Milton Friedman’s disastrous argument

I read Seth Godin’s blog every day. I think he’s smart and we share most of the same values. Today’s post is a wonderful example of that. Its insight is simple but profound.

The renowned and (in many circles) revered economist Milton Friedman made an argument half a century ago that says this: “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…”

Since then, business school deans, the Harvard Business Review and Fortune (among others) have published rebuttals. But, as Godin points out, the interesting thing is that this corrosive, destructive point of view has been used to justify irresponsible actions by many, many corporations since it was published. Why? It’s simple. It lets people off the hook. It gives them permission to act like brats. To pillage the rest of society, take the spoils and run. With impunity. What’s not to like, if it applies to you?

But if the human beings who run companies can’t find a way to act like human beings, then it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to protect our larger society from them. We do that in other areas where we see societal damage: We can’t put melamine in baby formula. We can’t sell cigarettes to children. We have building codes. Hell, we carefully regulate near-irrelevant areas like sports. So why should corporations be immune from accountability?

I’m not suggesting we prohibit profits. Just that we insist they be tempered with other obligations. The same ones we live with as individuals. Here’s Seth Godin’s suggestion:

A business is a construct, an association of human beings combining capital and labor to make something. That business has precisely the same social responsibilities as the people that it consists of. The responsibility to play fairly, to see the long-term impacts of its actions and to create value for all those it engages with.

This sounds like a great starting place to me. More here.

Helping out the honeybees

Does the bee die-off freak you out? It should. Bees are essential pollinators and they’re a huge part of why we have fruits and vegetables to eat. California farming without bees would be a disaster. But between April 2015 and 2016, the United States lost 44% of its bee population.

Now, at least one invention is helping. It’s a clever concept — a foldable, easy to set up, baited hive that attracts swarms and keeps them in the area, so farmers can be a little more assured that they’ll be able to continue to grow our food.

It’s another example of how design thinking can make a huge difference in the world. Check it out.

Cleaning up the garbage patch

It looks like the young inventor Boyan Slat has improved his incredible design to efficiently extract plastic from the Pacific gyre. The project goes into action next year. And if all goes as planned, the enormous pile of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean will be reduced by 50% in 5 years.

Considering the Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers such a huge area, that is simply amazing.

Google Chromebook goes green

A big huzzah for our client Be Green Packaging. They’ll be manufacturing packaging for Google’s Chromebook, the amazing $279 laptop.

Be Green’s innovative technology, which allows them to create near-vertical draft angles in a molded natural fiber container, makes them a perfect choice for crisp, high-tech products like this. One more company doing one more thing to keep global warming at bay, and reduce the Texas-sized slurry of plastic particles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by at least a bit.

Curious to read the whole story? Check it out here:

Google Chromebook Goes Green: New Laptop Packaging Made From Blend of Sustainable Plant Fibers | Be Green Packaging LLC.

Pollution-free solution to our energy needs?

I’ve often wondered what’s been happening with the idea of harnessing the powerful, predictable movement of the oceans’ tides to create electricity.

It seems obvious, but then you’d have to look at how to actually do it, and how to keep it all maintained and functioning. Machinery below the waterline is subject to everything from electrolysis to corrosion to barnacles. Just keeping a boat hull working decently requires a lot of maintenance. What about a giant generator?

Well it looks like somebody’s figuring it out. And to maintain this thing, you bring it up the surface, clean it off, and then lower it back down. At least that’s what seems to be happening in this video.

Sure hope this works! It could be part of the solution to global warming.

(Thanks, Eric!)

Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design

When I get busy, sometimes the blog suffers. Luckily, our client Be Green Packaging has put up a great, informative post about William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s new book “The Upcycle”.

They contend that companies can and should go beyond Zero Emissions and actually develop processes that improve the environment. And they present examples of some who are doing just that!

Read more here:

Going Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design.