

In Shell carbon bubble argument, Guardian rockyrex commenter reminds that fates can swiftly shift, a la asbestos litigation.

Shell reassures investors that carbon bubble is not a biz risk. Want to ask the reinsurers about that?

Great article! Jeana Wirtenberg: How 9 leaders are building sustainable culture

IMO, the open-carry folks weren’t there for burritos. My $.02 on #BurritosNotBullets

Andrew Winston at Fortune Green this week: In terms of climate change, “the cost of doing nothing is now. Not next year or next century.” –

10 Companies That Are Actually Listening to Customers.

Bottomless salad bowl in your own backyard!

Leave the gun, enjoy my burrito. Thanks Chipotle for standing up for your customers’ peaceful enjoyment

TweetChat #fails….grats to Aman Singh for hosting productive collegial #sustybiz chats

“Get to Yes” progress from Obamacare opponent shows change is possible for climate action.

A poem that cleans the air—literally a breath of fresh air!

“What everyone does when no one’s looking” Good MITsmr piece on corporate culture

Andrew Winston: How CEOs Can Save the World

This week’s reading, writing and links

CVSEffect, consumer voice edition: “Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating” w/o triclosan

Cool USDA graph “decline of smoking” How ’bout one for stamping out #climate denial?

Former SEC Commissioner calls Exxon ‘s bluff on “Nope. No stranded assets here” play.

Hey NJ–we can do this too! How Boston is-and should be -preparing for rising seas.

There goes our last excuse to not take climate action. China ordering 2,000 coal mines to be closed.

More CVS Effect of doing CSR right: Mozilla’s CEO steps down because of talent war pressure.

Another step for CVS Effect. Honeymaid’s LOVE video for #thisiswholesome backlash.

Wow NJ’s FEMA Disaster Plan was filed Mar. 5, 6 days *before* the public comment period opened.

Buzz buzz! The waggle dance of honeybees has been decoded.

Leveraging IPCC: Well-sourced “Dos” & “Don’ts” for climate communications.

Here’s how NJ can transition to 100% renewable energy: save $$$, create jobs and own our power.

Expose Climate Denialism: Faux “NIPCC” wants to be compared to IPCC. Um, no.

It’s a man. It’s a bird. No. Wait.

What does the CEO say? Cognitive science research on CSR/sustainability conflicting objectives.

My review of Andrew Winston ‘s The Big Pivot: A Realist’s Guide to a Climate-Challenged Present

Lesson of the day: “You’ve come here to offer me your gifts. Thank you for your offer, but I do not accept.”

Let’s bridge it. “There is an environmental literacy gap in the C-suite,”

Exxon won’t disclose business impacts of 2 deg scenario.

By me: NJ’s Disaster Plan: Long on Hazards, Maybe Short on Mitigation, Silent on Public Comment?

MotherJones Mar. 21 on NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan: “a contradictory mess.”

Change the way NJ business gets done: LeaderShip for Sustainability course starts 4/25.

Share/link/pin/tag: Carbon Brief ‘s simple 1-page IPCC climate communications summary.

Share w/your CFO: Solutions for profitably breaking climate gridlock.

Now the economists are saying it: Want sustainable growth? Get a long-term focus.

Book Review: “The Big Pivot” by Andrew Winston

Little-better isn’t going to cut it. Nor will less-than-last-year.

No. If businesses want to survive the changes coming down the pike from climate change, it’s time for something bigger.

Here’s my review of Andrew Winston’s new book:

The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World (Hardcover)

* * *

It’s quite the balancing act to talk about humanity’s coming catastrophes with a rational, business-minded focus, but strategist and author Andrew Winston pulls it off.

That’s because he knows what he’s talking about. As he and others have said, “Business can’t succeed in a world that fails.”

To start, Winston briskly and clearly lays out the science. Failing is what awaits us if businesses don’t start getting ready for climate-change fueled weather disasters, resource scarcities and a radically transparent global marketplace. What’s needed is for businesses to make The Big Pivot to low/no-carbon, climate-resilient practices and strategies.

Then, on to examples. Winston knows The Big Pivot–rapid and radical business transformation–is possible because he’s seen and helped companies do it. He shares stories to prove that change can come from decisive leadership rather than just the stick of regulation or crisis. These up-to-date case studies are perfect, sharable examples of what leading companies are doing today.

And finally, he offers 10 strategies that show why and how your company or organization can make big, bold moves for equally big returns on business stability and profitability. I’m inspired by Winston’s call for businesses to buck the short-term safety of a quarterly profits-obsessed status quo. It’s time to pivot to a focus on long-term, science-based realities.

With a certain climate-challenged future ahead of us, The Big Pivot gives us a realist’s path to making sure it’s a prosperous one too.

