Tag Archives: social sustainability

The Soul of Sustainability and the Opioid Epidemic

I haven’t posted anything to this blog for sometime.

My commitment has not waned to increasing sustainability awareness and advancing the voices of those acting on behalf of Mother Earth and her children.  We continue to add these voices to
EarthSayers.tv and are seeking partners to expand the availability of our content on websites that share our commitment. 

Rather, my sustainability work turned out to not only include ten years of curating the voices of sustainability from across the globe, but five years of living in a caring community, learning,  getting involved in addressing the issue of safety for all of us, and reframing the neighborhood from an “entertainment” district to caring community.  A second project is intended to change a negative image of our residents to one that is diverse and caring. It got me out of the office and into the streets taking photos of and meeting my neighbors and their dogs. They are published here. It’s also about getting support for an urban dog ballpark in our neighborhood.

Early in 2017 I came to the realization that the soul of sustainability lies within our interdependence or oneness or kinship. It was a
lesson I was learning locally within my community where I identify as a sustainability advocate.  I live in Portland’s Caring Community, Old Town Chinatown, where a majority, 57% of the housing is dedicated to the homeless in the form of supportive care housing and shelter beds.  Adopted in the 1970’s the housing landscape reflects a model of care that works and is overworked as homelessness increases. 
This is also a place with a high crime rate for narcotic/drug offenses and assaults in a time when our police force is understaffed and those trained to “coordinate the response of Law Enforcement and to aid people in behavioral crisis resulting from known or suspected mental illness and or drug and alcohol addiction” are too few. In Portland this is the mission of the Behavioral Health Unit within the Police Bureau.  A model of policing that works for the situation we find ourselves in – the solution is recovery not jail.  They too are overworked. 

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now              is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.” – Barack Obama

Under the banner of sustainability advocate I began to integrate the personal with the professional and in the process discovered that interdependence is the foundation, the principle for acting on behalf of future generations and getting to the heart of
things be they local or global.   I came to think of it as the soul of sustainability.  It also places empathy at the center of all action-taking as we express compassion through our work.

“This problem of addiction is not only a health crisis but a spiritual crisis.

The situation worsens when society sees addiction as a shameful condition — those in need don’t reach out to others for help; the community doesn’t provide treatment services.”  – Paul Steinbroner

Health and Spiritual Crisis
And then came this opioid epidemic. My filmmaker friend, Paul Steinbroner, needed some marketing help in getting his latest film project, Called From Darkness, into distribution.  Paul heads up a publishing and distribution company specializing in multi-media projects related to addiction, neuropharmacology, and brain chemistry. 

“The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

The Epidemic
There is a great need for increasing awareness about the epidemic and educating people who may see themselves as disconnected, but know by feel that the situation calls for all hands on deck. Nearly all of us are connected to someone – family member, friend, colleague – who is directly affected by addiction and often homeless on the street.  One doesn’t have to live in a neighborhood that cares for the sheltered and unsheltered to know that a majority of our homeless have a mental illness and/or drug addiction.
In Portland, of the 4,177 homeless people counted, 2,527 (60.5%) reported living with
one or more disability, including a mental disability, chronic physical condition, and/or a substance-use disorder. The number of people with disabling conditions increased by
16.1 percent between the 2015 and the 2017 Point-In-time counts.
Addiction as a healthcare issue is in the realm of social sustainability. It’s of sizable proportions: an epidemic, possibly resulting in hundred of thousands of deaths with economic repercussions that could bankrupt our communities; making the poorest of neighborhoods unlivable; and turning family life into a nightmare.  The New York Times article1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours, makes this point:Drug deaths draw the most notice, but more addicted people live than die. For them and their families, life can be a relentless cycle of worry, hope and chaos.”  

Start Here
I have observed that to start from the point of “not me, but them” or to draw a line between the personal and the professional, leaving “solutions”  to those in the healthcare sector doesn’t lead to furthering sustainability principles.  I find framing the challenge from the principle of inter-connection and thinking of it as going to the soul of sustainability works. It works for not only knowing what to do next, but having the confidence to move forward despite inexperience or feelings of being overwhelmed or to hear yourself think,  it’s not my problem.

