I’m rereading Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce. I’m searching for a quote I know I read the first time through where he defines what true capitalism is (he claims we haven’t actually tried it yet). The book is so brilliant; I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it. Here’s just one example of a quote with a powerful punch that presents a way forward, showing how businesses can lead the way. The quote’s on p. 64 of the revised edition (Harper Business, 2010).
The transition from immature to mature ecosystems is called ecological succession. What we must now create is commercial succession. Rather than argue about where to put our wastes, who will pay for it, and how long it will be before toxins leak into the groundwater, we should be trying to design systems that are elegantly imitative of ecosystems found in nature. Companies must re-envision and reimagine themselves as cyclical corporations whose products either literally disappear into harmless components or are so specific and targeted to a specific function that there is no spillover effect, no waste, no random molecules dancing in the cells of wildlife. In short, no forms of life must be adversely affected.