Sustainability, Environmental - noun - A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.
Some people don't seem to realize that "Sustainability" is not a new idea. Well over 100 years ago, the greatest strides in environmental sustainability were undertaken by some of the greatest industrialists in the world.
Theodore (Teddy Roosevelt)
Let's begin with Teddy Roosevelt, a conservative who believed beyond all else in individual rights and in 1905 established the Forest Service to oversee the management of 150 Million acres of forest set aside for conservation and "continued use."
Teddy Roosevelt knew then what we are relearning now. That in order for human life to have value in this world, there needs to be something worth preserving. Roosevelt was an avid hunter. He wanted to make sure people 100, 200, 1000 years from that day could enjoy hunting much the same way he did in his day.
John D. Rockefeller
The founder of Standard Oil and if you ask most of the environmental community, one of the most hated men in history. He created the first oil pipeline, he developed systems that make oil the boon and bane it is today. But that's not all...
Rockefeller called his company "Standard Oil" because he was tired of seeing people's homes burn down... While kerosene lamps had become pretty common by then, there was no standard for how kerosene was formulated. Some refineries made it far too flammable and these formulas burned down houses and took lives. Rockefeller changed that. He came up with a standard formula, he shared it with his competition while, still being a good Entrepreneur, Rockefeller made sure to stay ahead of his competition in other areas... Yes, it's true, John D saved lives with oil!
More than that, Rockefeller saved the Whales!
How do you think people got light in their homes in the 1800s and early 1900? Whale Oil of course!
In the 1700s and 1800s, Whales were considered to be "Swimming Oil Wells" and a great source of wealth. When Rockefeller began his business, Sperm Whales were on the verge of extinction and only the discovery and industrialization of refined Kerosene saved the species!
Keep in mind that until the standardization of Kerosene, only the wealthy could afford Whale Oil, only the wealthy had light. Most farmers and other people didn't have light in their homes after the sun went down. Kids didn't do homework after dinner. It's possible that John D. Rockefeller may well have had a hand in the increase in U. S. literacy as well!
1898, a hot sweltering day in New York City. The first "International Urban-Planning Conference," focused on the number one issue in all large cities, Horse Manure filling the streets. At the time, New York City was producing 2.5 million pounds of horse manure and 250 thousand gallons of horse urine a day. A wind storm would choke the city, killing about 20,000 New Yorkers a year! The conference, planned for 10 days ended after 3 because the problem was so great they couldn't find a solution and anticipated New York City would be buried under 8 feet of manure in a few short years.
Within 5 years of that conference, innovators like Henry Ford found a way to mass produce automobiles and eventually the "motorcar" replaced the horse as the standard form of transportation.
History Repeats Itself
Over 100 years ago, the answer to the extinction of the Whales and to the tremendous pollution that threatened to choke out all of humanity happened to be Oil and the Automobile.
The fact that some demonize these innovations now says more about the people criticizing than it does about the resources. The fact that Entrepreneurs and Business people are often the subject of similar criticism in today's society only further demonstrates the disconnect between those who claim they want the problem solved and those who want to solve the problem.
The Business Environmental Coalition is "The Voice of Reason on Environmental Issues" only because we understand that to solve the problems, innovators need to be free to innovate and at the same time. Innovators also need to be aware of the how our actions affect everyone and how, with minor changes to our process, we can make a difference!