Short-term business decisions do not ensure the long-term viability of living systems or human communities. They also fail to deliver profits over the long run.
Reliable prosperity is designed to be reliably prosperous, generation after generation. This requires green businesses and communities to make decisions on a much longer time scale — decades or even centuries. On such a time scale, it is possible to imagine re-establishing an old-growth forest, restoring salmon runs, reweaving the urban fabric, or undergoing a profound cultural transformation.
Studies of companies with great longevity show that they share several key features: a commitment to ongoing learning, adherence to a well-articulated set of core values providing a sense of identity, and a fiscal conservatism that allows them to act flexibly as opportunities arise. Many of these companies are publicly held, and have been able to convince their shareholders that their strategic focus on growing long-term value is consistent with short-term returns. In contrast, maximizing profits for a single quarter can be accomplished with mere accounting tricks, and has become a suspect business practice in the wake of recent accounting scandals.
Environmentally or socially destructive activities are not compatible with long-term profitability. As taxes, policies, and the pull of the marketplace all make such activities increasingly expensive, it becomes critically important to anticipate and avoid them well ahead of time. Long-term profitability implies a careful stewardship of people, place, and capital, creating enduring forms of value.
Green businesses and communities must continually reinvest in themselves in order to enhance their capacities; build their social, intellectual, and economic capital; diversify; and prepare for ongoing transformation.
Ecotrust has established its own endowment, The Natural Capital Fund, in order to help diversify and stabilize its funding stream. The Natural Capital Fund makes investments in reliable prosperity, seeking long-term returns. Its most significant holding is The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, a 50,000 s.f. brick warehouse in Portland's Pearl District dating to 1895. It has been restored using green building techniques and houses a vibrant mix of businesses, non-profits, and local governments that have all made a strong commitment to reliable prosperity.
Focus on creating value over the long-term by honoring the needs of ecosystems and human communities. Develop financial and learning strategies that support this support this kind of value creation.
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