The multiplier effect. Sounds like a movie title, doesn’t it? You know, probably some flick that involves time travel and then tries (and fails) to resolve the inherent paradoxes involved, but because just enough things blow up in spectacular fashion, you walk out of the theater saying, “I kinda enjoyed that, even if my brain hurts.” You know what I’m talking about.
The multiplier effect is a concept from economics. It refers to the phenomenon whereby an injection of income into a community results in more economic benefit to that community than the original amount. Here’s an example.
Let’s say Bill Gates decides to write a $10 million check to a nonprofit in Smalltown, USA to build a new community center. Thanks Bill! Well, the community gets a shiny new building worth $10 million. In addition, those funds are now in other people’s pockets (like wages to construction workers), ready to be spent or saved. Perhaps some of the dollars are spent locally at shops and restaurants, further benefiting the community’s economy. And on and on and on. When you add it all up, the $10 million gift generates far more than $10 million of economic benefit for the community.
Conceptually, I think this phenomenon is a good analogy for how an authentic commitment to sustainability can create beneficial ripples in the environmental community. That’s really what sensitizing stakeholders, the sixth front of Mount Sustainability, is all about.
Consider the example of my grandfather. When he had his environmental epiphany, I’m sure he started recycling more and using less energy at home. Well that is certainly good, even if not terribly impactful in the grand scheme of things.
Ray’s conversion didn’t stop there though. He labored tirelessly to inspire each and every person working at Interface to join him in the process of transforming the company. In short, he sensitized them to their own negative impacts on the environment and, more importantly, what positive things they could do about it.
So Interface itself began wasting less, consuming fewer resources, and lightening its environmental footprint. That’s certainly more impactful than if Ray had kept his epiphany to himself.
Interface didn’t stop there though. They began discussions with suppliers about their own environmental footprints, and with customers about the importance of being environmentally friendly. These, too, were stakeholders who needed sensitizing for Interface’s positive impact to grow.
Finally, the ripples from Ray’s epiphany are perhaps most strongly felt in the people he inspired. Every person at Interface, and tens of thousands of people who heard Ray speak, were catalyzed to go forth and inspire others to be better stewards of our planet. Those good souls deserve the credit for their actions, but they are also multiplying the impact of Ray’s own commitment. Just as Ray multiplied the impact of those who inspired him.
So remember, it’s never okay for someone to say, “I can’t do much – I’m just one person.” That is categorically false. None of us are just one person, but rather parts of our families, friend groups and communities. Our influence extends broadly, often further than we realize. We should embrace that, and be the best possible advocates for, and examples of, the values we hold most dear. When we do that, we create our own multiplier effect, and the world is better for it.
We finish our expedition next week with the seventh front, redesigning commerce. Cheers y’all!