Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

In her blog post on Creating Authentic Sustainability in Business and in a sustainability workshop she facilitated, Genevieve Taylor discussed the four “Realms” in an organization, a matrix developed by John Stayton and Christopher Peck based on Ken Wilbur’s work. Genevieve says, “I would posit that for a company to be authentically sustainable, it needs to have sustainability infused into each of these Realms.”

My natural inclination is the visual. I understand and remember concepts better when I see them, so I sketched the four realms, including tangible and metaphoric reference to human activity and planetary concerns within each. Here is my visual interpretation with descriptions following below:

Four Realms of the Organizational Landscape

In the INDIVIDUAL INTERNAL realm, we can go inward to our personal values, vision, beliefs, and thoughts, or we can express and display them publicly. Either way, the realm is ours to enrich and defend, to inhabit with our larger or smaller needs for planetary resources. We can give more or less access to this realm to others, opening or closing doors to self at our discretion. However, for a sustainable world, we still need to be accountable. I couldn’t help but notice this past Christmas season a house nearby so decked out with lights that it lit up the night. In this darkest of season, this good neighbor’s efforts to brighten our spirits can also be judged as a waste of electricty. The personal choices we make are influenced by the other three realms and by the people with whom we work, learn, play, and do business. We may have choices forced upon us—job loss, family crisis, or economic downturn—but how we respond is our own decision.

In the INDIVIDUAL EXTERNAL realm, we’re still close to home and personal values, but we’re in a more open or public domain. Whether going to a job or to school, volunteering or recreating, we are guided by our dreams and purposes and still, for the most part, we control our individual decisions, whether to plant a garden or laze away summer vacation. Again, the choices we make are influenced by the other three realms. From here, we oversee both of the individual realms and look out to the collective realms, but our vantage point is not as all encompassing as in the Collective External.

In the COLLECTIVE INTERNAL we’ve ventured beyond the individual realms. Our individual values and visions become part of the mix and may influence the collective values and organizational structure, but they are not absolute. As individuals, we’re accountable to the collective endeavors we choose to join through our work and associations. Here the corporate or nonprofit entity has a persona—a company may become known for its sustainable or unsustainable practices, may be perceived as an organization that values family and promotes social benefit or not. The “face,” personality, and character of the organization appears in the branding, messaging, bricks and mortar, products, advertising, etc. The organization has control, for the most part, of what it displays for public view. But because it is a corporate body inhabited by many human beings, privacy cannot be guaranteed, even for a private company. If there is “secret” behavior that compromises the expressed mission and values, it will most likely be found out and broadcast. Damage control will be needed. So it’s important that everyone in the organization is accountable for the enterprise’s purposes, practices, and behaviors. Accountability and honesty—”authentic” behavior— enable trust to be established within the corporation and with the world at large. Goodwill equity and all other corporate equity relies on that trust going forward.

In the COLLECTIVE EXTERNAL, individuals have much less control, in most ways, than over individual internal and individual external decisions, yet we do have some control. As consumers and customers, we make choices. As suppliers and providers of services we make choices. As stakeholders sitting on boards or voting in elections, we make choices. In this realm, there is opportunity for broad outlook and overlook of how all the realms work together, where the paths intersect, and how various systems—natural, business, government—influence one another. As individuals, we connect with the collective external every day in all that we do. Its impact on our lives and future is profound; our contribution to it and stake in its well-being is of ultimate concern for us all.

Christine Walker


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