The LOHAS Forum in Boulder is reminding us of what we already know: to live a meaningful life we need a compass that informs our behavior. I listened to the panel discussion on “Incorporating Socially Responsible Ethics in Your Supply Chain.” Of course, fair trade is a hot topic in the context of supply chain ethics and the relationship between poverty and global commerce. The wellbeing of the suppliers is of utmost importance when evaluating the policies and practices of businesses. Fair Trade Certification is growing more than 20% annually. AVEDA, Eileen Fisher and the Endangered Species Chocolate Foundation sent representatives to engage with Forum participants. Chuck, Amy and Wayne shared their challenges and successes.
Scott Leonard the Co-Founder of Indigenous Designs moderated the panel and set the tone by asking all of us to think about what “Ethics” really means. Given the complexity of supply chain dynamics, an equally important question that Scott posed is this: “why is it important to incorporate ethical concerns when evaluating supply chain integrity?” Trust and transparency were common responses including the importance of responsibility and accountability for the total impact on people, plants, animals and the environment. Protecting and maintaining the quality of air, and water while supporting a healthy, local living economy, based upon reasonable wages capable of improving lives and a healthy, happy work environment, were the core values shared by the audience participants. Interestingly, although the term “social justice, was not mentioned specifically, that theme was at the heart of the discussion.
What would you do if your job description for LIFE was “Vice President, Earth and Community Care.” That’s quite a responsibility. Can one person in one company truly care for our communities and the Earth? Well, that’s Chuck Bennett’s title at AVEDA. Chuck mentioned that AVEDA is in the Beauty industry. They have been fortunate to carve out a special “wellness niche”. According to Chuck, “AVEDA can’t be a beautiful brand unless it is also a good company.” Ultimately, we’re all being challenged to green our businesses at the same time we green our communities and our planet.
“The old idea that business is business and somehow separate from life is no longer acceptable to a growing segment of our culture we now call conscious consumers.”
That’s the point of the whole LOHAS forum, empowering each one of us to step into that job description. After the panel, I had a chance to talk with Scott, the moderator, and we agreed upon this shared perspective:
“As business leaders, we are integrating ethical principles with business practices while shifting the status quo economy. We are the care givers, co-creating an entirely new ecology of commerce .”
How do we bridge the gap between life and business? The LOHAS crowd is pushing the envelop beyond the “silo” mentality to a more integrated view of everything we do. The separation of church and state / business and life is deeply imbedded in our psyche. The LOHAS conversation stirred up a personal memory. Several years ago, I watched the Will Smith and Gene Hackman film Enemy of the State. I sat in the old Basemar $2.00 theater in Boulder with a former Engineering professor from MIT. At the end of the film, I was troubled by the absence of ethical behavior on the part of the NSA techies who were “just doing their jobs.”
I asked the former professor if MIT required any courses on Ethics for it’s graduating students. He laughed at my Question. He indicated they never discussed how to resolve moral dilemmas, his students were engineers, not philosophers. Being an idealist has it’s rewards and liabilities. Thank goodness the Forum brings together committed and passionate idealists determined to staunchly stand up for core values that respect ethical behavior in life as well as business.
Typically, supply chain discussions and ethics center on globalization issues. They focus on how companies extract raw materials for their products.Or, they evaluate a company’s labor practices in emerging nations. The initiative to revitalize local living economies takes into consideration fair wages and fair labor practices as well as bio-regional sourcing issues. The tension between local and global priorities is increasing. This video may bring the topic of a fair wage, right back home where we can take a cold hard look at domestic supply chains in addition to focusing on international practices.
Clearly, there are no easy solutions. Perhaps, the obvious is being overlooked, are we victims of a system that people create in the first place? Have we forgotten that all of our business activity is a human construct? That’s the good news, we can de-construct it and re-do it.
Through the course of the panel discussion, it became evident that the power of our consumer choices will drive companies to raise the bar on supply chain standards of behavior and performance. Ethical business leaders are onto this trend and doing their best to keep up with the growing awareness that human behavior and “business as usual” is affecting all life on Earth.
A favorite phrase is to vote with your dollars in the marketplace of change! In the context of business, this is the core principle of ethical behavior. An integral awareness ( understanding that everything is interconnected) is necessary to appreciate that everything we do has an impact upon ecological systems that support a healthy, balanced and harmonious life! Gaining that awareness requires education and exposure to the ideas and values that the LOHAS forum is advancing.
The stakes are getting higher every day.
Onward with Courage,