Tag Archives: Spiral Dynamics

Integral Thinking & True Materiality – Part 5/7: Scalability Opportunities Define the Size of Impact

This 7-part series has been first published on Sustainable Brands between late January and early March 2016 as a 6-part series and a follow-up by Bill Baue, co-founder of Convetit and the Sustainability Context Group. It captures the essence of my thinking I was able to gather through the extraordinary work of the Reporting 3.0 Platform, GISR and the ThriveAbility Foundation in 2015. What came out is a structure that I called a ‘new impetus embracing purpose, success and scalability for thriving organizations’. I am reposting the original 6 parts here and add a part #7 with reflections of others. This is part 5/7.

Here in Part 5 of the series, we look at the lower-right third of the new impetus diagram that we introduced in Part 1. We have already built a great basis through the discussion about purpose of the organization, how that links to support a green & inclusive and/or regenerative economy concept (Part 3). We also have more clarity on how organizations calculate success through multi-capital accounting and assess True Future Value potential (Part 4). The tools used don’t have to be perfect already, as long as they are decision-useful and are good enough to prepare decision-making by the relevant bodies. Take, for example, Puma’s first e-p/l or The Crown Estate’s Total Contribution concept as good examples of decision-useful concepts that readily admitted their room to continue maturing.

So this Part will focus on activities needed to scale up a green and inclusive economy from within the organization and externally. And as the below diagram suggests, scalability ties directly into purpose and success.

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Diagram 8: Integral thinking and true materiality need a renewed focus on scalability and the necessary size of the impacts to be achieved for the green & inclusive economy we desire.

Overcoming the 3-gap problem internally

Internally, the challenge is to create the necessary socio-cultural leadership atmosphere that creates the understanding of the organizational transformation capacity that allows sustainability to be fully embedded, up to the potential ambition level of being a thrivable organization (as per the strategy continuum presented in Part 3, Diagram 4) and as presented through the 3-gap-problem in Diagram 2 in Part 2 of the series and the aligned ThriveAbility Index measurement as laid out in Part 4.

The ThriveAbility Foundation based its approach on a ThriveAbility Journey for organizations on the idea of stratification, recognising that people pass through developmental stages at different rate and that their worldview, values and needs vary considerably depending upon their developmental Center of Gravity i.e. where they are most comfortable and capable. This means that:

  • in our communications and interactions with others, we are most likely to be effective when we meet people where they are at;
  • when designing change and transformation initiatives, surveys of the developmental levels of people in the organisation are essential to map the alignment of individuals with the organisation and each other, as well as the changes proposed;
  • motivating people needs to take a stratified approach, while also identifying where the energy for change is coming from, and where the blockages to change arise*.

Various techniques advance this approach. At the ThriveAbility Foundation, we use CultureView and LeaderView assessments to build the basis for an organizational stratification approach**. This approach stems from more than 40 years of learning about Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory, now also designed to fit the ThriveAbility strategy continuum. The below diagram shows a sample of a Masterclass of executives that was able to learn

  • the various levels of the emergence of human consciousness as it has been mapped by Integral Theory. It is the story of a dynamic interplay of human coping mechanisms that leave behind observable patterns in ‘bio-psycho-cultural-social systems’;
  • how the individual emergence level of the group participants is composed of;
  • how the sum of the individual levels constitute the governance, hierarchy and work processes of the organization;
  • how their present working state differs from their desired working state that allows organizational transformation and the necessary purpose and success discussions and decisions to become focus areas for the organization to prepare for that change.

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Diagram 9: Building organizational awareness about present and desired work arrangements through a cultural and leadership lens.

The group also learned about their readiness for change, their change patterns and their executive change intelligence, as well as their patterns of thinking, coping mechanisms, perception of organizational priorities and finally an overall cultural fit-factor. If a total change of mindset is necessary, it will need to happen here.

To measure progress toward ThriveAbility across the 3 Gaps, the ThriveAbility Foundation can utilize:

  • CultureView and LeaderView, which assess progress on the Socio-Cultural Leadership Axis;
  • The ThriveAbility Maturity Assessment, which covers about 90 specific criteria and related variables to measure scaling up on the Organizational Transformation Axis;
  • The Multi-Capital Scorecard (MCS), a context-based measurement tool successfully employed at Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Unilever subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, and Procter & Gamble Subsidiary New Chapter to assess progress on closing the Sustainability Axis, as well as the Future Fit Business Benchmark (FFBB), which offers a set of 21 science-based indicators (to be published in spring 2016), employed e.g. at The Body Shop.

Combining all these tools will help to transform Kate Raworth’s 2-dimensional Doughnut, which defines the environmental ceilings and social floors to achieve a safe and just operating space for humankind, into a 3-dimensional change management tool that describes how companies can support the shift from suffering to struggling to thriving by activating innovation pathways. This would build the core roadmap design for an organization that attends to micro-macro connections while creating business benefit and measuring programs and activities in a multi-capital way. Building a connection to the SDGs now also makes more sense as they are seen in a seamless and clearly positioned manner. It would also lead to a strengthened role of governance, best described from moving from an ESG push to a GSE pull (as described in Part 3 already), a change of mindset of governance experts is needed.

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Diagram 10: Designing Innovation Pathways that helps organizations connect a clearer purpose, success definition and scalability potential to their ThriveAbility approaches (Source: ThriveAbility Foundation, based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut).

In addition to these tools, scenario planning and business modeling are important tools, too. Building on Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, the Flourishing Business Model Canvas is a welcome broadening of Osterwalder’s model, but still in an experimentation phase.

While the stratification approach is mainly educational for designing and deciding on strategic priorities, the second main aspect to prepare for scalability is collaboration. While current conventional wisdom embraces Integrated Thinking, the ThriveAbility Foundation advocates the deeper approach of Integral Thinking, which embraces Integral Theory to dig deeper and combine all dimensions of the 3-gap-problem.

It is reassuring to see how organizations that deal with these three gaps at the same time develop the best potential to become thrivable organizations. A shining example is Interface, one of the leading carpet-tile companies, showcasing the success potential of becoming what they call a ‘restorative’ business. Over the last 22 years the company has worked on their ‘Mission Zero’, climbing ‘Mount Sustainability’ and developing business models like ‘NetWorks’ to succeed on an fully embedded Circular Economy approach and Biomimicry strategy by 2020, while building additional social value. ‘NetWorks’, developed with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), stems from that thinking. Other organizations that come to mind that show potential in closing the 3 gaps simultaneously are Kingfisher, The Crown Estate, Natura, Unilever, BT, The Body Shop, Patagonia, with many other organizations still some steps away.

The problem, however, is that for those companies that still need to follow suite 22 years later, the path is way too long. So the work of Reporting 3.0, The ThriveAbility Foundation, and GISR are all essential pieces to get this enlightenment pathway down to 5-10 years, so scaling up successes through education and collaboration is essential.

