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Sustainability as an All-American Value

Sustainability as an All-American Value

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Published by John Friedman
Using the foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States, as well as famous saying from the founding fathers to make the arguement that sustainability is not only compatible with American values, it was woven into the very fabric of America from the outset.
Using the foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States, as well as famous saying from the founding fathers to make the arguement that sustainability is not only compatible with American values, it was woven into the very fabric of America from the outset.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: John Friedman on Jun 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sustainability as an All-American Value
Leveraging the values from the nations founding fathers ask they keys to rebuildingeconomic vitality 
by Björn Fischer and John FriedmanThere is a powerful misperception by manypeople that efforts to implement sustainabilityrepresent massive shifts and upending of business models. Often a successful andpowerful strategy is to encourage people toback to the documents on which the companywas founded, including letters and even booksby their founders. Many times these providethe underpinning to their efforts to ensure adurable business model in the present and forthe future. Overcoming this challenge (thatsnot who we are) is an excellent first stepbecause it provides the needed justification andincentive to develop new models that build atransition and bridge that connect their pastwith their desired future.The American model became a world modeland the United States became a world leader.Over the last few decades, this identificationwith its own core values seems to have beenoutsourced along with the manufacturing of goods produced overseas and imported back toour economy, with a different flavor and lack of identification. It seems that we have been tooobsessed with consumption, convenience andcomfort, while our consciousness, ourconclusions and our concepts somehow did notcatch up with the rest of the world.Increasingly, this reduced our self-consciousness and ideas on how we define andcreate new paths in efforts to rebuild trust,confidence and leadership  and we still areseeking the unity needed to collaborate acrosspolitical ideologies and among societal classes.The challenge in front of us rests with ourcombined ability to create a unified vision thatforms the basis (again) for leadership in thepolitical, economic, social and environmentalrealms. This is after all sustainability at its core it is about long-term maintenance of well being.Or to rephrase the frequently quotedBrundlandt definition, it is about finding apathway that within a world of limited naturalresources to develop sustainable developmentmechanisms that meet the needs of the presentwithout compromising the ability of futuregenerations to meet their own needs. In fact,there are two compelling reasons to act now.Firstly, in order for us to better and more fullymeet the current needs of a wider spectrum of society. And, second while only future willprovide us the proof, by then it may be too lateto change the course of action. This exerciseoffers a model for American companies as awhole. This country can look to its foundationaldocuments and its beginnings to discover whysustainability, despite the perceptions, is verymuch an American value.
 America was founded on courage. Itwas courage that sent the pilgrims in the tinyMayflower across the vast ocean on a quest fora better life in an unknown land. It was couragethat compelled 56 men to defiantly sign theirnames to the Declaration of Independence,declaring in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnlypublish and declare, that these united coloniesare, and of right ought to be free andindependent states. That courage doubtlessaccompanied Lewis and Clark set off intounknown and hostile territory. That is why it isironic when people talk about being so far
 behind that they question whether or not theycan catch up with German engineering,Japanese production and the competitive edgeof the Chinese. Fear of the unknown - or eventhe known - has never been the American way.
Creation care
 Despite the insistence on aseparation of church and state, America wasfounded by men of faith who invoked a Creatorwhen declaring the independence of thecolonies, beginning with the assertion thatpeople are endowed by their Creator withcertain unalienable rights and concluding byinvoking a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence Clearly, then, the principleof having a direct and close connection, andresponsibility to the creation of a higher being isnot a hard association to make. They invokedthe highest power by appealing to theSupreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions when they declared theseunited colonies are, and of right ought to befree and independent states.Certainly those who made their primary livingoff the land  like George Washington, ThomasJefferson and many others, understood andrespected the importance of caring for theenvironment. George Washington took pains toplant native trees  some of which still livetoday  on his Mount Vernon estate. Despitethe seemingly endless munificence of the newcontinent, he also experimented with the use of living hedges, or dense thorny shrubs, to keepanimals from destroying plants as a way toconserve timber.
