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Gifford Pinchot: Climate Change is Real, So Innovate

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 17, 2011 6:29:35 PM / by Berit Anderson


By Berit Anderson

Imgres-1 Gifford Pinchot III probably isn’t the typical speaker at Seattle’s downtown Morgan Stanley boardroom. But the lesson he taught a group of Chinese undergraduate students gathered in the audience last week couldn’t have been delivered by your average wealth manager.

Pinchot’s presentation, bolstered by his powerful skill as a storyteller, spanned not just the importance of sustainable business and the tenets and successes of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute – the sustainable MBA program he pioneered on Washington’s Bainbridge Island – but his own realization that human relationships and doing good in the world was more likely to make him happy than money.

Pinchot achieved overnight financial success when his first sustainable business book became a bestseller and companies began knocking on his door for consultancies. But even with this sudden financial windfall, he found he wasn’t any happier than he had been just weeks earlier, when he was still struggling to make ends meet. The same few things still mattered most and were most likely to make him happy – the development and maintenance of personal relationships.

Why does Pinchot espouse sustainable business??

He’s a man of science. Along with slides documenting the monumental loss of old-growth forest between now and 2090 and the direct connection between fresh water scarcity and a U.S. naval plan for international conflict (Yes, we PLAN international conflict.), Pinchot shared this telling pair from a recent National Center for Atmospheric Research study:

First, the average worldwide drought conditions today (Blue and green being hospitable living environments with enough food and water for human survival and red being truly inhospitable.)

Screen shot 2011-08-15 at 5.27.37 PM

Now pick your favorite part of the world in the above picture, and compare it to the next image: World drought conditions 100 years later, given current trends in climate change.

Screen shot 2011-08-15 at 5.27.52 PM

As you can see, we’re screwed. By the year 2090 about eighty percent of the world will be inhospitable due to drought and the resulting fires and famine.

So how does this translate to business and sustainability? The trick is, the two HAVE to merge.

Pinchot has used an unusual metric to measure the success of his business endeavors: A scale that takes into account not just financials, but the happiness a business brings to its users and consumers and the damage it does to the earth.

The happiness to damage ratio:  The ratio of happiness a business creates for its customers and users to the amount of damage or harm done to the world is the guideline Pinchot uses to measure the success of a business.

Obviously it’s not easy using the happiness to damage ratio as a measure of success in a world full of corporate profiteers, but Pinchot laid out two groups of people who are already doing it.   


  1. Ecopreneurs: Those who create new, eco-friendly businesses that take only renewable resources from the earth or improve the integration of sustainability into existing systems are known as ecopreneurs.
  2. Intrapreneurs: Those who are working from within existing companies to integrate sustainability into business practices.  


These folks exist in leading companies around the world. They are pioneering businesspeople, not afraid to advocate for ethics and values as well as the bottom line. Through their hard work and innovation, their companies are at the cutting edge of sustainability and they're reaping the financial and market share rewards. The only question is, which will you be?

Berit Anderson develops and executes strategy to encourage the spread of responsible business. Berit manages CSRHUB's social media outreach and develops business and community relationships. Her background in media and community relations runs the gamut from non-profit sustainability magazines to 24-hour corporate news operations and forward-looking tech publishers. When she isn't busy building bridges with language, Berit studies Arabic, explores the great outdoors, or takes to the garden, where she merges her loves of local food, urban agriculture and education. Weaknesses include large, fluffy canines and Reeses peanut butter cups. 

Inset images courtesy of Bainbridge Graduate Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, respectively. 

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[fa icon="comment"] 1 Comment posted in Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Berit Anderson, Ecopreneurs, Gifford Pinchot III, sustainable business, Uncategorized, Intrapreneurs, National Center for Atmospheric Research

A Sustainability Mystique for Women

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 4, 2011 9:30:00 AM / by Cynthia Figge

By Cynthia Figge


In a recent study by the White House on the status of women, its first since 1963, women now make up 57% of college enrollment. Yet in 2009, at all levels of education, they earned only 75 percent as much as their male counterparts. How far have we come, and where are we going?


