In a world whose demands seem continually to be shifting toward tribalism, fear-based adjudication and “mine-ness” across the most advanced societies, defining an organization’s place in the global progress landscape can be challenging. Addressing foundational concerns effectively and realistically stands to lay the most solid groundwork upon which to build any proposal.
Lorin Fries, now a strategic consultant in tech and innovation for food security and environmental regeneration, has spent a career exploring the questions of how to most effectively approach these challenges. Harvesting information and sowing seeds of promise through education and cooperation from the harsh, sometimes unforgiving stretches of East Africa to the rainforests of Brazil, she has worked with USAID, Harvard University and Save the Children in Uganda, and the World Economic Forum. Additionally, she has partnered on research and community development projects with Coca Cola, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and TechnoServe.
Sharing her thoughts regularly through her Forbes column, Lorin’s position, based on more than a decade of personal experience, is that we must evolve our thinking beyond even sustainability.
“The question I always ask is how do we point ourselves in a direction toward more regenerative systems that are actually moving away from any sort of exploitative systems of any kind, including the natural environment? I think that pointing ourselves more toward what some would term sustainability, but what is actually a couple of steps beyond that, regeneration – or regenerative systems — requires several ingredients. The first one is knowledge – a scientific basis of our understanding of the impact that we’re having — and trusting and believing in that information. We have a strange relationship with science in the sense that we don’t trust some of our foremost experts in the world — people who use scientific methodologies to create evidence-based solutions which we then choose not to believe because the information is inconvenient.”
“The next element is culture and creativity — what we allow not only to influence our brains, or our logic, but also to influence our culture and values and norms.” Lorin’s position is that the use of creativity and culture to influence minds around climate and the environment more broadly resonates. Says Lorin, “we need that cultural element through various means, and the artistic way is one very effective avenue leading toward that shift in thought. Finally, I think we need fresh, invigorating solutions. I work with a bunch of entrepreneurs and organizations that have really interesting and sometimes wildly different approaches to how we might address some of the challenges that we see. We’re not going to stop growing food, so how can we do that in ways that are better for the environment? We’re not going to stop transporting ourselves around the world, so how can we do that in a greener way, etc, etc… — and so I think how we better do those things is by market-based innovation. Technology is the frontier by which we’re starting to apply that more fully to questions of the environment.”
How can established private enterprise more effectively engage in greater progress in environmental regeneration systems while still protecting the bottom line?
Lorin shares, “I think more and more businesses have angled themselves more toward sustainability – having zero-net impact, for instance – and many companies have made those commitments around water and carbon, but where I think we need to head is toward regenerative practices, which is to say, not only are we going to be carbon-neutral, but we’re actually going to work on technologies and business practices that restore; that draw down carbon. Broadly speaking, I would put that theoretical frame around it. More tangibly, what I think businesses can do is to recognize the current needs of society and innovate differently around them. The needs of society are not necessarily to consume more and more of whatever product the company has. Society has deeper problems around having meaningful lives, having enough of the possessions that allow them to lead those meaningful lives, but also having the sustainability of their society and their environment for generations to come. I see some — especially younger — companies innovating to this end, and some of the bigger ones are starting to pivot their portfolios toward greater innovation and thinking in different ways.”
So, how can we all more effectively think globally and act locally?
“I personally feel,” says Lorin, “that everyone has a moral responsibility to behave in a way, especially with respect to things that we all share, like the climate, that is respectful to other people’s basic survival and their empowerment and growth and opportunity. That’s how we think globally, and it’s a level of responsibility that I personally think we all should demonstrate. In terms of acting locally, I think so much of what needs to happen is behavioral within our own selves. So, I would ask the reader to ask themselves if they wasted any food this week or if they threw out food that didn’t need to be thrown out. They should ask themselves if there was a time where I was washing the dishes and maybe let the water run for a few minutes when I didn’t have to or was there a time when I drove somewhere I could’ve walked or maybe carpooled? None of this is to suggest that people should feel shame in those– I don’t think that shaming people is the right mechanism for change – but just to say that if we want change, it starts within ourselves; not only with our attitudes, but also with our behaviors, especially within the balance between living our lives and having an environment that will serve us into the future.”
Robin Smith is a Writer/Producer/Editor of nearly two decades and Founder of NextPhase Foundation,
a 501c3-registered nonprofit organization focused on bringing STEAM-centric educational and
occupational opportunities to at-risk children and communities here and abroad. Robin was featured in the Women’s Empowerment Edition of The Introducer Magazine, Spring 2018. Robin’s Linkedin