I recently attended a lecture by Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of five highly insightful and acclaimed books, including his latest, “Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America.” Friedman’s overriding message, both at the lecture and in his new book, is that America must seize the opportunity to innovate solutions to the global environmental crisis. If we step up quickly and take the initiative, our country can both restore the planet and recapture our leadership position in the world.

Friedman’s compelling lecture was kicked off by Stern + Associates’ client Dov Seidman. Long before the ethical collapse of Enron, Seidman had a powerful vision that the world would be a better place if more people did the right thing and founded the firm LRN, a company that helps businesses develop ethical corporate cultures. From that basic notion, he has grown a successful company that has helped to shape the ways millions of employees, managers and leaders behave and interact all over the world. Seidman’s perspectives are captured in his 2007 book, “HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything in Business (and in Life),” in which he argues that outbehaving our competitors has become critical to outperforming them. In our hyperconnected and hypertransparent world, it is no longer what we do that sets us apart from others, but how we do what we do that matters.

When taken together, the concepts of Seidman and Friedman offer a roadmap for government and business on how to emerge successfully from our current economic woes and unethical dilemmas by infusing innovation and honorable practices into our work. In fact, Friedman prominently featured excerpts from his interviews with Seidman in the best-selling book, “The World is Flat,” and recently highlighted Seidman in one of his recent columns in The New York Times.

At Stern + Associates, we recognize that an overarching commitment to environmental innovation and sound ethics is critical to the health of our society. As an increasing number of corporations recognize that new solutions to energy and sustainability issues are imperative, we welcome the opportunity to connect our clients and non-clients alike to share information and explore possible initiatives.

The following is a sampling of some groundbreaking, environmentally minded products and concepts from our clients:

  • The Mohawk Group, a leading commercial flooring manufacturer, has been committed to sustainable design and manufacturing for nearly 15 years and is not only leading its own industry but also setting an example for others.
  • Mark Johnson, Chairman of Innosight, will be authoring a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article next year on business model innovation and the environment. His latest article (HBR, December 2008) is co-authored with Clayton Christensen, the foremost authority on disruptive innovation.
  • A concept entitled “The Porter Principle,” developed by Michael Porter, the world-renowned authority on strategy and competition, was referred to by Thomas L. Friedman in “Hot, Flat and Crowded” as “the most oft-cited theory about the relationship between environmental regulation and innovation.”
  • Convia, a Herman Miller company, recently developed programmable infrastructures that enable buildings to be more easily energy efficient. The technology facilitates setting and maintaining energy usage, complying with energy demand response programs, and creating radically flexible spaces.
  • B. Braun Medical Inc., a global leader in infusion therapy and pain management and a pioneer in passive safety devices, provides the industry’s broadest line of
    PVC-/DEHP-free products.
  • LRN, the education, compliance and ethics firm based in Los Angeles and founded by Dov Seidman, recently acquired GreenOrder, a celebrated and authoritative environmental consulting firm. GreenOrder developed GE’s “ecomagination” strategy and communications plan.

With initiatives and concepts like those outlined above, I am optimistic that corporate America can recapture its once globally respected position. How? By paying heed to Seidman’s values related to “how” we conduct business. Keeping our efforts focused on concrete solutions to healing our planet, together we can help realize Friedman’s dream: restoring the world and reviving our country simultaneously.

“Everything inevitably changes. All we really have are our actions.” This principle, loosely based on the Buddhist five remembrances, guides Susan, our founder and fearless leader. Over the last 30 years, she has experienced her fair share of change and believes her ability to adapt without sacrificing integrity – while helping clients and colleagues do the same –has helped her, and the agency, thrive. As president, Susan regularly consults on the strategic direction of client programming and ensures the firm’s core values are embedded in all aspects of the business. A strong and empathic leader, she most enjoys spotting the potential in people, and then giving them the “space to stretch” and experiment to fulfill their promise. It’s a passion that carries to her personal life, as well, and her love for children. “You just never know where they will go.”