for transformation

Richard Wiewiorka and Roy A. Herberger
introduce a new training and community-building strategy for sustainable business

Evidence is now becoming conclusive that humanity is overusing the Earth’s regenerative capacity. This was made dismayingly clear by a study tracking human impact on the biosphere in July’s Annals of the Academy of Science. A research team stretching from San Francisco to Cambridge found that by the end of 1999 humankind was using 120 per cent of the Earth’s ability to replace the resources taken from it every year. Humanity cannot continue to do this and expect to survive. Changes in the way we work, live and earn are needed quickly to bring us back into balance with our life support systems.

The gap between rich and poor compounds the pressure on the planet’s life support systems. The world’s disadvantaged should not be denied the chance of a better life, nor are they likely to be. But to achieve it, they need the positive attributes of the private sector – profit-making, international companies. Whether by investing their own funds or working under contract to governments or international organizations, it is private companies that stimulate economic development. They have access to the capital, the technology and the expertise that can stimulate job growth and wealth accumulation. Evidence shows that, in the long run, it is business that will tip the balance toward a better life for the poor and a sustainable world for everyone.

Dr. Emil Salim, Chairman of the Summit’s Preparatory Committee, warns: ‘If we continue as we have done in the past, we will sink.’ But we believe that business can no longer continue in this way. John Elkington, in The Chrysalis Economy, shows that it is undergoing a global transformation from unsustainable capitalism to a totally different model of sustainable wealth creation. This transformation is driven by global forces beyond the control of any nation or country or company or international regime: Gib Hedstrom and Michael Isenber, writing in the International Journal of Corporate Sustainability, cite the scarcities of critical resources, the demand for corporate transparency, the power of the poor as markets and citizens, and the power of people everywhere as a determined, internet-organized global force for change.

Prodded by a worldwide community of over 50,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – many of whom are at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) – the question now facing business leaders is not whether their institutions can transform to a sustainable model, but how fast can they can do so. Nitin Desai, the Summit Secretary-General, expects WSSD to ‘provide the impetus for specific action that will comprise a major departure from business as usual’, challenging everyone to ‘think big and go to scale’. To meet his challenge we have formed the Partnership for Sustainable Business (PSB), which will use a training and community-building strategy that gives business institutions the tools to transform at the scale and speed needed to restore our balance with the Earth.

The Partnership was announced this summer by Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of Industrial Services Group, LLC (ISG), a company that provides the private sector with solutions in resource conservation and risk reduction while creating profitable sustainability. It consists of Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management; LEAD USA, the US Member Program of LEAD International; Innovest Strategic Value Advisors; and ISG. It is designed to use bottom-line directed training and cross-sector community-building to accelerate the transformation of businesses to sustainability.

Pooled resources
PSB will be driven by the merged resources of its constituent partners and will serve as a model for the community it intends to build. The linchpins of PSB’s training programme will be Thunderbird and LEAD USA. Thunderbird, ranked Number One in international business education by the Wall Street Journal and US News and World Report, will utilize its ‘Best of the Best’ Executive Education Program to design, market and deliver training in sustainable economic development and global management leadership.

LEAD USA will bring liaisons with NGOs, and LEAD International’s programmes and graduates, to build cross-sectoral communities of corporate executives and environmental and community stakeholders and add depth in human rights principles and practice. ISG will bring its expertise in managing industrial processes for increasing sustainability, its networks among resource extraction firms, and its own practice of building relationships with non-profit organizations. Innovest – an internationally recognized investment research firm specializing in environmental finance and investment opportunities – will add its expertise to courses that train business leaders in the valuation of sustainable investments.
The business world now abounds with companies that are on the leading edge of the transformation to a sustainable model of wealth creation
In the next few months, PSB will produce its first comprehensive training programme, initially with a company in the global resource extraction industry. The strategy is simple: show companies the business opportunities in joining the transformation from unsustainable industrial practices to sustainable wealth creation, train managers in the tools needed to take advantage of those opportunities, and link them to the communities of stakeholders who can help them get there in win-win projects. This ‘transformation by training and community’ offers a collaborative strategy that accomplishes what the Earth needs and its advocates demand, by using tools that business understands – training, partnering and creating opportunities. Companies like Shell, Unilever, Aveda and Toyota know the value of this strategy and are using these tools of sustainable management. PSB intends to make them available to any institution whose operations have global scope and impact.

Training and networks
Thunderbird has assembled a team of its top Executive Training and e-learning staff, including Mary Teagarden, Professor of Global Management, Jennifer Spiess, Director of Instructional Design and Support, and E-Learning Specialist Stacy Ehrlick. LEAD USA will manage input from ISG, Innovest and NGO leaders. Together they will produce and deliver a training programme in sustainable development, human rights and stakeholder relationships. They will amalgamate the relationships made during the training to build a network of networks for sustainable development, using Thunderbird’s 30,000-strong base of business graduates, the LEAD Fellows working around the world, and networks of NGOs and community stakeholders.

The sustainable development training and community-building programme – starting as a pilot project this autumn – will use face-to-face and e-learning tailored for executives, managers and supervisors in the participating company. Feedback from the pilot programme will buttress the design and delivery of programmes designed for the full range of companies in the resource extraction industries and, soon afterward, for all companies working globally.

Thanks to the resources of its partners, PSB will work on this ‘rapid innovation schedule’, delivering new training and community-building products to clients within three months of contract to spread the training and build cross-sectoral communities. By using Thunderbird’s modular course design, world class faculty and facilities, and extensive e-learning and video conferencing capability, programmes can be quickly tailored for specific companies or industries and tuned to the needs of its customers. LEAD USA’s wide-ranging networks among NGOs in environment, human rights and sustainability can rapidly introduce business to the stakeholders in collaborative communities to create opportunities that balance the Earth’s capacity while building profits and shareholder value.

Some say that businesses cannot change, that profits and sustainability are not compatible. But the business world now abounds with examples that prove otherwise, companies that are on the leading edge of the transformation to a sustainable model of wealth creation. PSB will use its collaborative resources and the training and community-building strategy to accelerate that transformation in individual companies and entire industries. Together we can return humanity’s balance with the Earth 

Richard Wiewiorka is Vice Chairman of ISG, LLC, and Chairman of LEAD USA; Dr. Roy A. Herberger Jr. is President of Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management.

PHOTOGRAPH: Surgey Subotin/UNEP/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Agenda of hope | Changing the paradigm | Only one Earth | Beyond brackets | African renaissance | Unmissable opportunity | At a glance: GEO-3 | Asking the people | Recapturing momentum | Taking the measure of unsustainability | Breaking the grid lock | Training for transformation | Bring big business to account | Out of the changing room | ‘Dear delegates...’ | We need a dream | Two sides of the same coin: before and after Johannesburg| Quality environmental data for all

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Disasters, 2000
Issue on Energy, 2001
Issue on Hazardous wastes, 1999
Issue on Chemicals, 1997
Issue on Poverty, Health and the Environment, 2001
Wendy Brewer Lama: Disneyland or diveristy
(Mountains and Ecotourism) 2002

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and Land Use

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and natural resources