Putting Ideals into Practice
by John Theaker
In the past few years, I have fulfilled a lifelong dream to form a business. The inspiration for this business came from a lifelong learning of new ideas about business and economics combined with my Buddhist practice.
I have always been encouraged to think about how we could change society for the better. From an early age, my parents encouraged me to question injustice. My schoolteachers encouraged me to question. At school my economics teacher was current SGI-UK General Director Robert Samuels!
I started to practice Buddhism at 19 at the same time as I started studying economics at university. I found myself passionately absorbed by the creative power of Buddhism and the new radical social thinking of writers such as E. F. Schumacher and Dr. Hazel Henderson. Both sets of ideas sought to centrally respect the human being and the natural environment, and both sets of ideas were about bringing about positive change in ourselves and society.
Some years later, Indra Adnan, then director of Conflict and Peace Forums at SGI-UK's Taplow Court center, invited me to help organize an event there on the subject of "What Can Business Do for Peace and Sustainable Development?" It was here I was fortunate to be able to meet and befriend Anita Roddick, who together with her husband Gordon founded the Body Shop, and Dr. Henderson, who were two of our guest speakers. Hazel, who calls herself a "futurist," observes the many social and economic rules and processes that govern our lives. She offers future scenarios and urges us forward with hope in the real possibilities of living in better ways.
I was determined, following the experience of that conference, to work with people like Hazel and Anita. With their support I and my current business partners began to build a network of companies and NGOs concerned with building humane, sustainable and creative economies.
Out of this grew Green Your Office, which emerged as a concrete business way of supporting ourselves and putting our ideals into practice. Our business is one of a new range of "ethical businesses" in the U.K. We offer a 100 percent eco-friendly office cleaning service and services such as recycling designed to save companies time and money while making their offices as green as possible.
Everything we sell, in fact our whole organization, is based on the aims of lessening damage to the natural environment and fighting social injustice. We are a business with the "triple bottom line" of protecting the planet and its people as well as making a profit. We have many customers doing fantastic things all over the U.K., and interest is growing all the time.
I have always felt business can be a tremendous vehicle for change as well as delivering jobs and economic security. As SGI President Ikeda and Hazel Henderson agreed in their dialogue, Planetary Citizenship--Your Values, Beliefs and Actions Can Shape a Sustainable World, "poverty, ignorance, disease and violence" are the real "axis of evil."
We need to think and act quickly to overcome these issues, and business can play its part.
Today we are struggling to find ever better, more positive and creative ways of running our economic and business affairs, breaking free of old unnecessarily restrictive patterns of behavior which often cause ourselves, society and the natural environment harm. There is still a long way to go, but business and enterprise remains a vital and significant force in the world and is a great platform for achieving these aims in society.
[Courtesy, October 2006 SGI Quarterly]