Overcoming the 3-gap problem externally

Collaboration and education of course also have an external side. Programs could be envisaged for industry associations and specific networks that are playing an important role in issue-specific leverage on many fronts. They can use the same instruments as companies use internally, and can hugely benefit from them. Analyzing many of the existing networks from the 3-gap-problem perspective, most of them deal with one or two axis, hardly anyone pushes for all three. The above portfolio is an offering to learn and fill the blanks through education for such groups and additional stimulation for collaboration.

At this time it is crucial to insist on one specific point that also closes the circle to the discussion around purpose and success definition. We have already discussed the economic system aspect in the earlier Parts, especially around the ‚micro-macro-link’. To put it bluntly again: without a generic change in our economic system boundaries that define costing, pricing and taxing of resources and activities, there won’t be ThriveAbility, let alone sustainability. We will have to rely on the 5-10% of enlightened leaders that will help to make the remaining 90% become brave followers through a changed economic system with a level playing field that will need to demand playing by the changed rules. That means that advocation of existing leaders towards such a change in the economic system boundaries becomes a crucial aspect in scalability to turn our planetary ship around, or even more: it becomes a matter of survival.

We saw glimpses of that potential willingness for advocation in the cases of the SDGs and COP21, but we also see specific not-for-profit organizations ready to start for that advocation through their very own purpose, too. Ex’tax, a Dutch NGO, is specifically advocating for the taxation system to change to resource taxation instead of taxation on labour. The True Price Foundation advocates for a better inclusion of external costing in pricing structures. Other initiatives like Trucost, The Natural Capital Coalition, the Science-Based Targets Initiative (and many more), help define other parts of the advocation spectrum and link micro through meso to macro. These initiatives tackle the heart of economic system boundary change, they go further than just the SDGs that don’t imagine a changed economic system.

What to do in the short term?

Let’s imagine once more what a sustainability and/or integrated report could already report on for the scalability part of our new impetus. Innovation roadmaps, transformational change, stratification as laid out in this part of the series will take a while to become customized, fine-tuned and carried out. But here’s what could be reported on in this coming reporting cycle already:

Education (internal and external):

  • How far are the ‘World View’, the ambition level and the related strategy communicated within the organization, and how do education/training programs consider and support this?
  • Are all employees addressed and is this completely integrated in education and training on all levels of the organization?
  • Are there joint educational programs developed for the whole value cycle (in consequence: internally and externally) and does this support joint target-setting and implementation campaigns to achieve sustainability/ThriveAbility in these value cycles?

 Collaboration Capabilities:

  • In how far is the company engaged beyond its associations and interest lobbying? Which networks, cross-industry initiatives to create new sustainable business models for societal value added is the company part of? Do those need to be created still by a group of companies?
  • Do employees have time for societal engagement and are they positively stimulated to help find long-term solutions in order to avoid short-term conflict? Is there slack time to ‘think’ alone, in groups, on all three parts of this new impetus?
  • Is the company aware and busy with true sustainable innovation beyond existing rebound effects, e.g. in creating circular, sharing or collaborative service business models?
  • In which thematic research networks is the company active? Does it take part in award schemes on most sustainable solutions, alone or together with other partners?


  • Is the company perceived as an active player in presenting their ‘World View’ and their potential scenarios around sustainability and/or ThriveAbility?
  • Is the leadership actively engaged in the promotion of a green & inclusive economy and the necessary changes in boundary setting, e.g. internalization of external costs, changes towards a more sustainable tax system, creating of level playing fields in international relations, e.g. trade agreements, international accounting rules, etc.)

With Parts 3, 4 and 5 we have now covered all three parts of the triangle that surround the idea of Integral Thinking and True Materiality. With the instruments in place, the processes to be adapted, and the people lined up towards purpose, success and scalability, the new impetus should create necessary outcomes to become a useful framework for designing a multi-year roadmap. By that, all current initiatives an organization carries out can be put in place, assessed and positioned.

In Part 6 we will look at the envisaged outcomes of the new impetus. It will be the closing Part of this series.

* Thanks go to Dr. Robin Lincoln Wood for crafting the ‚stratification’ definition for the purpose of achieving ThriveAbility.

** Culture View and Leadership View have been developed by 5Deep Ltd. and have been adapted to help closing the 3-gap-problem for ThriveAbility. These are standard instruments in masterclasses and corporate transformation projects for ThriveAbility.


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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Thriveability


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Homo homini lupus – the failing answers to the refugee crisis

A month ago I published ‘The long sustainability shadow of the refugee crisis’. Today, with hundreds of readers and about 200 reactions richer, I am writing a sequel to this blog. It sums up what I heard, both negative and positive, both disgusting and heartening. My inbox was a showcase of how torn our society worldwide seems to be.

First, what struck me most was the fact that there seem to be just two camps on the issue: those that see refugees as the source of all evil, and those that see refugees as the opportunity to learn and thrive in a future to come. There’s no difference between that in Germany, UK, US, Netherlands (reflecting the countries most of the reactions came from). And there’s nothing in between.


Secondly, it was strikingly clear that those in the haters camp are simply not able to envisage a positive future mindset. All of their argumentation stems from whatever source from the past they could find and sucks up all negative provocation of current refugee misbehavior without reflecting the why. Furthermore they are amendable to all the hoax and purposefully faked stories. A German website (see collects these fake stories and uncovers the bullshit.

What doesn’t come to mind to them at all is the fact that the way that we in the Western world exploited the refugee’s countries of origin in the past might have been unfitting, that we were for a couple of hundred years protagonists for creating the situation we now face, from stuffing dictators to exploiting resources just for our own benefit, from climate change up to being asleep at the wheel and cynic when the first signs of the refugee crisis showed up (see Lampedusa). Their mindsets stop at their very own boarders, it doesn’t even need fences for that. I refuse to see them as Europeans; their national pride, their distorted sense of belonging and belongings (my home is my castle) evaporates a potential to develop a higher level of consciousness. The fear that refugees will take away what belongs to them is the primary source of the hate.


They are ice-cold when looking at the situation, there is simply no appreciation about what the refugees have gone through. In spiral dynamics terms they are stuck in blue and orange mindsets in which self-interest prevails and dominates all thinking. The fact that Europe has a huge solidarity problem is something that they of course refuse to accept, they totally ignore it. The below map shows the whole dilemma frighteningly well:


But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Bertelsmann Foundations recently published a study in which they state that the majority of the EU citizens wants a European response to the refugee crisis and is in favor of fairly distributing the burden amongst all member states. They strongly reject the idea of individual countries acting unilaterally. 79 percent of all Europeans are in favor of a common European asylum and migration policy. Also 79 percent want a fair distribution of asylum seekers across all countries of the EU. A majority of around 70 percent also supports the demand that those states, which refuse to accept their share of the responsibility, should receive less money from EU coffers. While this is positivity news, the study also shows how decided Europe is between East and West. While a majority of 85 percent in the old EU member states think that the burden of asylum seekers should be fairly distributed, only 54 percent in the new member states support that view. Also, whereas in the old member states 77 percent demand that those states, which refuse to accept their fair share of asylum seekers, should be subject to financial penalties, only 41 percent of the citizens in the new member states are in favor of such a measure (see study here).


