In my explorations of “sustainable business”, I'm often wondering what these two words really mean. I've previously shared some ponderings about the meaning of the word “sustainability”, but what about the word business?
It turns out that it is exactly what it sounds like. The word business originates from Northumbria where the old English word “bisignes” meant care, anxiety or occupation. This evolved into “busyness”, meaning a state of being occupied or engaged. In other words, a state of being busy.
This puts a whole new perspective on the term sustainable business and makes it feel like even more of an oxymoron. If sustainability is the ability to sustain something over the long term, then sustainable business would be to stay busy indefinitely.
Is that viable?
And more importantly, is that what we really want?
As always, Tom’s on point with this essay.
I’m working hard to reduce my wants. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron (no pun intended here), but we’ve all been so conditioned to chase after the shiny thing that we hardly ever stop to ask if the shiny thing is worth coveting.
And it’s really hard to not want to go after the shiny new thing. Getting laid off made it easy to not insta-buy a Vision Pro, but the hype leading up to its release sure got me intrigued.
I’m glad I didn’t, in retrospect, because the reviews aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
But this is just one of many examples I can give about being bit by the conspicuous consumption bug.
Another thought: nothing drives me more batty about a job than when you need to track your hours.
The hardest part for me is the obligatory feeling to maximize the time you are claiming you worked.
Let’s say I write down that I spent 8 hours building your website. One of those hours included a meeting where we spent half of it talking about how our weekends went. Ethically speaking, is it wrong for me to charge for an hour of that time, or should I actually say I worked 7.5 hours on your website that day?
Of course, writing this down, it feels silly. Everybody writes down 8 hours.
But if everybody does it, then why do we do it? What gain do we get by tracking our hours? Shouldn’t the final output matter more than how much effort went into building the thing? Is time a useful representation of effort?
I dunno… every time I read Tom’s posts, it feels like there should be a better way to orchestrate our economies. It’s probably time we figure out what symphonies we should be playing before we burn our planet to the ground in the name of growth.