|Lynelle Cameron is one of our Senior Directors who focuses on sustainability. So it's fitting that she shared her thoughts in our recent internal monthly newsletter POV Dispatch. With her permission, I am sharing it with It's Alive in the Lab readers.|
Every winter or spring break from college, my Dad would ask me a fairly basic, but at the time very daunting, question: "What will your contribution be to the world?"
I didn't have a good answer until the end of college. The Brundtland commission had recently coined the term sustainable development, and the first Earth Summit in Rio was about to take place. I remember devouring the very concept of sustainable development, thrilled to have a word that described exactly what I wanted to do with my life - working with people to figure out how to live more sustainably on the planet.
I spent the next two decades working at the intersection of "people" and "planet" — first in remote mountain villages and later in corporate cubicles. I believed then, as I do now, that people and planet can not only co-exist, but also thrive.
And that's what brought me to Autodesk. I believe that as a company we have an incredibly powerful vantage point from which to effect massive transformational change. Yes, I realize we are only a tool provider, rather than the ones actually designing and making stuff - I hear this caveat often. However, we are in a position to influence both what our customers make and how they make it. Not all the time and not in every instance, but much of the time.
Before I expand on this opportunity, let me first define what "creating a better world" means to me. My personal vision of a better world is three-fold:
Healthy, vibrant planet: This planet is our home. We depend on clean air, fresh water, and natural resources for our daily survival. And yet, somehow we seem to have forgotten what we learned in 5th grade science class: that our planet has finite boundaries, fixed operating conditions and thresholds that, when surpassed, will lead to a breakdown of the very systems on which we depend.
Healthy, thriving economies: As Paul Hawken wrote nearly two decades ago, "we have the capacity and ability to create a remarkably different economy, one that can restore ecosystems and protect the environment, while bringing forth innovation, prosperity, meaningful work and true security.... a restorative economy that unites ecology and commerce into one sustainable act of production and distribution." I couldn't say it better. It is our human economy that has transformed both the planet and human life. I envision an economy that restores natural systems rather than degrades them.
Healthy, inspired people: When people are healthy and inspired, they are most able to contribute. Chip Conley, CEO of Joie de Vivre Hotels, translated Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs into a business context - with money at the bottom of the pyramid (a basic need) and meaning or purpose at the top (a psychological need). People want to be a part of something larger than themselves - and when they feel that they are, they contribute in transformative ways.
This vision of a better world is no doubt ambitious. I don't believe we all need to share the same definition of a "better world." But I do believe that if we had 7,500+ employees with a shared understanding of the "better world" that we want to create, and if we used this to guide our daily decisions, Autodesk would no doubt have a transformative impact on making the world better a better place for people and the planet.
So how do we get to this goal of a better world?
Technology: We are fundamentally a tool provider - providing the best 3D design software. We don't make stuff ourselves, but we do make the tools that enable our customers to make stuff, and to make better stuff. We can continue to prioritize tools that optimize for energy, materials, and water usage alongside traditional design criteria. We can continue to make green building easy, insightful, and cost-effective. We can lead the manufacturing industry to think about the full lifecycle impact of materials. We can use recyclable and biodegradable plastics in 3D printers or influence whether something even needs to be printed. But our opportunity is bigger than being a tool provider.
Education: We have an opportunity to increasingly tap into the collective intelligence of subject matter experts around the world to teach people how to design better, how to design more sustainably. And we need to teach not just students, but customers, resellers, government officials, makers, and consumers how to design the "better world" that we talk about in our vision statement.
Access: We must go beyond education to provide easy access for game-changing innovators, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits who share our vision of a better world so they can easily tap into Autodesk technology and expertise. This in turn can accelerate entire industries, such as clean technology.
Connection: Given that we sit at the intersection of industries, we have an opportunity to be a bridge builder - connecting students, professionals, academics, government agencies, business and nonprofit leaders - to each other to forge new partnerships. The challenges we face cannot be solved in isolation; they require new ways of working across traditional silos.
Inspiration: Perhaps most importantly, we need to inspire more people (starting with our own co-workers) to contribute to creating a "better world." The world needs more examples of good design, sustainable business, restorative economies, inspired employees and innovative solutions. We need to carefully choose and curate the stories we tell - shining a spotlight on stories that inspire others to also create a better world.
This is what I'll tell my Dad when he next asks. Now it's your turn: what is the contribution you want to make to the world? What does "better world" mean to you? And what is your vision for how Autodesk can contribute to a better world? Please share your ideas with us by commenting on this posting or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growing up right (or upright) is alive in the lab.