Ecology is evermore economy.
The current management of natural and human resources, and the politics which governs the planet, conceive of only the hoarding of resources, their consumption until destruction, and never of their regeneration.
Environmental degradation, a consequence of a thoroughly backward approach to the planet, is accompanied — as Alex Langer wrote 30 years ago — by social degradation. The West is the major consumer of the planet’s environmental resources but the principle consequences are dumped, above all, on the southern hemisphere where climate — and therefore social — change are, in a devastating way, evident.
The business world, much more than single individuals, has a great responsibility for the social and environmental impoverishment which is, by now, evident to all. To develop, produce and distribute products and services generates business and profits and entails, at the same time, the assertion of models, behaviours and politics which shape existence, create culture and contribute, for better or for worse, to the definition of reality all around us.
Longer-sighted businesses which don’t want to continue consuming, which means destroying, understand that assets like the environment and the territory can’t be considered unlimited holdings from which to withdraw and plunder the best for their own, exclusive advantage. They are, instead, aware of how urgent it is to active an evermore daring and fruitful reciprocity. Moving from extraction to looking after, applying a sort of strategy of restitution, of return, maybe with a rebate of what has been taken.
A new business, which genuinely intends to be useful and as such to distinguish itself and result evermore appreciated and acknowledged, is that which reinterprets its own mission, being no longer focused only on its own business but also on others, meaning people and the environment, which is understood as a territory to which it can bring value, protecting and reinforcing both through a concrete and useful course of action.
It’s no longer sufficient to satisfy shareholders and stakeholders as the classics of the canon teach, meaning the creation of an estate’s profits through the approval of its own clients and nearby worlds. The new business goes beyond that, contributing to the regeneration of the environment and the social fabric in a concrete and, especially, a reparative way. The reparations, namely the substantive result which improves the original condition, will become a measure of, and validation of, the environmental and social actions of the companies, of their distinctiveness and informal commitment.
From Story-telling to Story-doing.
Many other social measurements, and corporate social responsibility, are often innocuous and inert in their effects. Now is the time to pass from communication to relationships, from a marketing dissembler to someone who creates conscience, from story-telling to story-doing.
And the territory, beginning with one’s own but also the landing place of products and services being offered, becomes an essential testing ground.
It’s time to put at the centre not the market, a definition which has become alien and indistinct, but the change which is pursued, the reparation which is pin-pointed as most urgent to, and most within reach of, the business. We’re not talking here of solidarity, which is always welcome, and even less of philanthropy: we’re talking about a business’s vision and its consequent actions.
The different contents, the one private and the other socio-environmental, are no longer separate but included in the same strategic project with which the business equips itself.
That business model will be organised not only according to efficiency and operative performance, but includes in its own strategic plan an indispensable reparative and reactivational function for society and environment.
The new business shortens the distance between owner and recipient of the product or service.
In food production, it’s indispensable to talk of an agriculture of restitution, which means the diffusion of a real agro-ecological practise. It’s not about a nostalgic return to practises of the past but the real revitalisation of entire territories which are no longer inhabited.
The new business needs new models, no longer within their own sector but across the board. The businesses which see this future, which share this vision, must form an alliance and interact concretely even if working within very different sectors.
It’s evermore necessary to operate outside corporate logic and agriculture must leave that logic first given its direct environmental and social function: producing food which is healthy and good, and looking after fields, hills and mountains. If the territorial context becomes strategic for new businesses, it can’t but interact closely with all the nearby businesses which share its vision.
Goodland stands as an outpost for this vision.
The Lakota, which means “friends”, confined to the Badlands of south Dakota, used to affirm, and still affirm today, that there are no Badlands. All land is good land because it always offers life.
It’s a vision which, for us, in the primary sphere of food and agriculture, immediately becomes action and effective practise, with very clear objectives:
1) Contribute to the production of social and environmental impact together with communities and to do so in such a way that the products and projects which are derived from them are both an application and a witness.
2) To render these products accessible to the greatest numbers of users possible, through a direct involvement right from the planning phase necessary for their finalisation.
3) Put the health of people and the environment, which is life, at the centre, with the help of constant scientific research united with a continuous, innovative effort. By now we have thousands of proofs regarding which foods are healthy and beneficial, and how to grow and prepare them.
Everything is already active, action, reality.
Yvan Sagnet, the young, Cameroonian president of the No Cap association, along with the tireless and generous Gianni Fabris from Rete per la Terra, in April of this year astounded everyone by affirming that workers in the tomato harvest, starting with the migrants in the ghettoes, should have a regular union contract, a medical visit the day before work begins, access to transport to reach the fields, suitable clothing (overalls and sturdy boots) and a proper lodging in which to sleep. All envisaged by our legislation.
There was a strong incredulity because the condition of the workers in the countryside were very different. But all of that has become reality: farmers, civil society, distribution chains and administrations are involved. A great desire to change things has been discovered and the examples of good practise are multiplying.
In Sardinia, Felice Floris and Roberto Congiu, leaders of the shepherds’ movement, after having shown us their house, their stables and their magnificent sheep, started their assembly proclaiming “pastoral resistance”.
Existence and dignity, and the necessary recognition of one’s own role, come before the product, prices and demands.
The new has already started!