Greater good

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Articles - June 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012


0612 GreaterGood 01
Tony and Michelle Soter returned to their Oregon roots to make fine pinot noir, including the blend they're sampling in their Carlton vineyard, North Valley Rosé.
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn

When Tony Soter returned to his native Oregon with a few decades of high-end winemaking in California under his belt, the Portland-born winemaker was already recognized as one of the most talented in the U.S. But since he’s been back — part-time since 1997 and fulltime since 2007 — his reputation has been further enhanced by the exquisite pinot noirs he has produced at Soter Vineyards, a 20,000-case winery in Carlton.

His fine wines have garnered prizes and accolades. And since Soter’s stated mission in moving back to Oregon was to produce world-class pinot noir, it would appear his mission has been accomplished.

But that was before his ecological awakening, a dramatic shift in his worldview that ultimately resulted in a completely unplanned product called Planet Oregon.

“The idea of Planet Oregon,” says Soter, “is in part to take the values of guarding the ecology and doing the right thing and putting them in people’s faces.”

You might call Planet Oregon the People’s Pinot. Its purpose, besides making a top vintner’s pinot noir available to consumers for a relatively low price, is to educate consumers on just what it takes to produce an environmentally friendly bottle of wine and why it matters.

At $20 a bottle, Planet Oregon is a fraction of the price of Soter Vineyards’ top of the line, the 2008 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir, which goes for $85, an estate wine made exclusively from grapes grown at Mineral Springs Ranch, the home of the winery. “We aspire only for the absolute best and cost is no object for Mineral Springs Pinot Noir,” says Soter.



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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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