Along with the spiritual, financial, and social bottom line, the environmental bottom line is an integral measure of a God-centered successful business. The subject of this series is wealth creation for holistic transformation. The work of wealth creators includes sharing the Good News of salvation through Jesus, improving the financial wellbeing of society and the staff within their companies, providing the dignity of work and the stability that ensues from meaningful long term employment, developing a society where we love each other as we love ourselves, and providing the clean energy, water, air and land on which we live. The wealth creator acknowledges this inextricably linked web of relationship with Christ, society and creation.
Environmental stewardship, then, is not an add-on. It is not part of a marketing plan to ‘look good’. It is a God-given command to steward his creation. By affirming one’s business and passion for wealth creation as an important part of the business ecology and an instrument in meeting the cultural mandate, creation will be restored and opportunities for wealth creation will be seen. Each business run by wealth creators has a specialty, a God-gift, and points of excellence that can be applied to a pressing environmental issue. A transportation company can work on innovative fuel efficiency and improve transportation of needed medicines. A restaurant can source its food stocks with care,[i] and reduce food waste by supporting the food bank with excess, then composting the rest. An office can install passive cooling, energy efficient lighting and provide incentives to reduce commuting or increase the use of less polluting transport for their employees. Companies have the advantage of scale and resources to do much good quickly. Environmental discipline is financial discipline (conservation of resources), social discipline (respect of local communities and the resources under their stewardship), and spiritual discipline (obeying God’s commandment to steward the earth). The bottom lines are integral and are split into four for convenience, but not in practice. A company is not truly profitable until it affects a positive return in each bottom line. Stewardship is intentional and requires discipline to carry it out. Sustainable living is to ‘aim for a full, just and responsible enjoyment of the amazing gifts that our generous God has provided for us.’[ii]
Since environmental discipline is integral in any business committed to run with excellence, every business is an environmental business. The application of the interconnected strategies of pollution prevention, product stewardship and sustainable development is essential.[iii] All businesses affect the environment from where they extract their resources and where they deposit the materials (and waste) they produce. The work of one environmental consultant alone served 23 industry sectors in helping them meet their environmental requirements.[iv] This work found the integration of environmental discipline and financial discipline was an almost one-to-one correlation. If the site was a mess, the accounting was a mess. Wealth creators, whatever their business is, act as creation stewards to restore creation because it is God’s command, not just to fulfill regulatory obligations or for public relations.
Circular Supply Chain
One of the greatest negative impacts of business on ecosystems stems from a linear approach to the supply chain. A linear approach implies that some costs are externalized. Natural resources are considered free; waste products are deposited without concern for the receiving environment. But there are no externalities. Using the resources in the supply chain with care and an acknowledging that everything comes from the Father and returns to him is paramount.
A linear approach leads one to focus on the tree rather than the forest. We acknowledge the complex relationships of business systems and ecosystems and work within that framework.
As part of the stewardship mandate, we cannot assume the water, land, air, and biological resources we use are free. They are not. None of these resources are limitless, and their careful use is a sign of business excellence. We can also not dump waste and toxins on the land, in the air, or in the water because it is not our land, water, and air to compromise. Contaminating the water a business may need to reuse does not make any business sense. Wealth creators do not waste wealth, they steward these resources carefully. They do not see waste; they see a product for which they need to find a market.
Taking care of the people in one’s supply chain is a high form of discipleship. Because everyone in the supply chain is a precious creation of God, the wealth creator’s treatment of them as such is a natural extension of his or her faith. We do not possessively control production or consumption; we partner and collaborate.
Another advantage to seeing the business setting as a circular supply chain is to see new business opportunities along the chain, providing an opportunity for vertical marketing.
Several semi-quantitative tools (see the section on Self Directed Audit below for an example) are available to assist the wealth creator in consciously thinking of the benefits and affects a business or new technology can bring. While those tools will be discussed in a subsequent work, the wealth creator is challenged here to think deliberately about their own supply chain and their contribution to a restored creation.
