Front Seven: Redesigning Commerce

Maybe I’m naïve. Heck, I know that I’m an idealist. Still, deep down I believe in the goodness of people. I celebrate human integrity. I believe that, with enough time and intentionality, we can collectively redesign commerce to promote universal wellbeing.

We started with Zero Waste. Next came Benign Emissions, followed by Renewable Energy and Closed-Loop Manufacturing. Then we all learned about velomobiles on the Resource Efficient Transportation front before turning to Sensitizing Stakeholders. That brings us to the final front of Mount Sustainability – Redesigning Commerce.

This is probably the steepest of the seven fronts. Our commercial system is extremely complex and comprised of a nearly uncountable number of entities and individuals. No one person or company designed the system in the first place, so no one person or company can redesign it. Rather, we can all collectively do our part to usher in the next evolution of commerce – one that contributes to, rather than detracts from, human and environmental wellbeing.

Back in January, I wrote a four-part series on some of the flaws in our free-market economy and what a better system might look like (you can find them here, here, here and here). I won’t rehash those ideas, but the posts are certainly relevant to the seventh front.

I could also talk about recent trends like the sharing economy and the Internet of things. These are proving to be disruptive when it comes to our traditional economic systems, and we still don’t know what their full impact will be. They have immense potential to be positive forces, though.

Instead, I want to offer a reflection on a quote by Buckminster Fuller that I believe cuts to the heart of how we can redesign commerce:

“Whether humanity is to continue and comprehensively prosper on Spaceship Earth depends entirely on the integrity of the human individuals and not on the political and economic systems.”

To me, this sentence contains two important messages. First, it tacitly reminds us that our human systems are not absolute. Our economic systems (and political ones, but that’s not the focus of this post) are human creations. They can and do change over time, which means that we actually CAN redesign commerce. This goal is not a futile one.

For my second point, I’d ask you to scroll up and read that sentence one more time. Which word most stands out to you?

Integrity, right? What a powerful thought! Human wellbeing depends on our human integrity. We are fundamentally moral beings, which is a strength of our particular species. The more that our human systems reflect our virtues – like our ability to love, to be altruistic, to practice generosity – the stronger those systems will be and the more prosperous we will become.

Maybe I’m naïve. Heck, I know that I’m an idealist. Still, deep down I believe in the goodness of people. I celebrate human integrity. I believe that, with enough time and intentionality, we can collectively redesign commerce to promote universal wellbeing. Morality and economics are not mutually exclusive.

And when we accomplish this task, I believe we will have taken a large step towards Buckminster Fuller’s ultimate and laudable goal: “Make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

That’s the view of humanity you get from the top of Mount Sustainability. What a sight to behold!

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