To start, here is a trailer of Called From Darkness by Paul Steinbronner as part of the Called from Darkness film project entitled A Home Boy’s Joy Ride.  It features the voice of artist Fabian Debora and the work of Fr. Greg Boyle the founder of Home Boy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

Future blogposts will continue to explore the Soul of Sustainability and the associated topics of the opioid epidemic, homelessness, and livability in our communities including housing and public safety.

One Billion Rising and Three Voices of Sustainability

billion rising in whiteThis is nearly the same title of a blog post I wrote in the last week of December.  What I am writing here, however, updates you on the One Billion Rising, February 14, 2013 campaign and gives you three fresh faces of sustainability, a small sampling of those speaking on behalf of women and this campaign.

First, a reminder of what One Billion Rising is all about.

On 14 February 2013, V-Day is inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to violence against women and girls.

Secondly, why this campaign is a model of cause marketing as outlined recently in an article by Cone Communications which cites three attributes of how this campaign manages “to shine a spotlight on an age-old issue.” They are: (1) it offers a simple, unifying message; (2) it provides an easy way for people to get involved; and (3) it uses a beloved holiday as a unifying touchpoint.

I would elaborate slightly on the three to include people or social issue, multiple ways for people to get involved, and it uses a related, beloved holiday.

earthsayers adOne of the easy ways for people to get involved is the use of online video where individuals from all walks of life can express their support by appealing to viewers to participate in the February 14 events.  Because they are on YouTube, we were able to create a special collection on EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability around the campaign thereby increasing the reach and longevity of the message as well as increasing the visibility of these sustainability thought leaders.

Here is a small sampling of the videos we included in the special collection. There is a conspicuous absence of business leaders even those who count women and girls among their best customers from among the over 200 individuals highlighted on the V-Day YouTube channel.

Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky

janCongresswoman Jan Schakowsky asks you join in on February 14, 2013 in One Billion Rising event in Chicago and she addresses her experience in the East Congo and understanding “rape as the low cost weapon of war.”  The event is at noon at Daly Plaza, February 14, 2013. Here is her video.

In this video she references the United Nation. This is an excellent site to get more information on the United Nation’s ongoing role to end violence against women visit this site: endviolence.un.org

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

tn_24325Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, is RISING with V-Day on 14 February 2013. He talks about non-discrimination and gender equality in a union of values and references the statistic that one in three women will be raped, beaten or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Here is his video.

For more information on the statistic cited by Mr. Van Rompuy, visit this site, oneinthreewomen.com.

Eve Ensler, Founder of V-Day

eveEve Ensler is the founder of V-Day the sponsor of the One Billion Rising campaign. In this video she extends her gratitude to all of you who are practicing and preparing, organizing, singing, dancing, and writing for an end to violence against women with one week left until we rise!  Here is her video.

Ms. Ensler’s experience performing THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES inspired her to create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. She has devoted her life to stopping violence, envisioning a planet in which women and girls will be free to thrive, rather than merely survive.

The path to sustainability from One Billion Rising is easily understood in light of the sustainability taxonomy we use everyday in archiving hundreds of sustainability videos:

One Billion Rising>women’s rights and role>human rights (social justice)>People (Social)>Sustainability and

Violence Against Women and Girls> Violence, Structural> Peace, War, Violence, Security>People (social)>Sustainability.

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 4.08.54 PM

To find a location of the One Billion Rising event nearest you, click here.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, February 12, 2013, Portland, Oregon and at the One Billion Rising Event, February 14th at 3PM, PST, at Director’s Park, Downtown Portland, Oregon.

VP of Social and Environmental Sustainability

tn_24020Meet Michael Kobori. He is VP of Social and Environmental Sustainability at Levi Strauss and Company.

He is the person I had in mind when in March of 2011 I wrote a blog post comparing sustainability to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and noted “Up to now the C-level sustainability officer is generally focused on environmental concerns, water and energy being high priorities, and cost reductions.  At the social and environmental sustainability intersection is where companies can begin to examine their role in externalizing risks and costs, a practice and mind set that has greatly harmed the environment and all living beings.”

So look at how Levi’s represents sustainability on their Website.

Screen shot 2012-11-12 at 11.28.28 AM

Follow the leader.