The wealth creator will see benefits, though admittedly those are seen mere in sophisticated economies than more developing ones, as other firms in the supply chain prefer to do business with environmentally compliant producers.[v]
Sustainability and Long-Term Profits
Wealth creators know that the four bottom lines—spiritual, environmental, social, and financial—are interwoven. Wealth creators are those that plant sufficient for their own needs, but also plant more than they can harvest to share (the gleaning rule). To incorporate environmental stewardship into business is not easy, and to see the opportunities in creating environmental solutions is not easy. But wealth creators can work hard. Wealth creators strive for excellence in all aspects of wealth creation: creating social capital, sustainable and profitable companies, spiritual awakening, and environmental restoration.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is quoted as saying, ‘No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.’[vi] The corollary applies in respecting the environment. If business takes more than it gives, or destroys two resources to exploit one, it does not deserve to survive.
Firms that go beyond regulatory requirements and focus on prevention may not expect greater returns than those firms that focus on mere compliance or end-of-pipe methods. But both types of firms still perform better financially than non-compliant firms.[vii] Caring for creation is in the interest of wealth creation.
Transcend Coffee, for instance, knows that environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility are important, but for coffee to be truly sustainable, ‘the (industry) need(s) to offer first and foremost financial sustainability to those who grow coffee. . . . The issues most pressing at coffee origin are labour shortages and the effects of climate change. With that said, both important issues have at their heart, a lack of financial resource, which places most producers in serious jeopardy of continuing their way of life.’[viii] Areas that rely on non-renewable extraction are desperate for more sustainable economic activities that takes the extremes out of the boom-bust cycle.[ix] This cycle often leaves a large reclamation deficit.[x]
A Call to Action and Equipping
This paper is a call to action. It is a call to action for wealth creators to lead the charge in creation care, to bring back hope to the debate of environmental stewardship. It is a call to collaborate with all people of goodwill to take care of our common home. It is a call to organize scientists and wealth creators to work together to provide solutions for environmental problems as part of holistic transformation. It is a call to provide practical guidelines to help wealth creators to run their businesses and personal life as environmental stewards. While there is a wealth of measurement protocols, environmental toolkits, and resources, they require consolidation, simplification, and reorientation to a creation stewardship model. Lastly, wealth creators must do what they do best—innovate and produce environmental solutions that have Kingdom consequences, social value, and that are financially sustainable, with the help and support of the rest of us.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – For the greater glory of God
[i] Clifton Leaf, ‘How Fortune’s ‘Change the World’ Companies Profit From Doing Good,’ Fortune (August 18 2016), http://fortune.com/2016/08/18/change-world-companies-profit/ . (A version of this article appears in the September 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline ‘Change the World’).
[ii] Ruth Bancewicz, Climate Change, Sustainable Living, and the Generosity of God (The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity December 04, 2015) http://www.licc.org.uk/resources/climate-change-sustainable-living-and-the-generosity-of-god/ .
[iii] Stuart L. Hart, ‘A Natural-Resource-Based View of the Firm,’ The Academy of Management Review. Academy of Management, 20:4 (1995): 987.
[iv] Mark Polet, Creation Care: The Bottom Line, London: Ibex 2015 Conference (2015).
[v] Heather R. Dixon-Fowler, Daniel J. Slater, Jonathan L. Johnson, Alan E, Ellstrand, and Andrea M. Romi, ‘Beyond Does it Pay to be Green? A Meta-Analysis of Moderators of the CEP-CFP Relationship,’ Journal of Business Ethics (Springer Science & Business Media B.V., 2013) 112: 363.
[vi] Wikipedia, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 2016, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt .
[vii] Dixon-Fowler, et al, ‘Does it Pay to be Green? A Meta-Analysis of Moderators of the CEP-CFP Relationship,’ 362.
[ix] Benjamin Parkin and Paul Kiernan, ‘A Geographical Shift in Brazil Mining Leaves a Storied Region Hurting,’ Wall Street Journal (New York, Dec 19, 2016).
[x] Chris Powter and Mark Polet, ‘Oil Sands Remediation—What’s the (end) Point?,’ Proceedings of the Remediation Technologies (RemTech) Symposium (Banff: ESAA, 2012). See also Mark Polet and Chris Powter, ‘Phase II Assessments and Phase III Remediation: A Brief History,’ Proceedings of the Remediation Technologies (RemTech) Symposium (Banff: ESAA, 2012).
This excerpt is taken from the Wealth Creation and the Stewardship of Creation, pages 12, 16, 21 and 32.
Consultation on Wealth Creation Papers Published Fall 2017:
For a short introduction to three other global consultations that also have dealt with issues related to wealth creation, read also Mats Tunehag’s introductory blog: Wealth Creation Manifesto