Thirdly, and funny enough, I was accused for not being able to exactly prove why I think that the refugee crisis will in the end be a blessing in disguise for Europe. As if one is not allowed to have an opinion without having a glass bowl at home that accurately proves future predictions scientifically. Or for not having a time machine ;-). Of course, nobody can predict the future, and what will come out over the next years and decades will mainly be dependent on how much Europe will now unite (its called a ‘union’) and be able to manage. The European question will stand or fall around this issue. To me, this is all connected to how we will develop the innovation potential of the refugee inflow. For many years we crow about ‘Diversity’ – and here it is. Fresh blood, cultural views and interpretation of whats needed for the world that is a village, knowing that scalability of solutions will be essential globally. The crowd wisdom of refugees can be a game changer.


Fourthly, let me thank all those that shared positive comments on the blog. Looking at the percentages – which are of course not representative – there was a 85% positive halo effect on this first blog. The haters camp always repeated their one-dimensional backward-looking argument: immigration didn’t succeed in the past, so it can’t succeed in the future as well. It costs us money that our own people should get. It takes jobs away that belong to us. They get our apartments that we subscribed for. There is no understanding that Europe will fall apart – damaging all economies multiple times more (see alone the Schengen discussion) – if we continue segregation, division and mercilessness.

Summing it all up, what we can state so far:

  • The majority of Europeans have a different mindsets than the refugee-haters; it doesn’t make sense to try to convince them, their experienced life conditions won’t let them change easily. The only way to dry up their dangerous mental matchboxes is to educate the next generation of Europeans that will make them run into opposition every time they light up one of the matches. Constant dripping wears away the stone.
  • Europe so far has a devastating track record in explaining to their citizens what give and take as well as solidarity and values really mean in the European context. It has both to do with awareness about Europe’s history in leading to some of the current developments (a connection often not made as it seen as ‘normative’) as well as to help citizens understand the need for immigration, the management of integration and designing circumstances in which the value added by immigration can come into full fruition. I appreciate the outcome of last week’s German Summit of Industry Federations that wholeheartedly supported Angela Merkel’s resolution towards the ability to gain strength through a proactive immigration policy, despite all opposition inside the country and from the European countries that are backsliders in taking their fair share of the solidarity value effort (see here).
  • Eastern European countries are in a cocooning mode while asking Brussels to pay for the cocoon and support if the cocooning doesn’t work and will have negative economic impact. This is the opposite of how Europe works and what to expect. If you take, you have to give. The developments in Eastern European countries, now having affected Austria (that historically always saw itself as the gateway to Eastern Europe) as well, is stubborn, demagogic and dividing. It also shows that becoming a member of the European Union was mainly built on economic benefits than on values like solidarity. Nation egos are still the main ‘elephant in the European glasshouse’.
  • We have yet to understand that a 500 million people strong European Union has not only an obligation, but also a benefit from one million refugees per year and that we need an ongoing capacity to deal with these numbers every year, spread over the whole EU. We haven’t understood the impact of climate change and have yet to define the term ‘climate refugee’. It doesn’t make sense to define ‘secure countries of origin’ when the life conditions don’t allow a life in dignity in these countries just because the political system wouldn’t imprison or kill someone that got deported back. It is in my view therefore already problematic to distinguish between ‘political’ refugee and ‘economic’ refugee. There are more than enough economic reasons to flee, based on the underlying sustainability context. Of course checking the circumstances is still an appropriate means of differentiation, I don’t believe in ‘one process fits all’.
  • The current discussions about ‘healing the problem at the source’ needs to take the broader and holistic/systemic developments into account. Otherwise we continue to throw money at countries with little to no effect.I do believe that we will continue to have 1-2 million refugees in Europe every year, no matter how many fences we build at the boarders. Refugees will find other routes. Defending our borders at that massive rate of refugees will be a bloody undertaking and will ruin Europe’s reputation. Already now there are hundreds of thousands of new refugees waiting in Libya. If we find a way to agree on a fair share in Europe and find the resources to reduce the worst conditions in the country of origin, further escalation can potentially be prevented. The systemic aspects around climate change, poverty and demographic effects won’t go away for at least another 30 years. Let’s also please keep things in relation: 1 million refugees per year mean 0,5 % of the total European population and will just protect us from social systems drying out and declare bankruptcy. It will be some of the refugees that will pay part of our pensions in the future. Yes, it does cost money in the beginning, but the payback will be rich.

In finishing this blog post I was reminded of David Suzuki’s words below. What was written to describe environmental degradation in my view also applies to Europe’s future if we’re not finding minimum agreements on how to manage the refugee issue in the long-term, making it a major success story of the EU and support its reason to be. And by that it is also a true sustainability issue. Let’s prove ‘homo homini lupus’ wrong!





Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Thriveability


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The mindset gap in addressing sustainability context

This is the second of four installments of a blog series covering crucial sustainability reporting issues on materiality, sustainability context, comparability and stakeholder inclusiveness.

Around two weeks ago we discussed the ‚sudden materiality shock’ here and received many comments and recognitions for the points discussed there. In addition, we spoke at various events and explained the need to make the connection between the importance of sustainability context for defining materiality and the need to develop a reporting mechanism that captures this specific performance that could eventually best be described as ‚micro-macro-linked’.

What became painfully clear through these last events is the considerable distance of people working in sustainability to be able to make that connection, several reasons to be discussed below. Obviously, we need to first address that ‚mindset gap’ that keeps us artificially busy and away from the ‚greater good’ – achieving a green & inclusive economy together – before getting down to the core of how to address sustainability context through purposeful and future-oriented disclosure in reporting, including feasible strategic discussions and – like it or not – a different sort or set of indicators as we have them right now. So why is there such a distance to seeing sustainability context in a corporation’s setting? Here are various observations:

