An Open Letter to CEOs Who Make and Sell Stuff
[Editor's Note: If you would like to use any or all of this for the CEOs in your life or as the basis for a letter to the editor of your local paper or even a blog post, feel free to do so.]
I am taking the liberty to write to you on behalf of every single thing that calls this planet home. Most don’t know about it, but I’m sure they won’t mind. Their best interests are at hand.
In respect of your time (I know you are extremely busy) I will cut right to the chase: You are killing us.
In body, in spirit and everything in-between; breaking us down one little widget at a time. We have suffered so much in the pursuit of that which you create, by what you so cleverly market to us as being absolutely necessary to survive.
Where you see raw material we see a beautiful balance in need of sustaining, not destroying. Where you see innovation we see needless waste. Where you see market share and profit we see exploitation of our families, communities and culture. Where you see shareholders we see the rest of us—every living thing creeps, crawls, walks, runs, swims and sits on this planet—trying to exist and thrive in the most basic way.
To some extent it’s not entirely your fault. Many of you inherited this Engine of Consumerism and have been trained like Jedi Masters to make sure it purrs and hums along. You are a product of the Throwaway Culture of Convenience just as much as we are. Only problem is: Where we seek to redefine what it means to consume, you seek to perpetuate and deepen its hold on us.
You argue the economy. You argue that you’re only doing what we ask of you in order to meet our so-called needs wants. All the while you turn a blind eye to the domino effect of all your decisions and actions – from the supply chains to the store fronts. The Mahogany Palaces that are your board rooms echo with the rally cry of your minions: Market – Margin – More! Market – Margin – More!
I admit, not all of you fit this mold. There are a few of you who have recognized that a better way exists and are taking (in some cases bold) steps to turn things around. To refocus on the long-term vitality and viability of your business and the Earth that makes it possible instead of appeasing the short-term whims of this magical demigod known as The Market.
Alas, I arrive at my ask. The simple request that I put forth on behalf of my fellow beings.
Be better than we could ever expect you to be. Be the catalysts of change we all need you to be.
You are smart people. You have (even) smart(er) people working for you. Challenge yourselves to be better. Challenge yourselves to see beyond this quarter’s filings. Beyond the next market cycle. Beyond the next best thing coming out of your R&D shop.
Be human again. See that this planet is more than just an all-you-can-eat buffet of so-called raw material. More than just a big fat wallet waiting to be emptied. More than just bunch of shallow spirits yearning to be made happy by you and the God of Stuff you work for.
Wanting to be successful in business is not necessarily bad – unless it is at the expense of all our futures, yours included. But that’s really what is at stake here: The future. Yours, ours, and that of countless generations to come. Dig deep and see beyond your lifetime. Think of your children, my three children, and the millions of other children out there. What kind of world will they inherit from us? What do you want your legacy to really be? I want to leave them a world that is prosperous not perilous. You play a big role in that.
What kind of business will you have when the raw materials are gone? When your markets dry up because what you’re selling is neither necessary nor affordable in this future world you’ve help to mold?
See the opportunity to be better than your competitor. Get out in front and start changing your business model to reflect our expectations. Define and set that new sustainable trend. Help lead us and your shareholders (of today and tomorrow) to a better day.
Husband, dad, human with a conscience, eco-being, consumer
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- Challenging the Throwaway Culture of Convenience
- You vs. Stuff: Five Strategies for Winning Every Time
- TV Free and Loving It: Reflections on Nearly Three Years Without the Magic Box