A Formula for Happiness: Sustainable Integration

My latest article originally ran in MediaPost. Check it out here and below: 

There has been a paradigm shift and all signs are indicating that global consumer culture is changing. In this new consumer culture, there is a growing realization that consumption does not necessarily equal happiness. And happiness is now being linked more intrinsically to sustainability.

The economics of happiness and the importance of happiness to society is not a new concept. Aristotle famously wrote that “happiness depends upon ourselves” and frequently discussed happiness in relationship to ethics. In the United States, the “pursuit of happiness” is placed on equal footing with life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. 

That said, while the foundation for a society that values happiness has been established, the post-Industrial Revolution experience in the West has been largely characterized by consumerism and materialism, with the takeaway message that happiness is obtained vis-à-vis the owning of things. The sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote about “conspicuous consumption” in 1899 and by 1913 the idiom “keeping up with the Joneses” was practically a household phrase. 

For KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyiniarz, founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and the highly anticipated Sustainable Brands conference, a revolution of interconnectedness is afoot. “What we see is that there is a redefinition of value going on the world right now,” she told me in a phone conversation. “There’s a growing realization that the principles that have guided society, marketers, and brands for the past 100 years have led us to the series of crises which we’re in now, from overconsumption of resources to ultimately a depletion of happiness.”

Much of this shift, Skrzyiniarz theorizes, can be attributed to a growing shift towards system thinking. “Society is increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of systems. We are on the whole more emotionally connected and as consumers are more aware of the factors that impact the larger system – from economic drivers, to fair trade and labor practices,” says Skrzyiniarz.

This shift is resulting in significant disruption in the marketplace, such as the rise of collaborative consumption. It’s a “what’s mine is yours” economic model that facilitates swapping, bartering, peer-to-peer sharing and repurposing of existing things. It’s crowdsourced, with grassroots-origins and also remarkably successful commercially as consumers are increasingly choosing businesses that enable human touch points. 

Sustainability – and branding – are integrated issues where everything in a company must be aligned. “When we understand the world from a systems perspective, rather than in silos, we understand that sustainable brands cannot be developed in isolation,” says Skrzyiniarz. Branding should first be “who you are, what you do, how you do it and then, after all that, how you talk about it.”

Integration sounds daunting. My college calculus professor used to describe the operation of integration as “scary addition.” He described it as such: imagine that you are looking at the horizon and want to calculate the area beneath it. Integration is breaking the horizon up into recognizable shapes and then adding them back together. It requires seeing the whole as a sum of parts. 

But there is tremendous opportunity to not only understand the world beneath the horizon, but to also make it better. 

Let me know your thoughts here or at @Measure4What.


Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/174538/a-formula-for-happiness-sustainable-integration.html#ixzz1vgzqJ3Kv

A Formula for Happiness: Sustainable Integration

My latest article originally ran in MediaPost. Check it out here and below: 

There has been a paradigm shift and all signs are indicating that global consumer culture is changing. In this new consumer culture, there is a growing realization that consumption does not necessarily equal happiness. And happiness is now being linked more intrinsically to sustainability.

The economics of happiness and the importance of happiness to society is not a new concept. Aristotle famously wrote that “happiness depends upon ourselves” and frequently discussed happiness in relationship to ethics. In the United States, the “pursuit of happiness” is placed on equal footing with life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. 

That said, while the foundation for a society that values happiness has been established, the post-Industrial Revolution experience in the West has been largely characterized by consumerism and materialism, with the takeaway message that happiness is obtained vis-à-vis the owning of things. The sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote about “conspicuous consumption” in 1899 and by 1913 the idiom “keeping up with the Joneses” was practically a household phrase. 

For KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyiniarz, founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and the highly anticipated Sustainable Brands conference, a revolution of interconnectedness is afoot. “What we see is that there is a redefinition of value going on the world right now,” she told me in a phone conversation. “There’s a growing realization that the principles that have guided society, marketers, and brands for the past 100 years have led us to the series of crises which we’re in now, from overconsumption of resources to ultimately a depletion of happiness.”

Much of this shift, Skrzyiniarz theorizes, can be attributed to a growing shift towards system thinking. “Society is increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of systems. We are on the whole more emotionally connected and as consumers are more aware of the factors that impact the larger system – from economic drivers, to fair trade and labor practices,” says Skrzyiniarz.