  1. For too many in our community sustainability and strategy are still two different things or are still completely or partially disconnected. If sustainability managers tell that working in scenario teams or being closely involved in strategy development and subsequent R&D/innovation efforts is simply not what they are paid for, we are disappointed by the little mindset progress we made. Honestly, we hoped we went beyond the idea that the sustainability manager or head of sustainability simply just orchestrates compliance towards laws & regulation, standards or guidelines. What we still sense is a deep hesitation to overcome certain thresholds towards an integrated approach, using careful tactics to not ‚overstretch it’, deep fear to be seen as the ‚activist’, so better remaining the ‚lobbyist’ for what is good for the company and the individual position on short-term. As this has been a rather successful approach in the past, why change it? Most global problems are mentally and physically still far away, and most colleagues that do not work in sustainability wouldn’t want to understand them anyway (too complicated, scientifically not 110% proven, disturbing, etc.). So, why bother about megatrends?
  2. We specifically observed how companies react to the macro-based information out there, ranging from the work TEEB did, the Global Footprint Network produced, The Global Nature Fund collected, and to the dozens of reports that are produced and macro scenarios that are presented by institutes, issue groups and initiatives. The basic response is close to denial, using the argument that the way this information is presented doesn’t help companies to translate this into concrete tooling, so in the end they couldn’t do more than just to take note, and that’s it. When we then asked why certain companies seem to be able to use this information and work with these data, denial level two kicks in: either these were special companies with a specific or fitting product/service portfolio, or they would have a size not too big, so that working with these data wouldn’t be too complex for them. Also, this sort of work shouldn’t be done by a single company anyway since level playing fields would be needed when introduced on broader scale, but these wouldn’t exist today. Puma’s e-p/l is great, but hardly any other company tried it out since Puma came out with it in 2011, the number of excuses to not dig into it is too long, and the argument ‚it will come one day, so better be prepared’ (playing the risk managemnt card) doesn’t work either. Too much workload, too short the horizon, too low the incentives, too high the fear to stick out the neck. And that leads directly to the next point:
  3. Fortunately, not all companies are like that, and that has to do with leadership. We see a constant pattern that only those companies that have an enlightened leader or leadership group get to a level of commitment that these – let’s call them ‚experiments’ – are wanted, a certain ‚trial-and-error’ attitude is giving some breath to sustainability managers involved. Also, those leaders actually encourage cross-functional project groups around long-term performance targets based on scenarios and the idea of an integrated strategy. It is interesting to see that these companies in most cases don’t have a sustainability strategy, they just have ‚a’ strategy. Dealing with context information in these companies is a no-brainer and the necessary tools are normally ‚created’ right there and not ‚delivered by others’. These companies see external advisors as a positive stretch and challenge to their own knowledge base and encourage infusions, external advisors can even become a separate stakeholder group. The triangular project setup that includes a company, an NGO and a consultant in a team setting seems to work, as well as the willingness to work with other companies in cross-industry learning environments, initiatives, labs, etc.
  4. Another constant part of that ‚mindset gap’ is that many sustainability strategies are based on effects of (not closer discussed) root causes. Doing work with leaders we first try to observe the whole set of often intermingled action areas, something that one can actually already start from the existing materiality matrix of issues that companies use in their reporting. Sustainability strategy areas are normally based on the GRI Guidelines aspects or industry-specific action areas, and many of them derive from root causes like environmental degradation, demografic effects, world trade shifts, urbanization, technological developments and transparency gains, but none of these root causes are addressed in the G4 Guidelines and therefore remain out of focus of the sustainability personnel, so going back that one step to the root cause level actually falls out of the scope of sustainability experts (supported by what was discussed under point 2).
  5. As a consequence this reduced approach just based on the existing GRI Guidelines leads to ‚less bad’ target setting, and very often disconnected with the main impact through products and/or services. Have a look at the GRI Guidelines and ask yourself how often the Guidelines talk about products and/or services, apart from product stewardship in the social section!?! One can argue that this would actually be the job of sector disclosures, but then there would be the need to focus work on a complete set of them more throroughly, an approach not followed by GRI for several years now. A sustainability regime based on effects or symptoms instead of the real root causes mentally restricts to go ‚to the real core’ and making the connection to the real opportunities a company has in sustainability. Instead, there is a more risk-based tendency to reduce harm, and not to increase positive impacts. That is the real reason that an idea like ‚becoming a net-positive impact’ company is still lightyears away for the majority of companies, they find a million reasons and ‚yes, buts…’ instead of accepting that working on this ultimate business case for sustainability should be started today, and not one day later.
  6. In consequence the G4 content principle on sustainability context is the most neglected one, while the wording there clearly defines the need to address context from a root cause base, think about opportunities, ambitions and positioning of the company’s strategy vis-à-vis these root causes, and only then define the necessary boundaries to decide which impact reduction strategies actually make sense in the light of a positive impact focus.
  7. A further cause for relaxed thinking about sustainability context is the smooth way IIRC has taken on the idea of the six capitals that are part of the Framework Version 1. While we personally commend the IIRC to sticking to this generic model (called the ‚octupus’) from the moment it presented its first discussion paper, we were hoping for a way more rigid use of the idea of the capitals. In our view the capitals form a great link to and present a great structure of introducing proper context and value-creation ‚docking stations’ for the above presented approach of starting from root causes to strategy development. Instead, we face a situation where IIRC mentions the capitals as an area ‚for inspiration’ in order to ‚not forget potential impact areas’. That is too weak and doesn’t sound like ‚important’, so again not too much time is spent on assessing the capitals. The work of the 100-companies-strong IIRC pilot group has focused mainly on ‚integrated thinking’, wheras ‚holistic thinking’ would have been way more appropriate. If the capitals model isn’t taken serious we will remain on symptoms and effects level instead of addressing the real route causes.
  8. To finish off, the work of the Thriveability Consortium (of which Ralph is one of the founders) has been an eye-opener over the last two years with regard to the levels of human consciousness for the development of a ‚world view’ within an individual or corporate mindset. The idea of ‚spiral dynamics’ that emerged over the last 20-30 years clearly differentiates various levels of human consciousness development, and also differentiates between first and second tier awareness, decribing their ability or disability to create the world we need. Only second-tier individuals and organizations will be able to really develop the idea of a world view through the inherent different ways of interconnectedness and organizing codes and principles needed in a sustainable world. We are generally positive that we will be able to level up more companies to the second-tier level. Those organizations will see the ‚macro-micro link’ as a no-brainer. Those companies will be winning, but for a big group of tier-one ompanies life will become tough.

We are on a journey. It is not enough to approach the abyss with 40 miles per hour instead of 60 miles per hour; we need to find the brake and turn around the vehicle. Awareness of the need for that turnaround, timing still available and definition of a new direction will become essential. There is no useful sustainability reporting or integrated reporting without this information, defined for the individual business case per company. Sustainability context is therefore an absolute core. The more companies get out of the avantgarde and into the mainstream, the sooner we will get there. ‚It’s time to be steered by the stars, and not by the light of each passing ship’, said Omar Bradley decades ago. Today this is more true than ever.

Authors: Ralph Thurm is the Founder & Managing Director of A|HEAD|ahead, Nick de Ruiter is partner at Sustainalize.

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Sustainability Reporting


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Recalibration of sustainability – welcome ‚ThriveAbility’

The below article has been published in the January 2014 edition of the China Quality Magazine. This goes to more than 30.000 readers I’ve been told. I thank the editors of the China Quality Magazine for the opportunity to make their readers familiar with the ThriveAbility concept.

More than 400 quality managers and executives were gathered in Tallin in the middle of 2013 on the occasion of the yearly EOQ Conference, and for the first time the participants were confronted with a new term – Thriveability. Here’s why:

2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The sequel of the Earth Summit was again held in Rio, so consequently that Summit was called Rio+20. The attending corporate world, represented by hundreds of companies, as well as the political leaders, agreed on the vision of a ‚Green & Inclusive Economy’.

Sustainability as it is used in companies today has only little to do with what the Brundtland Report in 1987 and the Rio Declaration from 1992 remind us of: a company’s doing has to be put in context, enabling human beings to live a healthy life in harmony with nature, as well as enabling a development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This in summary is often also called the triple bottom line, a term coined by John Elkington in his 1998 book ‚Cannibals with forks’.

