By Jeff Kluge

David Attenborough was one of three great explorers that brought the wilderness into my family room when I was a young boy. The other two, Jacques Cousteau & Carl Sagan, spawned an appreciation for parts of creation I may never see or personally witness.

As David said in his Netflix documentary “A Life on Our Planet,”

“We can’t cut down rainforests forever, and anything that we can’t do forever is by definition unsustainable. If we do things that are unsustainable, the damage accumulates ultimately to a point where the whole system collapses. No ecosystem, no matter how big, is secure. Even one as vast as the ocean.” 

A major problem exists in the world where leaders do not think about the externalities of their actions; or worse, they do the analysis and make the “business decision” to go ahead and cause harm regardless. Just because we cannot see the ocean floor or the canopies of the rainforests does not mean that we do not impact them. Many view their actions as beholden to solely one group, shareholders while ignoring all others with whom they come in contact. Those business leaders may not have the awareness of their reputation or the wake they leave behind. Sometimes their success blinds them to reality. Sadly, others have lost all empathy, have no emotional intelligence, nor the ability to consider those by-products of their actions or strategies. Those costs, while not directly borne by their business, most certainly have an impact on the greater ecosystems in which they operate and live.

Ripples from our movements have gone well beyond the environmental impact. Our actions encapsulate the health and well-being/ happiness of our communities, organizations, and even closer to home, our own families. Society is becoming keenly aware of the waves of personal harm software design has on others and themselves. Think about the statement that those in technology make when they do not let their children use what they create. Time is now that the rest of us not only take notice but work to find better solutions. We are presented with both a multitude of choices and an epic opportunity. How do we choose to make our own impact?

Wherever you reside, the new world order is about stakeholder focused culture and sustainability. Using persuasive technologies to profit by manipulating users from the data collected on them is, by the definition of Attenborough, an unsustainable practice. The health of the user is breaking, and that ecosystem will collapse. Because of new awareness initiatives (The Social DilemmaCenter for Humane Techfashion sustainability, American Bar, to name a few), many users, customers, and employees are beginning to demand something better. Very shortly, governments will join.

Technology happens to be near the front of the list in discussing ethical design. But those in legal, finance, entertainment, energy, fashion, education, and healthcare also understand something needs to be changed. Companies are hiring and engaging in mindfulness, culture, gratitude, ethics, and well-being initiatives to refocus themselves on what is important, but to also mitigate the pressures on employees that have built from the business and competitive environments in which they reside. While those programs provide tremendous benefits, they still do not address the entirety of the problem, only one slice of it. While these companies are making a difference, we will see best practices emerge.

The most significant key in solving the problem of sustainability is gaining thoughtfulness by exploring how you and your stakeholders are interconnected. It is holistic in scope. For the sake of brevity and simplicity, I am sharing some main points from which you can begin to work. Each discipline is intertwined with another.

  1. Awareness of not only your actions but how and to what degree they affect other stakeholders. Mindfulness programs can be incredibly powerful, and the science behind them is strong; however, those are best used in conjunction with other tools. There can be a dark side to mindfulness. If you become brutally honest, be ready to admit you may have caused harm to others and how to make amends. 
  2. Values & Authenticity: What is it that you stand for? What do you want the personality of your organization or family to look like? Is how you are thinking, communicating, and acting in alignment with what you represent? Culture related companies are targeting this domain. Determine the actions that represent what you stand for and define the opposite behavior as well. As stakeholders gain more awareness and possess a deeper understanding of problems, they will be shining a brighter light on the foundational design across every industry. What are people going to see when the light hits you?
  3. Sustainability: The discipline will be exploring how far back you can go with suppliers, customers, employees, markets, and regulatory agencies. It includes more than just the environmental effects of your product. It now represents the global impact of how you move through the world.
  4. Ethics, Virtuosity, Well-being, and Happiness. These are four important and large topics that I wanted to at the very least mention but did not have the space to go in more detail in this article. These represent some of the most exciting work and will be expanded upon in future writings. They to weave directly through the previous three points above.

This methodology is meant to be for more than just our business self, but also personally. If you don’t know the reason or meaning in where you are headed, now may be a great time to reassess. Coronavirus has thrust us all into a moment to give us pause. It could be time to “shake the Etch-a-Sketch” and get a clean slate. If you think you are on the wrong path and want to change, you can do it. The pivot will be hard but staying on an unsustainable path is significantly more difficult. Don’t get caught in a situation where you are putting good resources after bad just because you already started down a path.

If you need someone who has walked the trail before, or you care for more detail, guidance, and help in putting this into context for your business or organization, be welcome to reach out.  globalimpactinvestinitiative AT gmail DOT com

If you or your company have implemented some of these programs and have data that either refutes or confirms what has been written here, would you be kind to share? I will appreciate the moments to learn. 

My insights were gained through life experiences. Like so many founders, I was driven to solve the problem. Mistakes brought incredibly valuable moments to reflect and honestly answer why things went the way they did. My previous successes built upon persistence and staying engaged to keep solving the puzzle. Listening brought interest. Curiosity sparked exploration. Discovery revealed a better way forward. By themselves, these specialties bring great individual value; when pulled together, like colorful tiles, they produced a spectacular mosaic. This methodology became the foundation for building a better way to address stakeholders: A holistic one.

The Kluge Holistic Methodology: Thought leadership and original content

Providing guidance, consulting, and a better way of training to deepen the efficacy of stakeholder centric organizations and individual initiatives.