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Can Companies Really Care About Their Customers?

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“Two years ago, Isobella Jade was down on her luck, living on a friend’s couch and struggling to make it as a fashion model when she had the idea of writing a book about her experience as a short woman trying to break into the modeling business.

“Unable to afford a computer, Ms. Jade, 25, began cadging time on a laptop at the Apple store in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Ms. Jade spent hours at a stretch standing in a discreet corner of the store, typing. Within a few months, she had written nearly 300 pages.

“Not only did store employees not mind, but at closing time they often made certain to shut Ms. Jade’s computer down last, to give her a little extra time. A few months later, the store invited her to give an in-store reading from her manuscript.”

When I read that story in the New York Times, it reminded me of how much it’s actually possible for companies to care about their customers. And how the boundaries of that care and the resulting relationships can move totally beyond anything that anyone could ever describe in a how-to-manage-customer-relationships manual.

We live in a world of increasing rules, regulations, and instruction books. Lots of pages filled with what to do and not to do. But in an age where there is a huge hunger for relationships and unbounded possibility, we need to be guided by our values and beliefs. We need to trust those we work with to carry them out as they see fit and in doing so create possibility where none previously existed.

It is in that space of trust, which comes not from a detailed map but an aligned understanding of the direction we’re headed in, that our creativity and compassion can bloom.

In the year ahead, we need to figure out how to build trust and take the handcuffs off those that work for and with us.

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What Wisdom & Leadership Look Like

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Author: the Inkslinger

Just in case you’ve forgotten during the last seven years of intellectual, moral, and spriritual darkness…

Watch it and hope. Share it and rally.

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Taking the Temperature

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Author: the Inkslinger

Lots of climate crisis-related signals flooding the inputs lately. The level of chatter is definitely on the rise and increased activity in is popping up on radar.

What’s most interesting is the way the usual battle lines of left and right that have traditionally defined the debate are being being thoroughly trashed. As increasing numbers of companies and policymakers confront certain irrefutable, if inconvenient, truths, cross-over to the side of intelligent thinking is growing, making the idea that urgent action is needed now more of a concensus view and progressively isolating those who still insist that we just don’t have enough evidence to validate the “risk” of taking action (!). It’s not so much a liberal-activist/conservative-business stratification at this point as it us an act/don’t act split. And the “acts” are solidly ahead.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the momentum is on our side and much-needed change is coming. If this were the late 70s, when scientists rang the first alarm bells, I’d be quite confident we’d get the job done. But, as is so often the case with us wacky humans, humanity was waited until just about the last possible minute to deal with this and now we’ve got mere years rather than decades to avoid the tipping point. Still, there’s much hope for optimism. Here’s a look at the portents heating up the wires…

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Energy for Dummies, Part II: Special Congressional Edition

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Author: the Inkslinger

I’ve been sitting here fuming all afternoon about the information that Congress is actually considering taking renewable energy tax credits and utility mandates out of the 2007 energy bill. (And boy is my dog sick of listening to me....) But I’ve realized I should have capped my previous post with some information about what we can do to convince our elected representatives that this is a remarkably, shall we politely say, foolhardy course of sad inaction. So go here and help. Deliver a letter. Make a call. Send an e-mail. Put the pressure on. Because in 2007 it would be the absolute height of unmitigated insanity to have an energy bill that doesn’t include renewables let alone focus on them.

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Energy for Dummies

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Author: the Inkslinger

Here’s a question: Why do we even talk about fossil fuels anymore? Why do we care? Seriously. Why do we wring our hands over the price of oil? Why do we destroy entire mountain ecosystems in a fool’s errand for coal? For that matter, why do we keep irradiating ourselves with fissionable materials? Why do we give even so much as the time of day to any source of energy that involves splitting atoms or carbon-loading the atmosphere when the entire country and most of the rest of the world could do everything it needs to without depositing so much as a single thimble of anything into the air?

I have to ask because I absolutely do not get it. At all. I am utterly baffled. Truly. I’m constantly reading about incredible and incredibly workable ideas to generate power without pollution. Big, here-now, ready-to-go, here-you-are solutions that could do it all. Like Concentrated Solar Power, which could power 90% of the entire world, provide all the drinking water it could want, and here at home keep the U.S. lit up like a Christmas tree on steroids from now until the end of time using a patch of desert scrub just 92 miles square. Right here. Right now. Today. No more oil. No more OPEC. No more emissions. No more carbon. No more apocalypse. End of story.