In a way sustainability management has adopted a lot from the quality movement: in the interest of efficiency gains a higher level of transparency has moved in, and the proactive companies have harvested the low hanging fruit in the first years. We have seen sustainability management support from ISO, starting with ISO 14000, and later ISO 26000. We have seen reporting standards like the Global Reporting Initiative, a rather generic umbrella to discuss the most material sustainability issues and align performance indicators alongside this focus, or more issue-specific reporting like the CDP (covering carbon and water now, and probably even more in the future). The sustainability movement has also adopted the idea of awards, general and sector-specific. More than 120 ranking and rating schemes, mostly methodological black boxes, have seen the light of day. But is that enough? By far not, and China already does feel the consequences every day.

What we can conclude more than 20 years after the first conference and more than 25 years after the Brundtland report is simply unsatisfactory, even more it has cemented our path to a slow death of humans on this planet. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General already addressed this in front of the World Economic Forum’s corporate leaders by saying ‚Our current economic model is a global suicide pact. We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. Those days are gone’.

What does make ThriveAbility different from our current management of sustainability? Two main areas need to be mentioned:

At first, Thriveability is aiming at closing the so-called ‚Sustainability Context Gap’. By that it starts to reclaim the focus of sustainability. At this moment companies are mainly telling us how much ‚less bad’ they have become, with a focus to decrease negative impacts and with little up to no ideas how to improve positive impacts through their daily sales of products and/or services. Focusing on ‚net positive impact’ as a balance of the total behavior towards the environment and society and developing a positive legacy, would be a great ‚North Star’, but hardly any company can answer at this moment in how far their doing is endangering the ability of next generations to live a decent live with the same opportunities as the current generation.

We recognize that sustainability strategies are often aligned to symptoms, not to root causes, and that leads to narrowly focused action. For example, a company that focuses on a reduction of CO2 normally makes little effort to go beyond its own production facilities, and is not looking at the opportunities that the megatrends causing the global or regional CO2 rise may have for their core business. We have identified that a combination of six megatrends needs to be analyzed in depth to understand the nexus implications on a company’s (sustainability) strategy: environmental degradation, demographic changes, urbanization, shifts in world trade, shifts in technology, shifts in transparency. This discussion helps to develop a ‚world view’ and can be the starting point for building an opportunities-based roadmap towards thrival.

Secondly, ThriveAbility needs to also regain excitement. Talking to companies on a daily basis it is shocking to see the little willingness to go ‚the extra mile’, simply because it would make business sense. As there is no sustainable company on an unsustainable planet, we need to move away from sustainability as the ‚Sword of Damocles’, and back to enthusiastic engagement. We observe that the combination of sustainability (with regained meaning as mentioned above), innovation, design, and beneficial leadership (based on the work done around spiral dynamics, flourishing and mindfulness) can open up new gates towards a thriving economy.

A ThriveAbility Dashboard would pull together four quadrants of information:

  • Information about the level of change for the transformation towards a thriving business model, by that enabling the ‚possibility’ for thrival;
  • Current performance based on the ‚footprints’ (negative impacts) and ‚handprints’ (positive impacts) of actions and creations;
  • North Star information about the carrying capacity of a flourishing world;
  • Predictive models that pull the information of the first three quadrants together and allow a clear picture of where a company stands vis-à-vis set micro-macro targets and where it may still need to move towards in the future.

The quality movement can become a great enabler if it understands that quality has an inside-out and an outside-in component. As said, what is inside quality worth if it can’t help to make the outside world better? What if efficiency and quality gains are realized by burdening natural capital, human capital, intellectual capital or societal capital? It is time for the quality movement to give itself a new ‚North Star’! Be part of the change, ThriveAbility will be a great gateway to redefine that particular scope.

Here’s the link from China Quality Magazine 1 2014 Article Ralph Thurm (in case you are able to read it ;-))

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Thriveability


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TEDxRSM: Ralph Thurm on ‘how to move from a global suicide pact to a thriving econonmy’

November 2013 saw the first edition of TEDx at the Rotterdam School of Management. I was invited to speak due to my ideas about ThriveAbility that I am also teaching at Erasmus University’s Executive Program on CSR in a module about sustainability and innovation. It is the idea that sustainability in the way it is used today – reductionistic, technocratic, mechanistic, and therefore not inspiring to most in organizations – needs to regain it’s meaning. This is only possible through the reactivation of what it was made for, especially intra- and intergenerational balance and equal opportunities for human beings, and combining it with the learning from innovation, design and advanced knowledge on human consciousness (e.g. beneficial leadership, spiral dynamics, integral theory).  Structuring this in a feasible methodology will help us to design a thrival world and an economic system reflecting this. The ingredients are all there, we just need to get it done! See how in Ralph’s TED talk here.

Bildschirmfoto 2013-12-04 um 11.25.21

I would like to thank the organizers of TEDxRSM for the opportunity to speak. Not one economist in the room thought that our current economic system serves the needs of the existing generation and future generations to come. This is the biggest challenge for the next two to three decades and I am asking my fellow economists to seriously go out and be part of the change to a thriving world for all human beings, while finally accepting that growth is limited, costs and prices don’t tell the truth, and taxes and incentives mainly go into the wrong direction. Take ideas like the circular economy seriously and adapt accounting and reporting accordingly. Join those that want to change education towards thrival. Only then we are able to realize the dream of a ‘Green & Inclusive Economy’!

Anybody interested in being part of the journey, feel free to go to to learn more, or contact me directly at

Additional thanks go out to my fellow founders of the ThriveAbility Consortium (Robin Wood, Chris & Sheila Cooke) for their wonderful companionship and belief that something really necessary needs to see the light of day – our regained inspiration to make this world a thrival place!

Bildschirmfoto 2013-12-04 um 11.19.17

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Thriveability


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Understanding ThriveAbility – Join workshop 22-24 March in Perpignan, France

After a successful inaugural meeting of the ThriveAbility Consortium Core Team in London on February 8, A|HEAD|ahead is happy to announce the first 3-day ThriveAbility workshop in wonderful Chateau La Tour Apollinaire in Perpignan, taking place on March 22-24, organized together with 5Deep and Renaissance2, all founders of the ThriveAbility Consortium. This post can also be seen as an update to my earlier post on this topic (Embedding ThriveAbility) and has profoundly benefitted from the great experts that joined us in February.

Read more about this exciting seminar below or download the brochure:

Embedding ThriveAbility – Your Invitation

1) Understanding ThriveAbility

The Ultimate Wave:

Quality took 40 years to go from being an obscure industrial practice to a widespread business and social change agent. Innovation has taken two decades to become popular, though it is still widely misunderstood, and its twin sister Design has gone global though still remains shallow. Sustainability and CSR have gathered momentum in the past decade, but are only just beginning to be reflected in serious business practice. ThriveAbility integrates these all through radical simplification, to address the growing sustainability gap while empowering flourishing.

