My colleagues and fellow owners Deirdre, Rob, Siobhan and I just returned from a conference in Boston called Local Sustainable Economies. It was a national gathering, hosted by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, of people and organizations working to localize economic activity and encourage the long haul shift from the extractive economy of the present to a generative economy of the future.
Spring has sprung. It’s a good time for good news.
When Paul Gilding’s book The Great Disruption was published in 2011 it had a profound impact on me. In September of that year I wrote that it was, for me, the most accessible and full-bodied treatment to date of the effects of climate change on our planet, our economies, our lives.
Still is – although Gus Speth’s superb new book America the Possible is a knock-out that in many ways expands the vision further.
Gilding has a blog called “The Cockatoo Chronicles.” It has been inactive for some months, but recently he made up for lost time when he posted a 2500 word essay that argues for a new reality: the economy is now aligned with the environment and there is evidence that we can – and will – win the climate change battle.
That’s a big thing to say.
On the last day of 2012 our 25th year as a worker cooperative (and 37th in business) ended. It was an extraordinary year – rich, full, profitable, demanding, restorative, and uplifting.
It was a year of many “first-evers”. On November 1st we welcomed three new owners at SMC – the most ever at one time. When DonE Turnell, Marc Rosenbaum, and Aaron Beck became owners, it meant that 21 of our 30 full-time employees are now full owners. DonE worked here for 20 years before taking the buy-in plunge, our longest journey-to-ownership ever. And it goes back further – I can remember him as a 14 year old skate punk back in the early eighties. He hasn’t changed much. After his first SMC Board meeting, he said, “It was kind of like a road association meeting but with less stupid people.” Less stupid people? Hey DonE, what are you trying to say??
On July 31, the last day of this summer’s legislative session, Massachusetts became the 11th state in the country – along with California, New York, South Carolina, Louisiana, and 6 others – to pass legislation enabling businesses to register as a new type of corporate entity: Benefit Corporations, or B-Corps. Benefit Corporations are companies which consider the public good – factors such as environmental sustainability and community benefit – in their corporate decisions rather than financial return only.
According to the Boston Globe, “To rein in the excesses of capitalism without losing the dynamism that makes it hum, a variety of thinkers have begun looking for ways to re-imagine the corporation itself, restructuring it to encourage businesses to pursue not only profit, but also positive social impact. One of those innovations will hit Massachusetts December 1st, when companies here will be able to register as a new entity called a ‘benefit corporation.’ ”
I’m still excited about the budding alliance between the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Mondragon Cooperatives – and the general awakening consciousness about worker co-operatives and co-operative business in general that I wrote about last month.
And there’s more.
My friend David Smathers of the TeamWorks Cooperative Network in California writes:
“The Mondragon cooperatives and the United Steelworkers have announced an historic partnership through which they will buy or start manufacturing businesses in the U.S. and Canada that will combine Mondragon’s democratic structure of ownership and governance with collective bargaining.
It will take many years to implement. But particularly in the face of the economic crisis that has exposed Wall Street’s failure to provide responsible stewardship of the economy, this is a very heartening development. Together, these two institutions have the resources, technical expertise, and vision to demonstrate to the public that it is possible to structure and run large corporations in entirely different ways than what we have become accustomed to.”