Corporate sustainability is already a relatively old, although the vast
majority of companies is still in its infancy practice, so to speak. It means, in the conventional concept, the ability of a corporation to manage, take into account and interact constructively with the needs of its various stakeholders - shareholders, society, surrounding communities, suppliers, employees, customers, environment, government, business partners, etc. This can be very challenging since some of those needs are really conflicting.
Many tools, processes, rules and regulations, agreements and pacts have been developing to support corporations in such an endeavor. Good results for environment and society are being achieved, but they are meager in the face of the real needs and the continuous damage that is still in course. Most of those tools and processes deal only with the objective reality and consider the corporation or the institution as the agent, in an attempt to change the surroundings, to fix the problem, to find a solution, without truly engage the subject - that who actually is creating the issue - us, the people.
After many years working from the same paradigm exposed above, we came to the conclusion that real change cannot occur through those means. We got to fully involve the human dimension into the equation, since “individuals are the ones who make choices, who are motivated or not, who decide, face resistances and relate to each other.” (The Practice of Sustainability - Challenges experienced by Corporate Governance agents). Thus, we develop an approach that aims to take care of the human dimension, promoting a deep opportunity for reflection and the basis for real transformation to occur.
This approach is called Sustainability from Within and it reflects our belief that powerful transformation can only happen from inside out. We cannot change anything but ourselves. Thus, if we want to change the world, we know where to begin. If a corporate leader really believes in the possibility of managing a corporation in a way that can be profitable for all the stakeholders involved, he/she must be open to review his/her inner beliefs and dare to challenge his/her own paradigm of thinking.
Borrowing Ken Wilber’s Integral Vision to framework Sustainability from Within, we initially propose two stages of development - duality and unity. Duality is the stage in which most of us live. It is how we see the world from the illusion of separateness. Unity is the desired stage in which we perceive that not only we have more in common with each other, but that in fact, we are one. We are one with Nature! As human beings, it is rare to have an experience of oneness and when we do it is a temporary state. Nevertheless, our ultimate goal is certainly to transcend the dual stage and be manifested in Unity.
Bringing this down to our daily experiences, we can observe that immersed in duality, we cannot help but see and experiment everything split - there is no good without bad, no pretty without ugly, no right without wrong; duality is the land of “OR” this “OR” that.
Unity begins with AND, the inclusion of possibilities, the integration of apparent opposites. It calls for a change in the lens through which we see ourselves and the world and are able to open up for a dimension in where opposites can be integrated to create something new. Our proposition, thus, considers a change of focus from an observer, the one who is seeking for any kind of sustainable solution, so that the very search of a more integrated solution is already an open door to endless possibilities.
One of the immediate results of the duality/unity questioning is the awareness of self-responsibility. In the illusion of separateness, we end up being very used to find external perpetrators as the cause of our suffering. We find them everywhere in our daily events: in the traffic, in the economy, in the government, in our work environment, in our house... However, in a process of transformation, this paradigm must also be questioned. In the unified approach, when we face any kind of “bad” situation and or of the perpetrator as a separate entity we are driven to ask: what in this situation can be positive? How did I contribute for that to happen? What can I do to envisage a more integrated reality?
This questioning can considerably increase our power to find peace at the moment and figure out more evolved ways to deal with the situation. Including ourselves, in that experience, we were once judging from a separate perspective, moves us out of blaming, victimization and excuses and empowers us to different possibilities. We get out of impotence to real power.
Within this framework, we are also called to question and observe our intentions. It is to expect that human beings living in duality would have dubious intentionality. By going a little bit deeper into the subconscious and unconscious mind we may find how duality made its roots in our believes and images, driving emotions, needs and desires from a separate perspective. This means that if we look carefully into our intentions, we may find some “ego” reasons (meaning selfish reasons) even in the most altruists ones. Thus, sometimes behind an act of charity we will find not only light and desire to serve, but also some need for recognition, or some intention of being better than... which are subtle forms of separation. Not facing those aspects in us does not make them go away. Worse, pretending they do not exist, can defile the results, bringing frustration, misunderstanding and a sense of helplessness.
Only by questioning and facing our dark aspects will we be able to fully express our light. If you are a changing agent in the search for more effectiveness in your work, try Sustainability from Within.