Coda / March 2008

Laszlo Sustainable Value

Chris LaszloChris Laszlo, Sustainable Value: How the World’s Leading Companies Are Doing Well by Doing Good with a Foreword by Patrick J. Cescau, Group Chief Executive Office, Unilever, Stanford, CA, US A: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Chris Laszlo has produced a truly remarkable book. I am so impressed that I hope every reader ofIntegral Leadership Review will find a way to read it. Let me tell you why.

Over the last few decades there has been a growing pall around the earth created by social, economic, political and environmental destruction. Today, it is difficult to take any news source and not find stories about losing species, death and destruction around the world, global warming and a host of other major challenges facing us. There seems to be little reason not to accept this pall as a cloud hanging over each of our heads. No matter what personal joys we discover, not matter what small positive steps are made in any of the areas of these challenges, the overwhelming sense that is difficult to escape is that the tension is building to the point that we are just waiting for that screaming pitch of destruction to shatter the glass of our existence. Gloomy, pessimistic? Yes.

Here, in Chris Laszlo’s work, is a presentation of hope like no other I have seen in many years. It a presentation of constructive approaches that are leading to positive changes that are and will affect everyone around the world. His work is about what is happening in the world to radically offer the standards of value. Our value propositions for business have long been short-term and bottom line. And we have defined the factors that contribute to the bottom line in such narrow, limited terms that it has allowed us to take action that is ultimately destroying individuals, communities, societies and the environment in a lemming-like plunge of destruction and death.

At the heart of this presentation is the idea that value can be redefined to include not just shareholders, but stakeholder. Our financial interests rely not just on short-term results but on long term potentials. Each impacts profit. Each impacts the potential for healthy individuals, societies and planet. This is not a new concept. But in Laszlo’s book we have the evidence that it is an idea that is beginning to be operationalized and implemented in the world of business and in ways that affect all our lives.

He presents a clear “sustainable value framework” that just makes sense in his description of ways to approach the challenges of sustainability in dealing with shareholder, stakeholders, executives, managers and other participants in business. I am approximating his framework here, because it speaks volumes.

Sustainable Value Framework

The Sustainable Value Framework

Much of Laszlo’s approach, which is grounded with examples from major companies (The book opens with Forewords by ) is based on the idea that there are current apparent conflicts between businesses and environmental groups or business and community organizations and institutions that can be resolved. Shift from holding these groups, organizations and institutions as enemies of business profitability toward seeing them as collaborators in creating sustainable value, the quadrant of opportunities. Constructive engagement can and has created a shift from risk to opportunity.

Well this is just a sample of the nuggets to be found in this small (196 page) book that provides narratives of what is happening in major global companies, clear steps for making the changes in a business toward creating sustainable value and an outline of the challenges that are involved. One key challenge that shows up in many of the steps and processes involves the commitment of top management. The approaches Laszlo offers (and is seconded in a postscript by David Cooperrider of Appreciative Inquiry fame—and Laszlo does show a role for this large system change approach) offers a hope in transforming the world of business toward one in which they become true corporate citizens and participants in aligned and collaborative approaches to addressing many of the worlds ills.

Read it!

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The Summit, Deol SurinderSurinder DeolSurinder Deol. The Summit: A Fable About Integral Transformation. New York: iUniverse, 2006.

Deol builds on his foundations in Indian philosophy and practices to build a program related to the work of Ken Wilber’s work. First, he tells us an extended story of the monkey and the crocodile from the Panchatantra, a story that ends with a clever escape by the monkey from the crocodiles betrayal of trust. Deol imagines what would have happened had the crocodile returned in order to rebuild the relationship.

The story unfolds in their explorations of seven stages of consciousness based on the chakra system and paralleling SDi’s red through turquoise or Wilber’s red through violet. Wile the monkey mainly contemplates, the crocodile actually goes out and implements many of these stages in his life. Each time he returns for more conversation with the monkey. Ultimately, the monkey agrees to ride on the crocodile’s back on a journey downstream. The monkey is further enlightened by an owl while the crocodile seems to be losing energy and vitality. Ultimately, the two of them float to the ocean where they disappear, never to be seen again.

Part 2 of this book is a description of each stage of development and a set of activities that one might practice in promoting consciousness development. The stage is related to communication and leadership style and the triggers for transformation with related daily practices. For example, at red one is encouraged to take care of physical needs through proper nourishment, exercise and medical attention. Also, there others such as active listening, creating a supportive personal environment and using affirmations.

At level six we are capable of purity and simplicity in our thinking with strong cognitive abilities and creating win-win solutions. At this stage we are encourage to build the power of our imaginations, become a symbol of hope and positive outcomes, and pay attention to our dreams while using journaling.

The final section of the book is a set of daily integral practices, “tools for luminous living.” Here we are encouraged to experience, reflect and actualize. He recommends various yoga practices, practicing mindfulness and meditation. There are a total of twenty practices of activity, awareness building and meditation.