Listen to a video interview of Michael by 3BL Media at the BSR 2012 conference on EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, November 12, 2012, Portland Oregon

More on Sustainability and CSR

Recent report by Deloitte, How to Leverage Sustainability Initiatives for Finance Transformation, makes Environmental Sustainability stampthe point “sustainability is no longer just an effort to portray good corporate citizenship along side ‘normal’ business operations.” If in the short run the best way to have a C-level voice for sustainability is through the CFO, and we all agree that any initiative worth its salt needs C-level representation, then it is time for companies with a strong sustainability bent, and no C-level sustainability officer, to move their sustainability reporting out of the Corporate Social Responsibility Report and onto the main playing field. GHG emissions, materials, waster, water, land use and biodiversity are not externalities in terms of risk and costs. It’s the CFO who runs accounting and these sustainability measurements need to be on the books.  John Fullerton of the Capital Institute talks about externalities in the content of an economic transformation and Larry O’Connor of LaTrobe University in Australia comes at the same issue from an accounting reform perspective.

Social + Environmental

There is a strong argument for a C-level Sustainability officer who integrates social and environmental sustainability addressing the need for improving health and welfare by engaging customers, partners, and employees in adopting sustainability practices and principles at home, work and in their communities along with an in tandem with ConsciousAwareness4Genvironmental sustainability. Fundamentally, raising consciousness levels and creating a sustainability culture has to be the work of all us, it just isn’t going to happen if we don’t transform the way we do business and without C-level representation it isn’t going to happen fast enough.  One executive who speaks eloquently on culture and consciousness is Dominque Conseil, Global President of Aveda.  Give him a listen, links are to his videos on EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability.

Where does this leave Corporate Social Responsibility?

In the Economic Intelligence Unit’s, Future Tense Report (2008), they reference IBM’s transformative efforts at removing barriers between its communications functions which in addition to the more traditional of marcom, media and PR was to include the”corporate citizenship” function.  This was not seen by IBM as a reorganization, but about rethinking.   No word on how things are going, but it’s a good point to start a conversation.

Comparing Sustainability to Social Responsibility

I wish I could say I came up with this comparison chart. I could have used it many times over the past year. It was part of Webinar sponsored by two companies, Verdantix and Enviance. The chart  is from David Metcalfe’s presentation which was excellent as was Greg Scandrett’s introduction. Greg is VP of Product Development at Enviance and David Metcalfe is CEO of Verdantix.

Responsibilty is not Sustainability 2

As a sustainability advocate it became clear to me early on in my journey that the social responsibility professionals in an organization were not very interested in our project, EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability. CSR since the advent of social media has become heavy on the “managing corporate reputation” with emphasis on the managing part and, as noted in this chart, focused on NGO’s and eco-consumers, rather than building a trustworthy reputation based on social sustainability principles and practices.

Up to now the C-level sustainability officer is generally focused on environmental concerns, water and energy being high priorities, and cost reductions.  At the social and environmental sustainability intersection is where companies can begin to examine their role in externalizing risks and costs, a practice and mind set that has greatly harmed the environment and all living beings.

Sustainability and Higher Education

The Greening of Educational Institutions

When we began to build the collection of EarthSayers.tv, we reviewed many videos featuring professors and students from colleges around the world, mostly addressing issues of how to make their living, learning, and working spaces more sustainable.  It was how I became aware of the growing movement of “greening” campus operations and endowment practices. The Sustainable Endowments Institute publishes The College Sustainability Report Card and is the only Picture 6independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.  The rationale behind investing in this report card is the same reason many companies are touting their green initiatives: “Colleges are now taking pride in greener campuses and sustainability-savvy investments—increasingly important concerns for parents and students in choosing a school…They can find the first comprehensive college sustainability selection tool at GreenReportCard.org.”

Sustainability Research and Curriculum

At the same time, I was seeing on EarthSayers.tv many colleges addressing the academic side of sustainability with courses and programs such as Harvard’s Program in Sustainability and Environmental Management and Portland State University’s (PSU) Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, an integrated series of post-baccalaureate courses that comprise a multidisciplinary study of the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability.

This interdisciplinary approach is called out in a recently enacted Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HR 4137) which included the University Sustainability Program (USP).  Under this Act, individual institutions are eligible for funding to “integrate sustainability curriculum in all programs of instruction, particularly in business, architecture, technology, manufacturing, engineering, and science programs.”  At the original intended authorization level of $50 million, USP will annually support between 25 and 200 sustainability projects as reported by the Campaign for Environmental Literacy.