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Selling Salvation

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Author: the Inkslinger

Under the headline “Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats,” an article in Tuesday’s Washington Post talked about what the Democratic candidates are saying about the climate crisis and posited that their general we-gotta-do-something-serious-but-it-ain’t-gonna-be-cheap-or-easy-or-fun campaign statements may be harmful to their electoral prospects.

Democrats' boldness, however, could carry a political price. The eventual GOP presidential nominee is almost certain to attack Democrats over the huge costs associated with limiting emissions. "They will come at this hard," said John Podesta, who heads the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and sees an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases as necessary.

Podesta may be right, but if Democrats think it’ll be a hard to campaign on a platform of climate crisis action wait ‘til they see life in a world whose candidates dare to do nothing. They don’t know from hard. And they seem to be unwilling to tap into the general sentiment out among the voters, which is that we’re all mostly ready to deal with this climate thing.

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Charting Tomorrow

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Author: the Inkslinger

This interesting chart floated my way the other day from an equally intriguing website called Permatopia.

Here’s what its creators have to say about it:

Permatopia Patterns is a new way of thinking about permaculture. Historically, most permaculture guides and analyses have been focused on individual properties, often rural homesteads. Zones and sectors are key concepts in permaculture analysis, examining how to locate components of a permaculture system based on distance from the house and ecological factors. These are incredibly powerful tools for the personal level, but are far too limited in their scale for a society wide transformation to cope with Peak Oil and climate change.

This page shows how the concept of zones can be extended to the goal of "permaculture for nine billion people." Learning skills at the more local levels can help with efforts to extend to bigger levels, since effective solutions at the biggest levels depend on understanding how the solutions work at smaller levels.

The sectors concept reflects how there are many paths needed to move away from overshoot and collapse. Different people have different skills and interest, no individual or group could possibly address all of the various facets that are needed. The concept of interdependence between these issues (and levels) is one not normally promoted in our hyper-individualized society, but it is the type of path most likely to accomplish common goals.

Whether you are expanding a local community garden, installing utility scale wind power, teaching environmental education to second graders, starting up a community currency barter system, operating a bicycle shop, creating manufacturing cooperatives, campaigning for accountable elections, or any of thousands of other positive things is irrelevant - the key point is that you are doing something that is a piece of the puzzle.

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Spreading the Meme at Deringer

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Author: the Inkslinger

One of our corporate responsibility goals is to “green” our supply chain. That means spreading our gospel of sustainability to all the other companies we work with so that they eventually become responsible businesses we can keep doing business with. It’s a big and important part of what we do but something you’re unlikely to hear much about because it happens “behind the scenes.”

The fact is that many of the companies in our supply chain are pretty traditional. They’re often not real tuned into environmental ideas and/or overly aware of or concerned about the impacts they’re creating. So we try to change that.

For example, we use a logistics company called Deringer to facilitate the shipment of our stuff from place to place. On Earth Day, we made a little video for them with the idea of turning them on to environmental action and kind of getting them stoked about making some changes. It worked! Here’s an e-mail Tara at Deringer shared with us today about some cool new ideas taking hold at the company:

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A Company of Owners

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Last week the entire Seventh Generation staff headed to Trapp Family Lodge
in a Stowe, Vermont, for our annual two day retreat. (The Trapp family is the same one of Sound of Music fame.) The Lodge is a frequent destination for Seventh Gen meetings. It sits high upon a wonderful hill, giving you the impression that the world is at your door. Hundreds of acres of forest provide trails for hiking, snow shoeing or cross country skiing that wind through some of Stowe’s most amazing wilderness.

The theme of our retreat was a question: What does it mean to be an owner of our company?

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In the Swirl with Peter Senge

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On a mostly sunny late afternoon last week, Peter Senge
and I crossed paths at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, where he was vacationing with his family, and I was attending a management retreat. As frequent readers of the Inspired Protagonist know, I’m a huge fan of Peter’s. During the conversation he shared two thoughts on strategic planning that resonated with me since that’s what I was in Stowe trying to do.

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