Anticipating and meeting futuredemands. The ingenuity of the founding fathersis evident in the creation a bicameral legislaturethe great compromise that reflected theduality of states and individuals rights torepresentative government, the creation of three branches of government with their checksand balances to ensure that the presidentwould never become a king.
Hard work and Determination
 and morethan a little assistance by the Native Americans  brought the Pilgrims through their first,horrific winter on the North American shore.Determination, more than skill, brought soldiersthrough the frozen nights in Valley Forge andkept the Star Spangled Banner aloft over FortMcHenry. Thomas Paine declared We have it inour power to begin the world over again. Andchange the world America set out to do, anddid. Determination and hard work drove thewestern expansion over the towering RockyMountains to the golden shores of California.Determination and hard work were therunning theme in the popular books of HoratioAlger, whos fiction offered the formula of pluck, luck and determination to millions of young readers.
 Both of Americas most fundamentalfoundational documents  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution  reflect anunderstanding of the power of diversity andincluding multiple perspectives. The Declarationis headed In Congress meaning that thedocument reflected the combined wisdom,passion, ideas and perspectives of a group of people. The Constitution begins with thepowerful phrase We the people of the UnitedStates deriving its basis from the combinedwill of the people within the country. ThomasJefferson, in his writings about the role of representative government stated All, too, willbear in mind this sacred principle, that thoughthe will of the majority is in all cases to prevail,that will to be rightful must be reasonable; thatthe minority possess their equal rights, whichequal law must protect, and to violate would be
 oppression. The founders recognized, asprogressive companies have, that bringing tobear a wealth of opinions and differingperspectives is the key to competitiveadvantage. Diversity is key, but participatoryaction is more powerful than just being a multi-ethnic melting pot  more so, opinion minoritiesneed to gain better access to be heard whichhas to be strengthened within the corporateculture of America.
oral authority
 An army of principles canpenetrate where an army of soldiers cannot,said Thomas Paine. The lofty idealism that acountry could find justification based on the willof a higher power is not new in our nationalmindset. In the very beginning the founderscited divine inspiration for their desire to createa separate nation. The Declaration of Independence boldly asserts that there is noneed to justify their actions to man (even aKing) We hold these truths to be self-evident,that all men are created equalthat they areendowed by their creator with certainunalienable rights Certainly the moralauthority was on full display when Washingtonresigned his commission as commander andchief, thereby relinquishing his command overthe armed forces that he had led in therevolutionary war in an act which solidified themoral principles behind the revolution  andleading the astonished King George III torecognize Washington as the greatestcharacter of the age.
Shared fate -
The concept of a shared fate wasvery much on the mind of the founding fathersas they set about to declare independence fromthe British Crown. Benjamin Franklin, as heprepared to sign his name the document statingthat the colonies ought to be free declared "Wemust, indeed, all hang together, or mostassuredly we shall all hang separately." Thedocument famously concludes with thepowerful statement that "And for the supportof this declaration, with a firm reliance on theprotection of Divine Providence, we mutuallypledge to each other our lives, our fortunes andour sacred honor."
Long term vision 
After the United Statesearned its independence, the founders againconvened to draft the Constitution of theUnited States. This document remains theseminal founding document for the nation.When our president takes the oath of office, he(or she) swears to preserve, protect and defendit (rather than the nation). And this documentmakes it clear that the purpose of our nation isnot only for the benefit of our current citizens.Indeed the preamble states that the purpose of the document is to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordainand establish this Constitution for the UnitedStates of America.
Pioneering spirit
 Wagons moving westwardtoward California, the farmers and rancherswho eked a hardscrabble existence out of thewestern wilderness are not far removed fromthe settlers who landed at Plymouth orJamestown. That same grit was behind ThomasEdison as he worked to perfect theincandescent light bulb through countlessfailures. America remains the only nation tohave sent citizens to another planetary objectwhere they planted the American flag, not tostake territory but merely to mark theirpresence.In short, we have a strong argument that thevery foundation of America is rooted in ideasand principles that support the sustainabilitymindset and efforts. Thus we have to comeback to fulfill the first principle of our

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