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The New S & P – What a New Pope Can do for Sustainability


In one of my earliest blogs I lied and now I am confessing.

I lied when I wrote anything can be measured…. and that’s why the next Pope needs to declare all Catholics, indeed all Christians, accept sustainability as a central and inalienable spiritual tenant.

More than Stewards
Pretty much everyone knows all major religions, in some way or another and to various degrees, support the notion of sustainability.  But while one could argue sustainability is central to the teaching of almost all religions, one could equally argue that it is central in practice to none, and so, as much as we might hope sustainability is mainstream to major religions, it is not.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will
teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-10

There is however a great and growing tradition of thoughtful support and action for sustainability in many religions, much of which focuses the conventional wisdom of responsible stewardship of our world’s resources.  This externalization of our responsibilities sets us apart and often above of the very ecosystems we are a part of and dependent upon for our very survival.  Thankfully, the gods, in their wisdom, gave us brains to rationalize but did not estrange us from the forces that give us life… the very power of which we are only now learning as the leading edge of climate change comes crashing down upon us.

The utilization of natural resources (ni‘matullah – the gifts of Allah) is a sacred trust invested in mankind;
he is a mere manager and not an owner, a beneficiary and not a disposer.
Dr. Iyad Abumoghli, Sustainable Development in Islam

As mmeccauch as we may like to think, we are not stewards of anything.  Rather, we are an integral, albeit largely uncaring part of our ecosystems.  And we tend to deny the “integratedness” of our existence even if ample spiritual doctrine and traditions tell different while exhorting us to live within the bounds of nature and express our gratitude to nature daily through meditation, prayer, the decisions and actions we take, at home, work, and in the communities we live in.

We are not above but With-In
One of the great challenges of this generation and this century is to bring this respect and care to the core of our spiritual practice, whatever it may be.  Can there be a more powerful force for change?

Our spiritual leaders must lead this vision by declaring that a full spiritual life is defined as much by internal peace as it is by the respect we show to the connectedness we share with all living beings.buddha

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
Buddhist saying

In business we know connectedness is quickly re shaping life and the economy, but it’s not connectedness as in the typically ineffective corporate social media sense, but connectedness for a sense of purpose and belonging.

Brands that connect at this level are those that will dominate the sustainability century. Anything short of this and your company is likely to become nothing more than a supplier to real sustainability brands. Business leaders who get this and work to exploit the infinite, as of yet untapped depth of the personal values market will earn insurmountable competitive advantage.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.
The Elders, Oraibi,  Arizona Hopi Nation

But its not just brands.  Recent studies found over 30% of new professionals and 70% of all professionals want meaning in their work. Mitroff and Denton’s seminal work on spirituality in the workplace discovered most top executives were hesitant to talk about spirituality, which they defined as the “basic desire to find purpose and meaning in one’s life” even as employees were hungering to do so. Not surprisingly, where meaning in life was actuated in the workplace, companies tended to better than those that did not.

A more recent study by the consultancy McKinsey found “Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees” ( In The Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink argues convincingly that meaning is an emerging key competitive advantage.

And this is what I lied about.  I am not sure how to measure meaning, particularly connectedness or the feeling of being part of a community, part of a pristine ecology, or to see peace hopi elderflower from the wastes of war?  I don’t really know, but I do know that if you close your eyes a moment and reflect, you will feel the common threads of universal values pulling us toward a shared spirit of sustainability

With luck, the next Pope will tell us this is so, and measuring something so dear will become less necessary, making progress in the Sustainable Century just that much easier.

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