Why using the S-word still works

Have you watched the Harvard Justice series with Michael Sandel? (You should. It's available on iTunes UYouTube, and Harvard.edu, and worth every minute of the nearly 12 hours.) My husband and I have been watching it, and I also have just read Sandel's latest book - What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.

Sandel asks the question of whether there are values that cannot, or should not, be reduced to market terms. Values, in fact, that are "crowded out" or suppressed by attaching a dollar figure to them. This is essentially a question of philosophy. Immanuel Kant v. John Stuart Mill, if you will. And it puts words to what has been niggling at me.

Yes, sustainability is good for the bottom line. Yes, I believe in my heart of hearts that creation of financial value and sustainability need not be, and indeed are not, mutually exclusive.

And yet…

There are higher reasons for caring about the future of the planet and the others who live here now and will do so in the future. But for fear of being labeled anti-business, idealistic, "do-gooders", or (heaven forbid) "environmentalists", the sustainability community generally avoids talking about them.

I'm lucky. My CEO talks about all the good business reasons for EMC's commitment to sustainability, but then he says "and besides that; it's the right thing to do."

Let's keep pointing out the business benefits. But please - let's not forget that it is the right — the moral - thing to do.