1963 was the auspicious year of Betty Friedan’s publication of feminism’s cornerstone text, The Feminine Mystique. Revisiting the book, I was surprised to discover new meaning in Friedan’s message—one with a decidedly progressive bent, even for 2011.


Stephanie Coontz’s book A Strange Stirring provides a compelling critique of the impact of The Feminine Mystique as an impetus for the profound changes brought by the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s. In the event you think women are not doing well enough, she outlines that we have come a long way since 1963. Clearly Friedan encouraged women to embrace, rather than repudiate, their aspirations for a life beyond the home.


What I did not know was that Friedan urged both women and men to use their education and talents in meaningful work that served a higher purpose. It is this call to integrate our work with a higher purpose that may be one of the most critical drivers of the sustainability movement.


Considering the vast transformation required to evolve our global economic system towards sustainability, the yearning for social utility in work is motivating many young people today to be a part of the solution. At both Harvard and Columbia Universities’ business schools, about 25% of all students are members of their environmental and sustainability clubs. Demand for work in this area is intense and many MBA graduates say they would sacrifice pay for work where they can solve social problems and make a difference in the world.


Although all are welcome, women may be particularly called upon to lead the sustainability movement. I recently joined with other sustainability leaders in the Northwest to launch the Seattle chapter of the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF). Last fall, Jean Brittingham kicked off the inaugural gathering of over 70 women by saying that female memes have been absent for the past five to seven thousand years, and now is the time to bring our feminine traits – passion, curiosity, a solutions-first focus, intuition, relationship-based action and multitasking—to the sustainability movement.


Costco’s head of sustainability, Sheri Flies, added that we must understand the balance of women’s and men’s traits, and that she has seen some 30-something year old men embracing their own feminine attributes in their work styles.


Gifford Pinchot, co-founder of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, spoke about the risk facing our civilization, pointing out that as we move from knowledge work to creative work, women are the drivers of sustainable organizations, enterprises, and culture.


In her article Gender and the Sustainable Brain, Andrea Learned argues that encouraging the relational and empathetic aspects of human thinking [those aspects which are more typical of women] – and “better balancing that which has been perceived as masculine and feminine – will lead us to a more sustainable, enduring and productive global economy.”


So is this the time for women to “dominate” and “take over” to lead corporations and the world to sustainability? The recent article, The End of Men, in The Atlantic, indicates that this may be “our time.” Women’s growth in leadership has been barred by the dearth of women in the pipeline for the C suite, and too few female mentors. However, this is finally changing.


Joanna Barsh (a classmate at Harvard Business School) raises provocative issues in her book, How Remarkable Women Lead, such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive, and increasingly complex world. The good news is that women are tracking into sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) roles, and bringing a rich reservoir of strength, optimism for the future, and grounded ways to change the world. After five to seven thousand years, it’s about time.   


Cynthia Figge, Cofounder and COO of CSRHUB is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement. In 1996 she co-founded EKOS International, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Cynthia has worked with major organizations including BNSF, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Dow Jones, and REI to help craft sustainability strategy integrated with business. She was an Officer of LIN Broadcasting/McCaw Cellular leading new services development, and started a new “Greenfield” mill with Weyerhaeuser. She serves as Advisor to media and technology companies, and served as President of the Board of Sustainable Seattle. Cynthia has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Cynthia is based in the Seattle area.

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Betty Friedan, ColumbiaUniversity, corporate social responsibility, Costco, CSR, Cynthia Figge, female leaders, Gender and the Sustainable Brain, Gifford Pinchot, Harvard Business School, Women's Network for a Sustainable Future, Sheri Flies, Uncategorized, White House, women in business, sustainability, The End of Men, Jean Brittingham, Joanna Barsh, Stephanie Coontz, sustainable MBA, women in college, A Strange Stirring, Andrea Learned, CSRHub, How Remarkable Women Lead, status of women, The Atlantic, The Feminine Mystique

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