In the news this week, I was surprised to read about a worldwide epidemic of nearsightedness. Scientist think that the cause is related to children spending less time outdoors and in natural sunlight.
Coincidentally, also trending in the news as fourth quarter results roll in, is a psychological form of nearsightedness called, “short-termism”. This is the tendency to focus attention on short-term gains, often at the expense of long-term success and sustainability. The culprit of short-termism thinking is unclear, but it’s been tied to how executives are compensated and capital gains tax. And while it may start in the executive suite, the mentality trickles down through organizations and even to customers. Think of the last time you bought something that would last for life, let alone a few years. The demand for higher earnings each quarter has resulted in a “throw-away” culture — the antithesis of sustainability.
Related to short term consumerism, is the demand to work longer and harder hours to keep up. This leaves little energy for long term thinking. For many people, long term thinking doesn’t make it past what the family will be eating for dinner that night.
Researchers think that a sufficient amount of time in nature can prevent nearsightedness. Studies have also shown how being in nature can bring clarity and perspective, and relieve stress. So, perhaps spending time outdoors can solve both myopic problems in our world.
If your goal is to become a lean and green business, convincing employees to support long term sustainable initiatives can be very challenging. Maybe the most challenging. It’s so counter to our current culture and can sound like one more thing they have to manage.
Toyota, a sustainability leader, understands the importance of connecting employees with nature to see the big picture. They state on their website, “building cleaner vehicles isn’t the only way we work to make the world a cleaner place. We take the same environmental passion used to build our vehicles and apply it toward building better communities where we live, work and serve.”
To encourage employees to connect with nature and take an active role in conservation of the planet, Toyota offers several programs for their employees and the community at large. One example is The Afforestation Project, a legacy left by Toyota’s first president, Seizo Okamoto. One of the main objectives of this project was to engage team members, so team members and their families were invited to hand plant on two acres. They planted 1,000 trees in just a few hours.
“The goal of sustainable growth that is in harmony with the environment is part of our Global Vision. TMMI is proud to support and enhance the communities where we live and work through environmental stewardship of our land, community service, and the environmental education programs we offer to our local school children each year,” said TMMI President Norm Bafunno. Toyota has also created programs like Toyota TogetherGreen, a partnership with the National Audubon Society that trains the environmental leaders of tomorrow.
On the Toyota website, it states their position clearly, “We expect toyota people to care about the environment.” Seeing and experiencing what’s at stake – nature – first hand is much more powerful than any movie, photo, or speech to convince others about the need for sustainability and will help adopt the right perspective. Appreciating nature might also turn into a passion that transfers to their families and lasts for generations.
It might take a few tries before a critical mass joins in, but when they do, they’ll be much more open to new ideas about sustainability. Afterall, you can’t do it without them.