Think in Centuries. Act Now.

Sustainability is about the triple bottom line: it’s better for people, the planet, and prosperity not just for this moment, but also over time. What amount of time though? Is next month long enough, next year, 10 years? None of these seem to capture what sustainability experts fundamentally understand as thinking in centuries.

Thinking in centuries is a basic filter used to measure the impact of your decisions—whether at work or at home. It shifts how we act in the present. A centuries old example is from the Iroquois Nation. One of the rules for their Council of Elders is that with any decision they make, they must consider the impact of their decision on the next seven generations.

Think about that for a minute. What that would mean for us today? What would our world look like if politicians thought in centuries instead of to the next election cycle? How would our world look if CEO’s thought in centuries and not based on quarterly profits? The funny thing is, when we think in centuries, things like elections and prosperity often take care of themselves.

Centuries thinking is good for us now and into the future. It helps us build resilience in the face of uncertainty. The fact is we don’t know what the future will look like, but we can be flexible and resilient by thinking ahead and acting accordingly.

Take energy for example. We all use it; our organizations have lights, machines, computers, motors, air conditioners, and myriad other electricity users. We have vehicles that use petroleum fuel. We also know that oil prices are fluctuating a great deal and electricity prices are increasing. An organization that thinks in centuries takes all of this into account and is resilient because it minimizes how much energy is used so critical operations won’t be cut or large debt won’t accumulate just to keep vehicles fueled and computers running.

By using energy more efficiently, you can reduce overhead utility costs. In the short run, freed up capital can be used to invest in your organization. In the long-term the liability of higher energy prices will already be mitigated. By using less energy, your organization has a lighter footprint on the planet, and there will be resources for your kids and grandkids to enjoy a good quality of life.

Centuries thinking is good for people, the planet and prosperity.

Act now. Think in centuries.

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