Inevitability of ThriveAbility:

ThriveAbility integrates these diverse approaches through a radical simplification enabled by

•              the emerging science of human flourishing,

•              big data and analytics driving new insights into how to close the sustainability gap,

•              breakthroughs in the art and science of change together with

•              major advances in business design and transformation.

All the factors that are needed for ThriveAbility to take off are in place- the coming wave is inevitable. The only question is how much we are able to shape it and place ThriveAbility at the heart of the wave as a force for thrival.


The March 22-24 Embedding ThriveAbility event is bringing together a small group of pioneers who will shape the future evolution of ThriveAbility. Each brings a set of unique talents and connections that form a core part of the ThriveAbility Consortium’s emerging platform.


The vision of the ThriveAbility Consortium is to create an open global platform that:

a.             becomes the acknowledged way of creating thriving businesses and communities

b.             embeds sustainable value through next generation sustainable innovation and organisational transformation through conscious evolution

c.             radically simplifies and deeply integrates existing methods, practices and tools through the ThriveAbility Consortium

Emerging Roles:

The match between the essential ingredients needed for the take-off of ThriveAbility, and the strengths and capabilities of the individuals and organisations interested is evolving rapidly. Strengths include:

a. The Circular Economy and sustainable industrial, product and building design

b. Systems Thinking, Complexity and Quality

c. Business Strategy, Quality Transformation

d. IT, Business Transformation and Spirituality in Business

e. Social and Cultural Transformation, Communications and Education

f. Renewable Energy, Resilient Communities, Leadership Development

g. Sustainable Futures

Programme Overview:

We will explore how ThriveAbility helps identify the “North Stars” for supply chains and business ecosystems, enabling the emergence of key benchmarks for every stage in the value chain.

You will learn how a thriving world can be co-created by embedding a combination of sustainable technologies, organisational transformation and conscious evolution into today’s businesses, institutions and communities.

We will explain why ThriveAbility has the potential to become the ultimate wave that can close the sustainability gap and deliver a thriving future for us all. You will learn how we can together change the game, rules and goals of business and our major institutions in the process.

The interweaving of ThriveAbility practices and the global Quality, Innovation, Design, Sustainability and CSR movements could transform our ability to co-create a viable future for all of us in the next decade.

2) Why This Seminar?

The ThriveAbility Consortium is a mobilization of like-minds to design, develop and adopt the necessary approaches, decision frameworks and incentives for breakthroughs in sustainable innovation and design. This Seminar is a gathering of this emergent consortium.  Participants will engage in the further refinement and development of the ThriveAbility Template whilst also taking a deep dive into the re-design of your own life and that of your business and/or organisation. 

Learning Objectives

Elaborate on the ThriveAbility Concept using the North Star Approach, and metrics derived from integral sciences. Create the necessary Support systems, metrics and guidelines using a North Star Approach to sustain and deliver implementable business transformations that result in pathways to active engagement in ThriveAbility practice. Learn about necessary tooling that enables ThriveAbility in your organization.

3) Who Should Attend

Decision makers and change leaders curious about the breakthroughs being achieved by organisations applying a new approach centered around ThriveAbility, and who are committed to work with peers for the purpose of discovering how to apply ThriveAbility in their organisation or business.

We also seek leaders in Strategy, HR, Sustainability & CSR, communications, product/service leaders as well as top management representatives and policymakers.

For optimal impact we welcome groups of colleagues from the same organisation looking for new ways to tackle the challenges they face in accelerating their sustainability, CSR, change and innovation efforts.

4) Key Benefits and Outcomes

Find Your Inspiration: work through challenges you currently face progressing sustainability, innovation, CSR, product/service design or other initiatives

A Systemic Model of Green Growth Drivers: explore the drivers that accelerate the transition to a green growth, inclusive economy, enabling you to map out pathways to ThriveAbility

Build on Your Strengths to Catalyse Deep Change: complete a set of Factor 100 change profiles & discover ThriveAbility thinking.

Learn From ThriveAbility Pioneers: meet and work with some of the world’s leading practitioners in sustainable innovation, organisational transformation and integrated reporting.

Become a ThriveAbility Leader: you will learn the fundamentals of integral leadership which integrate key aspects of your organisation’s strategy, culture and operations to more effectively deliver ThriveAbility.

5) Practical Applications

Scanning & Strategy: recognise promising opportunities to create ThriveAble Value Added

Development & Prototyping: scale promising prototypes into ThriveAble products and services

Simplify Processes & Partnerships: conduct fundamental reviews using the ThriveAbility Process to design integrated business models

Leadership: Apply Factor 100 Change and the ThriveAbility Dashboard to review, redesign and transform your organisation

6) Programme Details

Day 1 – Elaboration:  NorthStar Navigation

Megatrends: Beyond Sustainability & Innovation

Integral Alignment

Breakthrough Role Models: Zeronauts

Day 2 – Support : Pathways & Roadmaps

The ThriveAbility Approach

Factor 100 Change

Breakthrough Role Models: Turntoo

Day 3 – Activation: Prototyping & Dashboards

Developing ThriveAble Opportunities

Leadership for ThriveAbility

Breakthrough Role Models: various examples

Summary visualization of the 3-day seminar – a holistic approach to ThriveAbility in 3 layers:

Slide Ralph on 3 day 3 layers visualization V2

[Click on the picture to enlarge]

The Thriveability Consortium is thrilled to welcoming you in Perpignan on 22-24 of March! Registration is easy via

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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Thriveability


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Interview in Belgian online magazine Argus: Ralph Thurm – Een stap verder dan duurzaamheid

The following interview was first published in ARGUSactueel on 24th of January 2013. It was done a couple of days before my keynote speech in Antwerp at the Belgian Global Compact Network meeting on January 30, organized in collaboration with VOKA (the Chamber of Commerce for Vlanderen), and the Antwerp World Diamant Center. The text is in Dutch language. I thank the organizers for the wonderful opportunity to talk in front of more than 80 careful listeners, connect to the Belgian frontliners in sustainability, and finally visit Antwerp!

Ralph Thurm – Een stap verder dan duurzaamheid

Op woensdag 30 januari komt Zeronaut Ralph Thurm naar Antwerpen. Hij is in ons land nog niet echt bekend, maar zijn systematische en holistische aanpak van MVO- en duurzaamheidskwesties maken hem tot een zeer boeiende vertegenwoordiger van de wereldwijde transitiebeweging.

Thurm staat voor een holistische aanpak van duurzaamheid en maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen en brengt dat in zijn twee jobs en in zijn manier van leven en werken in de praktijk. Hij is Directeur Collaborative Sustainability & Innovation bij Deloitte Nederland en runt daarnaast sinds september 2012 zijn eigen consultingbedrijf A|HEAD|ahead, waarmee hij meer radicale en experimentele duurzaamheidsoplossingen uitwerkt.

