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  • Writer's pictureSteve Klass

The Three Rs Start with the Three Ps

Pursuing the development of a path to positive business, P3 Utah’s mission, in the face of the social and environmental shocks our society is facing has given rise to focus on the three Rs of sustainability. No, not the reduce, reuse and recycle that you get when you perform a Google search for “the three Rs of sustainability. I am talking about the concepts of resilience, restoration and ultimately regeneration."

Threats such as Covid 19, severe flooding, fire and fire smoke has brought concern about our potential demise as a society and a species continually to mind. What can we do, through business every day in the face of these challenges? Does sustainable business have a place in saving the world in the short term? Are the three Ps no longer valid?

Within the business sustainability community within the last decade, there were calls to abandon the three Ps and just focus on community resilience. I must admit that I was skeptical at the time. I wondered how businesses could be resilient in the face of climate change especially. How businesses could adapt to shifting weather patterns. We were primarily concerned with melting ice caps and sea rise and loss of polar bear habitat, right?

Well, count me in as a believer in the need for resilience. Living far from the ocean, I have found my very life threatened this fire season and not by the flames or flooding and mudslides due to lack of trees and related vegetation. For days on end, I have been imprisoned inside of my residence for fear of breathing seriously dangerous particulates from fires burning two states away! My neighbors down the road in my valley, valleys nearby and low-lying areas through the continental U.S. have been damaged by rain and flood water due to a dramatic increase in the severity of weather events. Yeah, I get it now, this resilience thing, it is very real for all of us.

Once my breathing returns to normal, I look back upon the P3 Sustainability Matrix and its focus on six areas of business impact. How is it relevant? I am relieved to report that the P3 impact approach is timeless, and without mastering the 3Ps, we will never generate the net positive business economy that we need to survive. A quick reminder may be in order.

Concerning People, inward facing social impact is where we focus on direct human well-being in the workplace, addressing issues related to social justice (discrimination in all its forms of human resource policy and management practices) and human health (clean air inside buildings, safe Covid 19 protocols, support for Covid vaccine access-even at work). Outward facing social impact is where we focus on these same issues in the community surrounding and supporting the business. P3 businesses are concerned with well-being in nearby neighborhoods, where people who live and work are impacted by a business’s operations and may participate as customers and employees of that business. Think about the unique ways that your business can make the lives of your neighbors more positive.

I think the three Rs of the regenerative business really make sense looking at the Planet part of the P3 Matrix. Looking at inward facing environmental impact, we use the circular economy focus on reduce, reuse, and recycle as we take in and process resources, the inward facing Planet focus of our P3 Matrix. Using less water in the face of longer droughts and less hard-to-regrow wood with disappearing forests makes incredible business sense as well as improving ecology. A simple example of outward facing environmental impact, is landscaping our business properties and nearby neighborhoods. Planting to discourage fires but welcoming pollinators, animals and microbes also helps diversify and restore our local ecology.

Managing for positive business through using the P3 lens is not in opposition to the new 3 Rs, it is how business generates the 3 Rs. Being P3 means becoming a regenerative business. It is time not to abandon the 3 Ps but to double, even triple down on them. If we don’t focus on people and planet, we as people may no longer be present on the planet and profit becomes irrelevant.

Learn more about regenerative business. Think about the small ways that the businesses you work in and buy from can restore local ecology and create a more resilient community, right where you live. If we all do a little, we will collectively create a whole lot, enough to survive and thrive as a species.

Be P3!

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