Aimee Rego nee Pavri was one of my favourite art directors in Lintas in the late 1980s: professionally prolific, personally uncomplicated.
What I remember her most for is a lesson in living that she learnt from her mom.
On the first of every month, when the breadwinner handed over the cash, she would partition it into separate envelopes marked, “Grain” “Sugar” “Milk” “Gas” and so on.
If, for some reason, the cash in one envelope ran out, the family went without that thing for the rest of the month. Cash was never transferred from one envelope to another.
I always thought that was one of the simplest ways of coming to terms with the fact that an individual’s home has to be managed within a finite budget.
Ditto with humankind’s home, the earth.
This too has to be managed within finite resources.
The envelope marked ‘Forests’ for those of us who live in a home called India now contains many lies: the government claims it increased by 5% between 1990 and 2000, experts claim it decreased by 1.5 to 2.7% every year.
No forests, no rivers, no water in our taps.
The highest increase in forests is actually in China! Check out its cartogram on worldmapper.org
Envelopes in India marked ‘Pure air’ ‘Clean seas’ or ‘Lakes’ are similarly, getting empty.
Why? One hypothesis is that the nation has abandoned restraint and embraced, like the industrialized nations, that most destructive of all four-letter words: MORE.
There is now enough data to show the links between poverty and environmental degradation.
Is there a way out?
Amazingly enough, while most brands and businesses are seen as the biggest pursuers of MORE profits, some are refusing to fall into that trap.
An outdoor-apparel brand called Patagonia is so committed to sustainability, it has banished MORE.
When changing from regular cotton to organic cotton involved making a loss, they accepted it.
The brand donates 1% of its sales (sales, not profit; which means even when it makes a loss, it donates) to the protection of environment.
Its founders created www.onepercentfortheplanet.org, so other businesses also joined in donating 1% of their sales as Earth Tax (there are now 1475 companies!).
The brand that truly put its finger on MORE is Domini.
It realized that companies chase MORE profits because investors do.
So it created global investment standards that cover the relationships of the corporation to Local and National Community, Global Community, Customers, Ecosystems, Employees, Investors, Suppliers...its funds invest only in companies that meet all these standards!
Wouldn’t this obsession with sustainability affect performance? No: the Domini Social Equity Fund ranks in the top 5% of its peers in the period ending June 2011.
Are there any businesses in India that would sacrifice MORE profits for a sustainable future?
Not until individual investors like you and me give up asking for MORE returns from our investments in those companies and force them to change.
“Make money make the difference” says Amy Domini, the inventor of Socially Responsible Investing.
Should we begin?