February 2017
Hell No!
By John Fullerton

Sustainability icon and Unilever CEO Paul Polman made his feelings crystal clear on the unsolicited merger offer last week by Kraft Heinz, backed by the Brazilian cost-cutters at 3G Capital and their partner Warren Buffett:  the proposed deal, Unilever said, "had no merit, either financial or strategic."  Ouch.

I recall early in Polman's CEO tenure hearing him say there were many cynics watching him and his sustainability quest, hoping he would fail (so their single-minded focus on shareholder value could continue while the invisible hand takes care of complicated global matters like ecological footprint).Right on cue, we see the 3G boot attempting to pin Polman's head under water for the Greater good of short-termism, furthering the scourge that financialized capitalism has become for society.

Unilever swatted away their unwanted financial-driven suitors like a grizzly bear smacks down an interloper if her cubs are close by.  How could the purportedly well-respected 3G financiers - and Warren Buffett no less - fail to understand that Unilever was not just a commodity portfolio of consumer brands to manipulate for a quick short-term profit boost before moving on to the next "opportunity"?  Unilever is, rather, a purpose-driven company on a quest to "make sustainable living commonplace" and show that sustainability can also be good business.  In other words, Unilever has meaning for its customers, its employees, and the world.  It's a "baby cub" that mama bear - Polman in this case -- will protect to the death.  It is hard not to conclude that the 3G suitors - often referred to as mercenaries for their ruthless cost cutting, eliminating 13,000 jobs from Kraft Heinz for example - must have viewed the "sustainability stuff" as little more than corporate waste and soft public relations B.S., and that Polman would have a price for his dream.  They miscalculated, "friendly" offer not withstanding.

But the fundamental issues at play here are worth more serious reflection than the mere machismo of win-or-lose deal-making in the greed-driven world of finance. We must ask ourselves three questions. 


Sixth Anniversary Dispatches from the Field
By Susan Arterian Chang

As we checked in with our Field Guide partners around the world for our sixth annual update, it became increasingly clear that there's one thing we can count on in these uncertain times: nothing can stop the emergence of the regenerative economy. Setbacks and challenges abound, to be sure, but our Field Guide partners are proving to be profoundly resilient and resourceful. For example:
  • Vince Siciliano of New Resource Bank reminds us that difficult times require us to double down on our values and to be vocal advocates for the world we want to see.   
  • Sandy Bishop and Leslie Christian both express grief about the 2016 elections, yet Sandy is quick to share her excitement about a new LCLT Farm Trust program and Leslie reaffirms her commitment to creating fair and responsible financial solutions for her clients.  
  • Rachel Maxwell reports that, after a ten-month hiatus, Community Sourced Capital has reincarnated as a not-for-profit. 
  • Robert Pedraza Ruiz's photo essay -- an elegy for the endangered and lost species of Mexico's Sierra Gorda -- highlights the importance of Grupo Ecologico's ongoing work to preserve and protect this region's rich biodiversity. 
  • Jim Howell reports on a tough year at Grasslands, during which he was reminded that without a strong human team, ecological and economic goals often prove elusive.
  • And many more Field Guide partners weigh in.
We invite you to take a short break from the stress of what the mainstream media is offering up and immerse yourself in this alternative reality as it unfolds in the emerging regenerative economy of the Field Guide.

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What John's Reading

Kingsley's "A Story Waiting to Pierce You" travels back in time to illustrate the shaping of the western world and capture the divergence of eastern and western thought - an expedient read as science and spirituality reconnect amidst the emergence of a regenerative society.

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