Green Links: The Week’s Thinking, Reading, Writing

Must-Read, Long:

Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing [$2.99 on Kindle], by Robert A.G. Monks & Marcy Murninghan


Green Links:

At WEF14, Lord Stern says he wishes he’d been more fierce on climate action and recommends the @NewClimateEcon group.

NYT piece shows business catching up on climate change risks.

Phoenix is planning for 100F nights. And others cites are too, because it’s a lot less expensive to plan for resilience than pay for repair. “Federal taxpayers spent $6 on disaster cleanup for every $1 spent on community reliance”

Trust Across America’s 2014 Top Thought Leaders. Some people I already look up to, and others I’m looking forward to learning from.

Cogent explanation about why risk is “uncertainty that matters” and must be counted for sustainability decisions.

By me: 5 NJ Climate Change Resources That Are Completely Under the Radar and Shouldn’t Be.

Word out of Davos is that businesses are realizing they can gang together for real climate action.

Last week’s 4-hour U.S. Senate climate change hearing. and

Sanity from Andrew Winston: If We Don’t Tackle #Climate Change, The Rest of Our Problems Are Moot.

Masterful job by Elaine Cohen to explain GRI v. IIRC.v. SASB

Smart read from Thomas Kolster “Nobody cares about sustainability.”

SUPER explanation of SRI investing: “Buy green. Sell stranded.”

Green Business: Reading & Links from April 1 Hunter Lovins & Andrew Winston Talk At Bard’s MBA in Sustainability Program


Last night’s Bard MBA in Sustainability’s program called The Frontiers of Sustainable Business was that, and more.

Hunter Lovins and Andrew Winston talked expansively about everything from proving the sustainable business case and setting science-based goals, to planetary limits and compelling narrative storytelling. And the role that business must play to stave off global climate catastrophe.

If you click just one link in this post, watch this: Unilever’s Lifebuoy: Help a Child Reach 5 Years

Three minutes. Then Share, Link, Tweet, Tag it to your networks.

The following is presented as things came up in conversation, more or less:

Books (Amazon links noted for easy reference. Buying used and local are always better):

Green to Gold, Andrew Winston

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins

Saving Capitalism From Short-Termism: How to Build Long-Term Value and Take Back Our Financial Future, Alfred Rappaport

Factor Five: Transforming the Global Economy through 80% Improvements in Resource Productivity,  Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker

The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World
Peter M. Senge, et al

Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, Adam Hochschild

Ideas/Articles (Wiki links for convenience; caveat emptor):

Michael Porter: Climate Change is unlike any other challenge the world has ever faced. (citation needed)

Not if. When. Make that now. Business leaders need to set science-based carbon goals. Setting targets based on prior business performance is irrelevant–and dangerously naive. It ignores the external realities of irreversible, inevitable global resource scarcity, social and climate disruptions.

Bhutan’s journey to Gross National Happiness

The evolution of the UN Millenium Development Goals to the new Sustainable Development Goals framework

Hunter Lovins’ work with the United Nations Development Programme

Planetary Boundaries

“Earth’s Tipping Point”, article in the journal Nature (June 2012)

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone magazine (July 2012)

“Time to Wake Up”, Investor Jeremy Grantham on the price of everything going up (May 2011)

Unreasonable Institute partnering with Semester at Sea to offer Unreasonable at Sea

“The Elephant in the Room is Growth”, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard lays it out. (GreenBiz Forum SF, March 1, 2013)

“The Fallacy of the China Defense” (Stop claiming that China isn’t doing anything about climate change. It’s not true.) (March 2013)

“The fossil fuel industry is a rogue industry.” McKibben (December 2012)

David Keith on Tar Sands and CO2 Capturing Technologies (January 2013)

“The Tar Sands Disaster” What if Canada becomes like the U.S? (March 2013)

Unilever’s CEO Polaman Quit Reporting Quarterly in 2009. Long-term corporate stewardship is possible. It takes leadership. So let’s stop saying it can’t be done.

Earnings guidance is not a necessary evil to be endured. Coca-Cola, Google and Costco shun quarterly guidance and reporting too.

Systems Thinking as a core sustainability professional competency

“Looking Back on the ‘Limits to Growth'” Smithsonian Magazine looks back at the 1970s prescient description of our world’s current state. (April 2012)

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Buckminster Fuller’s Trimtabs

Mondragon Cooperative in Spain

On the power of conversations to change the world:

Daniel Ellsberg meeting Gary Snyder

Joyce LaValle gives Ray Anderson a copy of Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce


David Brower

Paul Hawken

Ray Anderson

Michael Porter

Kees Kruythoff (Unilever President North America)