Here's the story: She's a recent MBA graduate working as a corporate sustainability consultant. He's a roaming eco-warrior dodging bullets from rhino poachers in Africa and pursuing illegal loggers in the Amazon. Whose job is more treacherous?
To find out, sneak a peek at her front-line communiqués, which have mysteriously fallen into the hands of Context America President Peter T. Knight, who has decided to share them with us. Can our earnest heroine survive in the corporate jungle with her career -- and ideals -- intact? Follow her adventures below — and read her previous missives here.]
So, you’re off to Brazil with Sandra, eh? I know she’s hot on illegal logging, but Jeff please be careful. She’s a bit uppy-downy and has no fear. Remember what happened in the Congo? That sure was messy.
The Boss and I are in the Midwest this week with a food retailer, eating mammoth steaks with the Client and talking about this thing called The Sustainability Business Case. I’m having trouble with the whole concept and the Boss is getting a little irritated. I’ve got to learn to nod more. You know, Jeff, I’ve been told that’s the sign of a good consultant: a lot of nodding when you’re with the Client. Like one of those nodding dogs my dad used to have at the back of the car. Nod. Nod. Nod.
When the Boss was in mid-flow about how everything’s got to be justified by The Business Case, I guess I shouldn’t have butted in with my skeptical comment about its flaws. But hey, he did say that I should engage with clients. That little intervention got me another one of the Boss’s under-the-table kicks.
The Business Case says you’ve got to prove to the finance guys and his Excel cronies that any sustainability actions you take must either save money or make money. Or, the action avoids some huge risk that everyone agrees is mega. Of course, assessing risk is like debating whether Brad Pitt is aging as well as George Clooney. Difficult, eh?
Look, I know what The Business Case means — I have an MBA, after all — but The Sustainability Business Case has a fundamental flaw that no one seems to want to discuss. It’s a bit like trying to play FarmVille on your iPhone. Have you kept up with all the chatter about Facebook and how it’s been slow to move to mobile telephones and tablets? FarmVille, the let’s-play-business game, works fine on your laptop, but it’s all messy on the mobile.
In a funny sort of way, FarmVille on iPhone is like what’s happening to The Business Case — it gets messy because it excludes a company’s cost to the environment. No one, least of all the Boss, wants to talk about this. Only that Dutch guy who runs Unilever seems brave enough.
Next page: It's time for payback