“Misschien kunnen dat wel toekomstige services van Deloitte worden,’ zegt hij. ‘Bij Deloitte zijn we al een paar jaar bezig om duurzaamheid een onderdeel van alle werkzaamheden te maken. Duurzaamheid is een cross-cutting issue dat overal in de organisatie te voelen en te zien moet zijn. Zo krijg je ook meer authenticiteit en een groter gevoel van ownership bij de mensen. Daarnaast trachten we duurzaamheid en innovatie dichter bij mekaar te brengen, omdat het twee kanten van dezelfde medaille zijn. Waarbij ik me tussen haakjes zelfs afvraag of je innovatie die niet duurzaam is, überhaupt nog innovatie kunt noemen.”

Van minder slecht naar goed genoeg

Is Deloitte er al in geslaagd om de hele organisatie doordesemd te maken van de duurzaamheidsgedachte? Ralph Thurm: “Nou, er is nog wel wat werk aan de winkel. Duurzaamheid is een reis. Het is kwestie om niet alleen intern de neuzen richting duurzaamheid te zetten, wat mede door het relatief grote verloop van personeelsleden heel wat werk vergt, maar ook de klanten er warm voor te maken nog voor ze er zelf aan denken.”

Bedrijven hebben de mond vol van maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen en streven naar duurzaamheid, maar wat bakken ze er in de praktijk van? Zijn internationale standaarden de oplossing om het onderscheid te maken tussen greenwashing en echte verduurzaming? Ralph Thurm: “Als je A en B wil vergelijken, moet je dat op dezelfde basis doen. Ja, standaarden, guidelines, technische protocollen en duidelijke indicatoren zijn nodig. Maar de eigenlijke vraag is: hanteren we wel de juiste standaard? John Elkington zei het me anderhalf jaar gelden als volgt: “Het enige dat we weten, bijna twintig jaar na Rio, is dat we minder slecht zijn geworden.” We weten eigenlijk niet wat het minimale is dat goed genoeg is voor onze planeet. We moeten evolueren van efficiëntie-gedreven indicatoren naar impact-indicatoren. Zeker nu we over steeds meer data beschikken, zoals de verschillende aspecten van de ecologische voetafdruk en het monetariseren van ecosysteemdiensten. To be less bad is not good enough anymore. We moeten leren meten wat minimaal goed genoeg is, zoals Elkington ook bepleit in zijn boek Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier.”

U pleit voor Zero Impact Growth (ZIG). Wat moeten we ons daarbij precies voorstellen? Ralph Thurm: “Het begrip Zero Impact Growth komt voort uit het zoeken naar wat nu wél goed genoeg is. Wat is het minimum dat alle industrieën elk op hun manier moeten bereiken om ons in staat te stellen op een bepaald welvaartsniveau binnen de planetaire grenzen van de Aarde te leven? Nu is het zo dat elke bedrijfstak zo’n beetje definieert wat hij denkt dat duurzaam is binnen zijn industrie. Men toetst midden- en langetermijndoelstellingen, maar werkt niet aan een onderling afgestemd adaptatieplan. De rode draad doorheen de gesprekken in Zeronauts van John Elkington is het streven naar groei met nulimpact. Maar daarmee begint het alleen nog maar. Eigenlijk moeten we meer willen: regenerative growth en positive impact growth (PIG): meer teruggeven dan wat wij van de planeet nemen. Anders zijn we vanwege de rebound effects door klimaatsverandering en bevolkingsgroei eenvoudigweg ten dode opgeschreven.”

Kan elk bedrijf in elke sector ZIG of PIG bereiken? Ook staalbedrijven, vliegtuigbouwers, mijnbouwbedrijven en bedrijven in de fossiele brandstofsector? Ralph Thurm:“Er is in ieder geval nog heel veel potentieel voor bedrijven in de energiesector om minder CO2 uit te stoten, in te zetten op hernieuwbare energie en om hun netwerken slimmer te maken. Betekent zulks dat ook een consumentenbedrijf als Unilever per se ZIG moet zijn? Dat is een afweging. De vraag is: wie doet wat het best en hoe kunnen wij met elkaar samen zo snel mogelijk successen boeken? Want tegenwoordig doet iedereen een beetje van alles. Belangrijk is dat wij afgestemd op elkaar een beeld van Zero Impact Growth moeten vastleggen, en dat is al zeer moeilijk.”

Een nieuwe generatie van transparantie

De impact van ZIG/PIG voor het milieu en het klimaat is duidelijk. Wat betekent het voor de groei en de winstgevendheid van de bedrijven? Ralph Thurm: “Zero Impact Growth betekent niet Zero Growth. We hebben groei nodig, maar dan wel groei naar dingen of situaties die we met zijn allen willen hebben. Het betekent ook precies kunnen meten wat precies de situatie is op deze planeet. Zo lang niemand dat echt kan zeggen, blijven alle inspanningen veel te incrementeel en komen wij ook niet verder met duurzame regelgeving voor een nieuw economisch stelsel en incentivesysteeem.”

Moet ZIG/PIG op termijn wereldwijd de norm worden? Ralph Thurm: ‘We moeten komen tot nieuwe spelregels in de economie waarbij het niet anders kan dan juist te handelen. Moet dat via regels en wetten? Waarschijnlijk wel. Maar het is ook meer dan dat. Momenteel zitten de incentives verkeerd in ons economisch bestel. In het vaarwater van een  Zero Impact Growth-adaptatieplan moeten we komen tot true costing, true pricing en true taxation. De prijzen moeten de werkelijke totale kosten weerspiegelen, we moeten komen tot een internalisering van externe kosten.”

Hoe kan de internalisering van externe kosten worden geïmplementeerd? Ralph Thurm: “Er zijn meer dan genoeg consultants die dat kunnen berekenen. We moeten het nog wel eens raken over de juiste standaarden die uitgaan van correcte gemiddelden en niet opnieuw appelen met peren vergelijken. True costing heeft enorme effecten op de profit- en loss-accounts van de bedrijven en de prijzen van de producten. Om dat op een sociaal aanvaardbare manier te regelen, zal de overheid de taxatie anders moeten aanpakken. Daar is alle reden toe, want op dit moment wordt het meest waardevolle, de menselijke arbeid, het zwaarst belast. Terwijl dingen die bedreigend zijn voor de toekomst van onze planeet nauwelijks of helemaal niet worden belast. Als je erin slaagt om dat op orde te krijgen, is het niet langer de vraag of een bedrijf meedoet of niet: iedereen wordt gewoon meegesleurd. Maar je moet het mondiaal aanpakken, met aandacht voor lokale verschillen, of je hebt geen eerlijke concurrentie. Ook moeten wij het zo regelen dat de totale kosten voor de consument ongeveer gelijk blijven en niet tot nieuwe sociale spanningen leiden.”

