Healthy productive soil is a cornerstone of life, and a strong example of interconnectedness. If it weren’t for life, there would be no business. Therefore, taking care of soil is arguably a savvy business choice. This however, is not a widely held view. Dirt is…well…dirt. How can we, as sustainable business managers, create awareness and communicate excitement about soil issues to the current business world? Just as soil is only productive as a combination water (hydrosphere), minerals (lithosphere), microbes (biosphere) and air (atmosphere), in the current global environment, businesses increasingly can only be truly productive by basing actions and philosophy on the triple bottom line: the intersection of planet, people, and profit. With no planet, there are no people; with no people, there is no profit. Similarly, without people, there are no businesses or organizations. Therefore, to steer the awareness of an organization towards soil we must first relate soil health to the lives of business employees and stakeholders. When members of an organization have a personal understanding of soil, then we can relate soil to the health of the organization.
Intervale inBurlingtonVT, is a wonderful example of this. Intervale, by reclaiming a forgotten and abused tract of soil, has been able to demonstrate to the people of its community the possibilities inherent in healthy soil. Individuals of theBurlingtoncommunity, then take what they learn about soil back to their homes and businesses. Also, Intervale is a business in its self that has made soil its main point. By restoring the soil and productivity of the Intervale, the organization has also given financial opportunities to the farms and businesses that use the land. This is just one example. There is no “one size fits all” way to communicate to organizations about soil health. The culture and physical situation of the community and organization must be taken into consideration. But there are so many kinds of people and organizations in our communities, some with an expansive awareness of the importance of soil health, some with out. Some who work directly with soil, others who are so far removed from soil that it never enters their mind. The key to successfully speaking to organizations about soil is to meet them on their own ground. For example, how might you speak to a Bank about its relationship to soil? I live on the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay defines this community, and citizens from all backgrounds feel an affinity towards it and value its health. For a bank in this area it would be important to first speak to bank employees as people, relating soil issues to the Bay’s health. We could speak about dead zones caused by over fertilized runoff, or erosion coming from local farms, but also areas further up stream. This can affect the local oyster and crab businesses that may be owned by bank employee friends and family. Or perhaps speaking to waterfront property owners about erosion and how it relates to their own piece of property would be effective. After establishing a personal connection to soil health, only then can we begin to relate the organizations practices to soil health. We could then talk to the bank about reducing paper use, and picking a paper company that uses recycled paper, or trees harvested from areas not in danger of eroding into important water ways. Relating waste reduction and the health of the environment to both community wellbeing, and financial wellbeing of the organization is a double incentive to comply.