Making Sustainability Personal this Holiday Season

Kevin Lynch CSR

Kevin D. LynchEditor’s Note: An earlier version of this post first appeared on the blog of the Corporate Responsibility Association, and is republished with permission.

Recently, I wrote about flourishing as a higher level of sustainability. John Ehrenfeld perhaps defined it best when he stated in his book, Sustainability by Design, that sustainability means “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the Earth forever.” As we sit in a state of “turkey contentment,” let’s consider this definition.

By connecting “humans and other life” on this planet, Ehrenfeld’s idea of sustainability becomes much more personalized than traditional definitions of sustainability. Corporate sustainability is now so tied to reporting statistical achievements that we lose sight of the Holy Grail of sustainability: a better Earth for all, now and in the future. When we focus on statistics, our connection to this hopeful future is lost. When we focus on flourishing, it becomes much more personal.

Just a few short weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday that can be defined by football, turkey and Black Friday shopping sprees. But I prefer to think of it as the holiday that brings people together. We gather around dinner tables with family and friends. We actually talk with each other. We celebrate all that has been good in our lives. We connect and are grateful. This is a foundational experience that can guide us as we strive towards a flourishing world. Let this spirit of Thanksgiving influence your daily work. Don’t just leave it at the dinner table with the other leftovers.

Of course, the other significance of the week after Thanksgiving is that we start thinking about holiday gifts. Last December, I wrote a blog about my favorite books on sustainability, which you can find here: These remain fine books for you or your friends. If you want to make sustainability more personal this holiday season, I recommend these books plus three new additions:

  1. Sustainability by Design by John R. Ehrenfeld
  2. Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability by John R. Ehrenfeld and Andrew J. Hoffman
  3. Flourishing Enterprise by Chris Laszlo and Judy Sorum Brown

This list is in chronological order from oldest to newest. These three books lay out the transition of traditional sustainability to “sustainability as flourishing.” I highly recommend them.

The last significance of early December here at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership is that we are in the final recruitment push for our next cohort of students for our Ph.D./D.B.A. program in Values-Driven Leadership for senior executives. This program is specifically designed for leaders who want to take their professional and personal lives to the next level while continuing to work full time. Dare I say that it is a great way to learn how to lead organizations to flourishing possibilities? If you know someone who might be interested, please send them to

Dr. Kevin Lynch is Leadership Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. As a practitioner, academic and consultant, Kevin specializes in assisting organizations that are experiencing rapid change, particularly with regard to strategic growth decisions, and the implementation of appropriate organizational infrastructure. Before joining the Center, Kevin was a senior executive in the real estate industry. He also is co-owner ofWilliams and Hall, a wilderness canoe outfitting business in Ely, Minnesota.

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