This growth of the academic side of Sustainability is tracked by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  AASHE is an association of colleges and universities working to create a sustainable future. The AASHE notes “from the creation of 70+ sustainability-focused academic programs compared to 27 in the Digest in 2007 and the hiring of 57 new sustainability faculty, to the opening of 13 sustainability-themed research centers and nearly triple that number in the planning stages, it is clear that curricular transformation is underway in the academy.”  They expect a big  boost in numbers and activities given funding of the University Sustainability Program at the Department of Education.

Now that I have relocated EarthSayers.tv and myself to Portland, Oregon from San Francisco, I am taking the opportunity to become more involved in the education side of sustainability. While having worked for the last twenty plus years for corporations, including my own for the last fifteen years, a high tech direct marketing agency, I wanted my understanding and experience with sustainability to be more integrated encompassing education and government as well as business.

Picture 9So for grounding purposes and to help in any way I can with marketing and communications,  I have begun working with the Social Sustainability Network at PSU. The Network is a funded project by the Miller Foundation to develop an infrastructure to support and extend social sustainability work and make a tangible and critical difference in the world.  “The focus is on truly integrating the academy and the community; and theory, research, and practice” says Network organizer, Marion Sharp.  Of particular interest to me is a  colloquium series co-sponsored by the Center of Professional Integrity & Accountability.  Jesse Dillard is the Center’s Director and Retzlaff Chair, Accounting, and a professor of accounting who introduced me to the Network and has been very helpful in introducing me to faculty and staff members.

In upcoming posts I will be reporting back the work of the Network, the Center, and other sustainability-related programs at Portland State University.  This week the School of Business Administration and the Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability is sponsoring the 3rd Annual International Conference on Business and Sustainability, November 5 and 6, 2009. The theme of this year’s conference is regenerate. We hope to include some of the content in EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability.


November 5th and 6th, 2009

Social Sustainability

On Friday I attended a kick off meeting at Portland State University (PSU) addressing social sustainability. It is a  PSU Collaborative Focused on Improving Community Health and Well Being and it took place in the School of Social Work.  What is meant by social sustainability?  The definition for social responsibility refers “to both the processes that create, and the institutions that facilitate, social health and well-being both now and in the future, recognizing that attaining social sustainability requires achieving both economic and environmental sustainability.

When we created EarthSayers.tv to highlight the voices of sustainability, the first thing we ran into was the lack of a taxonomy for the term so we created one. Actually, Dr. Joanne O’Brien-Levy is the author.  The taxonomy, called a content map, is used by us to classify videos as we add them to the EarthSayers collection. We have also found it useful in helping organizations focus on what they are going to do (action) given the length and depth of the concept and the inefficiency of doing a little of this and some of that.  Organizations need to put all their wood behind one arrow.

Content MapThe content map identifies four major elements of sustainability – Systemic Change, Planet, People, Prosperity – with twenty-three categories under these four elements. All keywords and phrases roll up to one of the elements e.g.  consumerism (keyword) to culture and consciousness (category) to people (element).

So, social sustainability I see as part of the element of People and in the category of cities and communities, with the keyword  being social. It also crosses with the category health and well-being which suggests two strong aspects of their work.  I wonder if the group sees it this way.  The Social Sustainability Colloquium is going to be discussing the Ethic of Accountability in an Era of Scarcity: Acting in the Public Interest by Jesse Dillard of the PSU School of Business (People:Governance:public interest), Community Resilience by Kristen Magis of the Leadership Institute, social sustainability funding and social sustainability and social work.  There is also a call for papers for an edited book, Building Social Sustainability in an Era of Scarcity,  featuring the work of the PSU Social Sustainability Network.

What I came away with is there is a very committed group of people, mostly in the school of social work, who have been  active over the years in building the concept of social sustainability.  They are seeking to include community groups in their projects through a network which supports their emphasis on community wellbeing and, to a lesser degree, health and wellness.

Given our economic collapse and deteriating planet there is sense that it is no longer business as usual and this is reflected in their upcomig programs.  Now if only I can convince the group to become EarthSayers and use video and audio to get their story out there, I will feel I have made a contribution.  The academic community is heavily book laden in their communication, but maybe since it isn’t business as usual, they may be open to using the Web more effectively to support people networks (more inclusive) and communicate sustainability principles and practices using audio and video.

I’ll work on it.