Thursday, December 18, 2008

Linkages for Sustainability

In the gym yesterday, I picked up a magazine on the way to the bicycles. In On Earth, there where were many articles I was interested in. The one in particular has me inspired me today. It was about was about a Brewer named Taylor Smack has a mission to make sustainable beer.

Smack keeps to his mission by keeping his distribution local, however he faces a supply chain dilemma on the other end of his operation. When brewing beer on the East coast, local ingredients are hard to come by. Hops and barley are commodities sold internationally. In the US they are grown in frontier states and in Canada. That is why Smack tried his had at growing hops himself at Blue Mountain in Virginia. He's learned a lot growing his own crops such as he's a brewer, not a farmer.

His business is a learning organization. By actively pursuing his mission, he realized that to actually be sustainable he needs a farmer to cultivate ingredients locally. That makes me think. In order for Smack to realize his vision for a truly sustainable brew and the lowest carbon footprint for his product, he needs a local supply chain, a community of folks who collaborate in business with him.

That makes me think. In order for Smack to realize his vision for a truly sustainable brew he needs a local supply chain, a community of folks who collaborate in business.

From a high level, this strategy is just another pattern of social organization for trade yet with intention it becomes an advanced operating system of production and distribution organized around ecological principals. His aim is larger than profit; it's planet-fit. The impact of this design, organized and mobilized in mass would be a paradigm shift for green-business. By taking the planet out of the "triple bottom line" (people, process and planet) and realizing planet is the meta-system to systems of people and profit, not another macro system on the scale of social systems and production systems.

In the Brewer's story, featured in On Earth, the strategy shifted buying international commodities, to growing his own, to building a social network to realize his mission. This is an important and revolutionary development, literally. He has essentially decided not to buy the King's Tea! The agrarian principals of colonial times are alive and well in his design yet he has striped away the colonialist principal of global food trade and the modern practice of food speculation.

Today, as I pulled a sled filled with boy through the snow to the post office and back, I found my self inspired to help organize these supply and distribution systems. Perhaps this is the vital core of "cultivating leadership" a more literal and focused approach to organizing intentional supply and distribution systems.

This guy Smack is a hero, a leader who makes good beer and cultivates sustainable business practices.

There are three heroes of mine that come to my mind when I consider approach to economic renewal. Cheryl Honey a friend and colleague here in Seattle is community weaving. She has created a methodology and an infrastructure to support development of a social safety net by linking Good Neighbors that provide and receive resources. (Not a bartering system but a family support network that is built on the principals of abundance and social action.) Another friend, Amanda Beal, the president of the Maine Organic Farmers association has been working tirelessly and locally for the principals of buying local food for the benefits of economic development and heath. Finally, another friend Ernie Hughes, a master of supply chain management and systems thinker teaches organizations how to innovate their businesses by leveraging their ability to collaborate in the supply chain. By blending these strategies to together I think it is possible to redesign the social and economic structures in to collaborative community of commerce.

It seems like this work would fit within the agency of local Chambers of Commerce and The Small Business Administration. I imagine it as part of a national strategy or social and economic development.

No comments: