Legendary wine pioneer and sustainability advocate Susan Sokol Blosser, co-founder of Sokol Blosser Winery, recently issued a provocative challenge to Oregon businesses.
“What if, instead of trying to return to the old system, we create a new one?” she asked the audience of nearly 300 at our recent celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon. “Economic recovery doesn’t have to mean we return to over-spending, over-production, over-consumption and planned obsolescence. If we simply return to where we were, we’ll keep repeating the same growth and crash cycle. Can we revise our mindset and acknowledge that we’re moving into a world of scarcity to which we must adjust? Can we move from an ‘all you can eat’ and ‘bigger is better’ mentality to ‘quality over quantity’ and ‘small is beautiful?’’’
That’s a provocative question for Oregon businesses that, like most, measure success by how much they grow in revenue, employees, unit output or customers. Oregon Business magazine itself each year ranks the top 150 private companies in the state by revenue and analyzes who’s up and who’s down. Nearly every chamber in the state gives out annual growth awards to those companies that have grown their employee count and bottom line.
Is it a horse race where in the end no one wins?
That’s the question Sokol Blosser challenged us to think about. “Continuous, double-digit growth is the capitalist refrain,” she said. “How do we scale up if we adopt the small is beautiful melody?”
Well, jobs and the profit to support those workers isn’t a bad thing. In fact, many would argue right now that growth is the only thing that will get Oregon out of the economic dumps. So what would Sokol Blosser do? She offered three suggestions on how to begin to create a new economic dynamic founded on small: find collaborative partnerships; be aligned with nature; and understand how everything is connected on a global level. (Text of full speech.) And I believe she’s got the credibility of having used those values to build and sustain her own business.
So can — or even should — business in this state create a new system where smaller is better for people, profit and the planet? I’d like to know what you think. Where do we go from here?
I’ll leave you with the thought on which Sokol Blosser ended her remarks:
“I’m not an economist. I’m a farmer and a businessperson who cares about the land and my community. Running my business has proved to me it is possible to work with nature, think globally, act locally, collaborate, and be successful while mindful of the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Not everyone agrees with this but I think maybe you do. This is an exciting and critical time. We are at the ultimate crossroads.”
Robin Doussard is Editor of Oregon Business magazine.