This shift is resulting in significant disruption in the marketplace, such as the rise of collaborative consumption. It’s a “what’s mine is yours” economic model that facilitates swapping, bartering, peer-to-peer sharing and repurposing of existing things. It’s crowdsourced, with grassroots-origins and also remarkably successful commercially as consumers are increasingly choosing businesses that enable human touch points. 

Sustainability – and branding – are integrated issues where everything in a company must be aligned. “When we understand the world from a systems perspective, rather than in silos, we understand that sustainable brands cannot be developed in isolation,” says Skrzyiniarz. Branding should first be “who you are, what you do, how you do it and then, after all that, how you talk about it.”

Integration sounds daunting. My college calculus professor used to describe the operation of integration as “scary addition.” He described it as such: imagine that you are looking at the horizon and want to calculate the area beneath it. Integration is breaking the horizon up into recognizable shapes and then adding them back together. It requires seeing the whole as a sum of parts. 

But there is tremendous opportunity to not only understand the world beneath the horizon, but to also make it better. 

Let me know your thoughts here or at @Measure4What.


Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/174538/a-formula-for-happiness-sustainable-integration.html#ixzz1vgzqJ3Kv

Tackling the Leatherman’s Loop 10K…

Today, I’m celebrating Earth Day with friends while running the Leatherman’s Loop — a 10K race outside of Westchester, NY that includes water crossings, mud flats, hills and walls. 

As Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco) said in Born to Run:

Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you … Think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. 


Going Beyond The ‘End of the Road’

Reposting my article which ran on MediaPost: 

Last week, I attended the New York Times-hosted Energy for Tomorrow conference. Held in New York City, it was a day of discussions and debate about the future of energy – weighing the pros and cons of wind, natural gas, ethanol, solar cells, nuclear or some heretofore undiscovered source of power. A recurrent theme was that restricted resources – or in some cases, restricted access to resources – is a key catalyst for innovative solutions. 

Leading energy specialist Daniel Yergin addresses this concept in his recent book, The Quest. It’s a lengthy tome on the search for sustainable sources of energy that is a must-read, whether you’re in business, marketing or sustainability. One quote in particular stands out: 

So often, over the history of the oil industry, it is said that technology has gone about as far as it can and that the ‘end of the road’ for the oil industry is in sight. And then, new innovations dramatically expand capabilities.

How many other industries and companies have thought that they reached the “end of the road” from a sustainability perspective? As one energy executive at the conference bemoaned, his company will have to change its core business in order to meet sustainability goals. He likened it to asking a candy company to make healthier products. 

Not only does it require innovation to get past the end of the road, but it also may require a shift in corporate priorities, or even a shift in your core product.

This kind of thinking is by no means limited only to the energy industry. In 2003, McDonald’s began selling salads, and in that time claims to have sold more than 1 billion salads in the U.S. Burger King, which is making a move to be more casual dining and less “fast food,” is reinventing itself by selling salads and smoothies. Will Burger King be able to convince consumers to look past its name and trust them to prepare healthier options?

In lieu of a reinvention, companies whose products may be considered a threat to environmentalism are trying to develop innovative alternatives that do not require a complete overhaul. For example, this week, 3M – the company behind Scotch tape and Post-it notes – announced the launch of a “greener” masking tape that provides the same level of effectiveness while using fewer resources, in particular, paper products. Perhaps we’ll eventually live in a world where we don’t need masking tape, but, until then, 3M has the right strategy – make its products as green as possible.

As one executive described it to me, innovation is like getting to a brick wall and realizing while you can’t go through it, you can find a way to climb over it. 

How have you gone beyond the end of the road? Let me know, here or at @Measure4What.


Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/172601/going-beyond-the-end-of-the-road.html#ixzz1sP2CSyy1

Give And Take: Creating Sustainable Impact

As we move past the holiday season and into 2012, the frenzied language of cutting and slashing is filling the air with vows to cut carbs, slash prices, and reduce spending! This season, I’m challenging myself to adopt a rhetoric of sustainable “creation” to accompany a long-standing philosophy to “reduce.”

The language of reduction is one that is familiar and sacred to the sustainability advocate. The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle,” while verging on being an oversimplification of the green movement, is one that is embedded in the public’s consciousness and synonymous with what it means to be an environmentalist.

Read my full piece at MediaPost here.