Klinkt aanlokkelijk, maar is dat geen illusie? Zijn grote bedrijven niet machtiger en meer eensgezind dan alle regeringen van de wereld samen? Ralph Thurm: “Het is enorm moeilijk omdat we in een andere economische en kapitalistische logica leven. Toch zijn er vandaag in alle industrieën een aantal leidende spelers die stellen dat we nu moeten handelen als we niet over twintig jaar met zijn allen ten onder willen gaan. Zo heeft Puma zijn eerste environmenal profit & loss account opgesteld en zijn ze bezig aan een tweede die nog meer aspecten omvat, niet alleen CO2, energie en water. Met het risico dat ze door iedereen bekeken worden en dat er heel wat gevoelige informatie bekend gemaakt wordt. Ze doen dat zodat iedereen zou begrijpen waarom ze het doen en zodat men hun voorbeeld zou volgen.”

Makkelijk, zo’n environmental profit & loss account, als je de externe kosten niet echt moet betalen. Ralph Thurm: “Dat is een veelgehoorde kritiek. Maar dit is een case die enorm wordt onderschat. Niet alleen vanwege de ongeziene transparantie, maar ook door het aanscherpen van het bewustzijn binnen het bedrijf van zijn echte impact op het milieu. Het blijkt bovendien een enorme drijver voor innovatie, omdat Puma ervan overtuigd is dat die externe kosten ooit echt wel zullen moeten worden betaald. Vandaar de beslissing om nu al volledig leervrij te worden: 70 tot 80% van de ecologische voetafdruk van Puma situeert zich in de landbouwsector en heeft te maken met CO2-uitstoot bij de productie van leer. Het is een zeer holistische aanpak, gebaseerd op een nieuwe generatie van transparantie. Dit versnelt ook de innovatiekracht van zo’n bedrijf, ze trekken de toekomstige internalisatie van externe kosten naar het nu. En het maakt een einde aan de statische “Ja maar”-discussies waarin zoveel milieukwesties verzeilen.”

Het voordeel van een crisis

Verwacht u in de toekomst een geleidelijk proces van verandering naar meer duurzaamheid of een grote revolutie? Ralph Thurm: “Ik verwacht niet één grote ommeslag, maar wel relatief veel aardbevingen en aardverschuivingen. Het zal niet allemaal soepel en lekker verlopen. We staan aan het begin van een transitiefase. Het interessante is dat aan het merendeel van de maatschappelijke en economische transitiefases in het verleden een financiële crisis is voorafgegaan. Zeker als blijkt dat je de crisis niet alleen met financiële ingrepen kunt oplossen. Daarnaast spelen nog veel andere domino-effecten mee, zoals de voedsel- en de klimaatcrisis. Je ziet nu echt ook een mentaliteitsverandering optreden.”

Hoe zou u die mentaliteitsverandering precies omschrijven? Ralph Thurm: “Consumenten willen meer informatie over de duurzaamheid van de producten die ze kopen. Het marktaandeel van de LOHAS – een acroniem voor Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability – neemt toe. In Duitsland gaat het over een actieve community van een half miljoen mensen. Ze streven niet alleen naar gezonder eten, maar kiezen er ook voor om meer tijd met familie en vrienden door te brengen en wensen uitdrukkelijk een bijdrage te leveren aan de maatschappij. Auteur Paul Hawken beschrijft de wereldwijde shift naar duurzaamheid, die veel groter is dan je denkt, treffend in The Blessed Unrest. Ik denk dat we technologisch gezien over alle middelen beschikken om de Duitse Energiewende (de systematische overstap op groene energie, red.) ook in andere landen te laten plaatsvinden. Volgens mij ontbreekt het ons alleen nog aan een intelligente en meeslepende manier om iedereen mee te krijgen.”

Op uw blog hield u onlangs een pleidooi voor Thrivability – een Nederlands woord is altijd welkom – als een stap verder dan MVO en duurzaamheid. Wat verstaat u daar precies onder? Ralph Thurm: “Ik vrees dat ‘sustainability’, ‘the ability to sustain’ de mensen niet genoeg aanspreekt. Wat is de overtreffende trap? ‘Thrivability,’ ‘the ability to thrive’ in het Nederlands nog het best te vertalen als ‘de zoektocht naar tevredenheid en geluk.’ Is dat niet de diepste wens van de mens? Met zijn allen gelukkig zijn. Kunnen zeggen dat we een moeizame maar waardevolle bijdrage hebben geleverd. Er bestaan ook mooie modellen op het gebied van het menselijk bewustzijn, zoals Theory U van Otto Scharmer of het werk van Ken Wilber. Het gaat tenslotte niet alleen over systeeminnovatie, maar om mensen mee te krijgen: individuele en culturele innovatie dus. Als mensen begrijpen wat systeemgrenzen zijn, dan komt de rest van de innovatie eigenlijk vanzelf. Dat hoop ik tenminste. Ik denk dat de volgende twintig jaar enorm moeilijk maar super-interessant zullen zijn. Het wordt enorm boeiend om deze innovatie-wave mee te maken, ook omdat ze alomvattend is, van systeeminnovatie en culturele innovatie naar proces-, product- en service-innovatie. Veel megatrends bieden aanzienlijke uitdagingen, maar dragen ook enorme mogelijkheden in zich.’

U bent al 20 jaar actief in de duurzaamheidssector en mag nu de eretitel Zeronaut dragen. Bent u zelf ook een groene en geëngageerde consument? Ralph Thurm: “Als ik vlieg, zorg ik altijd voor een CO2-offset. Die betaal ik zelf. Ik probeer altijd zoveel mogelijk van thuis uit te werken. Ik rij met een heel zuinige kleine auto. Ik zet mijn schouders met plezier onder heel wat maatschappelijk werk, zoals voor Global Compact en de Turntoo Foundation in Nederland, maar bijvoorbeeld ook  in het Midden-Oosten met het Arabia CSR Network.”

Wat was uw oorspronkelijke motivatie om u te verdiepen in duurzaamheid? Ralph Thurm: “Mijn studies economie vielen samen met de eerste conferentie van Rio. Ik vond economie zoals we het aangeleerd krijgen te weinig holistisch en te veel patchwork. Toen mijn vrouw en ik aan kinderen begonnen, nam ik me voor een goed voorbeeld te zijn voor mijn kinderen. Ik wou later kunnen zeggen: “Ik heb mijn best gedaan.” Daar zit ook een persoonlijke reden achter. Mijn vader, die vorig jaar overleden is, is geboren in 1930. Aan het einde van WOII moest hij verplicht naar een school van de Hitlerjugend. Ik wou zo veel mogelijk over die tijd weten, maar elke discussie die ik met hem voerde over hoe dat allemaal mogelijk was, liep vast op “Ich habe es nicht gewusst.” Dat was zijn manier om niet in detail te treden over de vreselijke dingen die hij heeft meegemaakt en waar hij ook niet altijd het fijne van afwist. Ongeveer drie jaar geleden zei mijn zoon me: “Als we over twintig jaar praten over het soort oorlog dat jouw generatie nu met deze planeet voert, is dat alvast geen argument dat jij tegen mij zal kunnen gebruiken.” Dat was een zeer emotioneel moment. Weten dat het niet goed zit met de wereld geeft je een grote verantwoordelijkheid, en daar een goed antwoord op trachten te geven, blijft een zeer sterke motivatie.”


Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Thriveability


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