Beautiful and Abundant

Publisher Bryan Welch on philosophy, farming and building the world we want.

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Ogden Publications Case Study: The Initiatives

5/22/2012 3:46:51 PM

Tags: Beautiful and Abundant, Queries, Case Studies, Ogden Publications, Initiatives, Bryan Welch


At work, as at home, the queries have helped us add a number of constructive items to our agenda. 

Expand digital and web-based products. Most of the resources we consume in pursuit of our business are tied up in paper, printing and distribution of the printed products. Theoretically, we might someday completely replace our paper media with digital products for the Internet, e-readers, cell phones and other devices. When electricity is generated from clean, renewable sources of energy, the electronic media distribute information much more efficiently and sustainably than paper media, conserving both fuels and forests. For now, a lot of readers prefer paper but the digital possibilities are more compelling every day and we’ll try to stay up to date with the technology. 

Goals: Beauty, abundance and contagiousness. 

Push the Suppliers. Every consumer has the opportunity to influence innovation. Businesses have even more opportunities. By demanding new products that lessen the negative environmental affects of our enterprises, we inspire the invention of more conscientious new products. By asking our suppliers for recycled or environmentally responsible papers, energy from renewable sources and durable equipment we help those suppliers justify their investments in new techniques and technologies to deliver the goods. 

The specifics are less important than the intent. The networks of manufacturers, suppliers and modes of transportation on which we depend are extremely complex and sometimes it’s difficult to sort out the effects of our buying decisions. Recycled paper isn’t always the best choice. Virgin pulp grown in a responsible manner can have, in some cases, more benign effects than the collection and processing of repurposed paper, depending on the sources and systems we use. Sometimes products can be delivered from Europe or South America more efficiently than they can be trucked cross-country from Wisconsin or Maine. It’s dangerous for us to commit, mindlessly, to any given scenario. 

To run a business responsibly, we need to do our homework. We need to study the options and choose responsibly. And once we’ve chosen, we need to push our suppliers to provide the best option, even if it requires an investment to do so. When we push for innovation, suppliers have an opportunity to take market share by delivering innovative products and services. Our suppliers have done a good job of finding affordable recycled paper, tree plantations run in responsible and innovative ways, relatively nontoxic inks and more efficient methods of distribution. 

Would they have found these resources if we hadn’t asked for them first? Possibly not. In fact, probably not. We create change by bringing our conscience to the market. So rather than get too detailed in the discussion of the most environmentally responsible ways of running a media company – a worthy topic of a book unto itself – let’s just say that all of us, in any business, should be studying the alternatives and demanding the best of our suppliers. 

Goals: Beauty, abundance, fairness and contagiousness. 

Photo of a Chinese plane by Bryan WelchImplement Video-Conferencing. After manufacturing and distribution, business travel probably consumes more energy than any of our other activities. Technology is making it much easier and much less expensive to connect with clients and colleagues in videoconferences. The laptop computer on which I am typing (coincidentally, in the departure lounge of an airport terminal) has a built-in camera that can show my face, chatting away in real time, to my son in Hawaii, my friends in England or our suppliers in India, China or Spain. That way, we consume a few electrons rather than hundreds of gallons of jet fuel. 

Goals: Abundance and contagiousness. 

Push for Expansion. Since part of our mission as a company is to promote sustainability, our success can have positive implications. Any conscientious company has a bigger positive impact when it grows. We want to build bigger audiences for our message. That’s part of the inspiration for this book. 

Goals: Beauty, abundance, fairness and contagiousness. 

Explore new facilities. Our building is full, so we’re looking for appropriate locations where we could expand our footprint. We hope to find a neglected existing structure that we can retrofit for better energy efficiency and to integrate on-site power generation. We’ve taken most of the practical steps toward energy-efficiency at our current site, which we acquired with the business. If we chose a new building with energy-efficiency in mind from the beginning, we could accomplish more. We want our offices – as well as our homes – to be efficient and self-sufficient. 

Goals: Beauty, abundance, fairness and contagiousness. 

Stay skeptical. Businesses tend to drift into a state of inertia, especially when they are profitable. We try to keep questioning every aspect of our organization – the businesses we’re in, our sources of goods and services, our equity structures, our personnel policies, our payroll structures and our strategic goals. It’s through this process of questioning that enterprises improve. If we are aggressive enough, maybe we can accelerate our innovation to the pace of change in the marketplace. That’s critical, but it isn’t easy. 

Goals: Beauty, abundance, fairness and contagiousness. 

Bryan Welch is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Connect with him on .

For further optimistic discussion about our future, read Beautiful and Abundantby Bryan Welch and connect with Beautiful and Abundant on Facebook. 

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6/2/2012 5:27:45 PM
As you move to digitize your content, and your lives. I have several words of caution. Already the web site appears to be overloaded with material that is not content. On some pages there is more space dedicated to push buttons than to information. Humans are very social creatures, but do not try to force it. Water flows and we can guide it! Watch out for false trails on the path to digital content. Look for simplicity in delivery as well as beauty. You can embrace web based, vs app based to keep a broad subscriber base. Take a look at how much data it takes to deliver the content you are providing. Are the images too big? Is there too much overhead in the traffic flow? Can you deliver that does not cost the user too much in bandwidth and time? I laud your ideas about collaboration but try to keep it simple for you and your staff, Try tools like Skype to start with. Google Docs, voice, talk can solve a lot of collaboration problems for small businesses. Do not force it, enable it! Mobility is getting more and more interesting, delivering content, or aggregating knowledge for use at a time of need could be very valuable to your customers. There is much more to talk about here!


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