This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this fourth post, we are exploring the power of business to have a positive environmental impact and care for creation.
ALL businesses are environmental businesses and we need the BAM community to be leading the way in recognising this! That was the conclusion of the first published report from the BAM and Creation Care report series and the first major theme of the recent BAM and Creation Care Consultation:
That every BAM entity has the opportunity to grow in their care of creation.
While all BAM companies can become better environmental stewards, there has been a second major theme to the BAM and Creation Care Consultation:
The opportunity for some Christian entrepreneurs and investors to create new BAM companies that address critical environmental problems with innovative business solutions and new technologies.
Acute environmental damage and degradation is often to be found in places suffering dire poverty and in places relatively unreached with the gospel. This presents BAM practitioners and investors with the challenge and opportunity to respond holistically with environmental solutions at the heart of their business model.
This second theme will be the focus of the soon to be published third paper in the BAM and Creation Care series, ‘Challenge and Hope‘. This blog is an advance excerpt from this new paper, but if you can’t wait to read it, you can watch a video presentation of this content right now – see video below!
A New Perspective on God’s Good Earth
We want to take you on a journey of challenge and hope on God’s good Earth. And to do that we are going to start at the moon…
It has been 52 years since the crew of Apollo 8 circled the moon and took the now famous picture of the Earth rising over the desolate lunar surface. It is estimated a quarter of the earth’s population saw the Apollo 8 broadcasts, and the photo itself was an inspiration for the first Earth Day in 1970.
The Earth from Apollo 8 (Anders & Weigang)
The photo still evokes a sense of wonder. This little blue jewel framed by the lifeless moon and the vastness of space. Our precious, fragile, home.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, as the Apollo 8 astronauts rounded the moon for the ninth time, they read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis back to Earth. They ended their reading with, “God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”
Captain James Lovell of Apollo 8 framed the challenge and hope we have as God’s stewards of this good Earth:
We did something that ended up showing the Earth and its people exactly how we existed, where we are. That we were really here on Earth a space craft and we are all astronauts and whether we liked it or not, that like we were in (the) spacecraft having to work closely together to accomplish the mission.
Down here we seem not to be able to do that. (quoted in Vaughan-Lee, 2018)
We want to explore how businesses can do ‘that,’ being the stewards of God’s creation through the creative agency of business. We will focus on one aspect, the provision of clean water and clean air in some of the most least-served parts of the planet.
The worldwide environmental challenges we face are well documented. At the same time, the people we want to reach with the gospel message are often the ones facing the greatest environmental, even existential challenges.
Since business as mission aims to bring positive impact on all four ‘bottom lines’—economic, social, environmental and spiritual—BAM models are able to have a uniquely holistic missional approach.
Take for example the provision of clean water and clean air, because they typify the kinds of environmental challenges that BAM companies are well-placed to address—alongside social, spiritual and economic challenges. The maps below summarise the issue and opportunity.
The first map shows the distribution of fine particulate matter around the world. The deeper the red colour, the higher the health risk.
Fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less. (WHO, 2016)
The second map shows the level of lack of access to water of sufficient quality and quantity.
Degree of Water Stress (Hofste, Reig, & Schleifer, 2019)
The third map shows the progress of the gospel among all people groups, red showing the least reached groups.
Progress of the Gospel among all people groups (Joshua Project, 2020)
The overlap is remarkable. Those precious people who need to hear the Good News are, in large part, facing the worst air quality. They represent areas where BAM companies and missional organisations can apply environmental solutions in places where these groups reside.
In a 2019 study done on a Central Asian city, not one clean air day was recorded in the period of the nine-month study. Both India and Pakistan have extremely high baseline water stress (Hofste, Reig, & Schleifer, 2019). The Indus Valley (Punjab) is one of the largest regions of agricultural production in both India and Pakistan, where a large part of the crops relies on irrigation. The economic disruption of reduced water access will be profound. As Dr. Sujatha Moses (Moses, 2021) stated in the BAM Global Webinar on BAM and Creation Care in March 2021, asthma and chronic bronchitis caused by air pollution, and water-borne typhoid and cholera are preventable.
BAM businesses may be one of the best vehicles to address these environmental challenges and allow the people we want to reach to flourish. There is hope, and that hope is, in good measure, coming with what God is doing through business as mission.
While conventional capitalism is struggling for meaning in a post-Friedman world where it is no longer acceptable to just bring value to shareholders (Roche & Jakubs, 2017), we in the BAM community have been longer on the journey to rediscovering God’s good design for business.
We bring business solutions that align with God’s purpose, including spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. We do this while blessing people, especially by providing jobs, which lead to greater social stability. We do this while making a profit, so that our business is sustainable and credible, providing even more social stability. And we protect the planet, we all work in the ‘garden’ that God gave us to steward (Genesis 2:15).
Excerpt from the forthcoming paper ‘Challenge and Hope: How Business can Help the Planet and Its People Flourish’, BAM and Creation Care Series Part 3. Watch the video below.
Mark Polet is a professional biologist with over 40 years of experience. Working on four continents, Mark and his wife Terri bridge cultures and traditions with people of good will to serve those who are spiritually and materially impoverished. Mark is passionate about bringing engineers, scientists, and business together to develop solutions to challenging environmental issues. Mark has had the privilege of coordinating the BAM Global Creation Care Consultation. Prior to working in the impact business space, Mark & Terri owned a number of companies, including an environmental services company and an environmental consultancy.
Video Presentation by Mark Polet
The people we want to reach are facing the greatest environmental, even existential challenges. BAMers are on the ground already in the areas of greatest need. This presentation explores how to meet these challenges with the Hope we share and the technical capabilities we can access.