Friday, October 22, 2010

Passion or Greed? Organizing principles for Sustainability

(cross posted here)

A number of months ago, when trying to wrap my head around 'sustainability,' I thought I'd ask the web, and noticed something interesting.

When you search Google Images for Sustainability, you find this:

When you search Flickr for Sustainability, you find this:

Do you notice a difference? I do. And it is based on the organizing principles of Google Images and Flickr Images.

Google's business engine is advertising. Advertising intends to sell. The results from Google are images that people trying to sell you something they have made. Yes -- the ranking is all link-based, but anyone who has used Google over the last 10 years has noticed that the long tail has grown a lot quieter. The top results are very tied to commerce.

I would describe Flickr's business model as either Passion or Love. People photograph what they care about, and share the photographs with people they care about. It is emphatically human. That is why almost all of the results from Flickr have something that virtually NO images from Google have: Peace Plus One.

People, all over the world, are flashing this sustainability gang sign and I would wager that most of you sustainability zealots out there have never seen it, at least from the conversations I've been having. Why? They don't give you money. Peace Plus One is the understanding that we all must collectively improve our society, environment, and our economy. When SAP talks about sustainability, this is exactly what we are after. This is also what we report. We define it as the holistic management of social, environmental, and economic risks and opportunities for increased short- and long-term profitability.

Yes, we talking about profitability, but that is also an indication of efficiency (just as carbon reduction is), or lean-ness, or simplicity. I also like McDonough's counterpoint provocation: loving all children of all species for all time.

But really, it is simple. SAP's organizing principle is to make the world run better.

In other words, Peace Plus One FTW.