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  • Writer's pictureSteve Klass

Launching a Flower Beacon

In some ways P3 Utah’s current activity trajectory is like the century plant. Like the plant, the Agave americana, P3 appears outwardly to some as your basic drought and pandemic resistant nonprofit: gray (maybe a dull bluish silver?) and not flashy. However, like the plant, inside, something extraordinary is being created. In the case of the plant, it takes 10 to 30 years to set up a spectacular bloom stalk that shoots up in a matter of weeks. After the flowers attract pollinators, the stalk dries out and the plant dies but not before setting out nearby plantlets to complete its reproductive mission.

P3 Utah has been in existence about 15 years counting its first five years as the Net Impact Utah Professional Chapter. As we have moved in a workmanlike, “agave-like” manner, we have generated eight unprecedented annual state business sustainability conferences, over 100 podcasts, two groundbreaking state laws and our core Business Sustainability Matrix (“Matrix”). What is unapparent to the casual observer, like viewing the humble Agave americana for most of its life, is the potential power of the offsets of this Matrix.

In honor of the UN Civil Society Conference of 2019 in Salt Lake City, we built a rudimentary toolkit based upon the Matrix and translated it from English into the other five UN languages: Arabic, French, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. The toolkit included an assessment of a company’s contribution to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, we incorporated a simple three level, Olympics -inspired rating system (Bronze, Silver and Gold) for a company’s triple bottom line sustainability program management, as an easy way for stakeholders to align their efforts to set objectives to improve social, environmental and economic impact, both locally and globally. This simple rating system can be adapted for use by consumers (all of us), to vote with each purchase for a more sustainable world.

Over the last two years we tested the toolkit and produced four case studies), and, it works! In just a 90 day window, students committed to improving well-being through business, with no prior consulting experience, learned how to work with companies to help them assess their triple bottom line and work with employees and sustainability leaders to set meaningful short term goals to swiftly and significantly ramp up positive impact. Now, this summer, we are taking our work to a new level. Like the century plant, our next level of growth will be dramatic and more visible from a much greater distance.

As a century plant’s flower stalk is visible from down the block, P3 Utah’ impact will be seen beyond Utah: across the continent and even the oceans. The flowers at the top of our stalk form a beacon, sort of like a lighthouse if for ships (gads, I hate mashing up metaphors!). Our flashy flowers in this illustration will encase a self-serve online course that will truly enable any company in any industry in any country to rapidly assess and boost its own positive triple bottom line. We are focused on working within a global community to attain a critical mass of accelerated business sustainability activity by 2030, the due date assigned for achievement of the UN SDGs. It is an audacious set of goals but it is what we have as a generally agreed-upon set of measures for global human well-being. P3 Utah is well up to making a substantial contribution to meeting this challenge.

Without more substantial engagement of businesses and their stakeholders, which is another way of saying “ALL of us,” we won’t make adequate progress to support 10 Billion human lives while maintaining a high-functioning supportive ecology on our planet home. We must not fail to do all we can to help business transform itself more completely into a net positive force. Our simple toolkit/course is one way that all businesses can easily see and advance their positive impacts. We all need to step up our efforts to help our human neighbors and all the other organic components of our single biosphere. Let us reach up from our humble base and make a flower beacon illuminating the path to positive business for all to see.

Now is the time to be P3!

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