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The twists and turns of giving away $100k of consulting work

B. Lorraine Smith

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Image from the “Perspectives from the rest of nature” section of the Danone Matereality assessment.

Let’s start with the end in mind, shall we?

The end I have in mind is one where it’s perfectly reasonable to follow the guidance of wise creatures, leading us to live beautifully in relation to one another. “One” may be my brother, or a lake, a group of people on the other side of the planet, or a dragonfly.

In some ways, this end would be just the beginning of living within an economy that works in service of life.

We are far from this right now, especially in most industrial contexts. When I conducted a Matereality assessment on the global food company Danone (process recapped here), I provided observations and insights about their business model, their approach to measuring success on human health, packaging waste, and more.

The idea was to offer ways to shift the thinking — and doing! — as a means to that end.

This was a free, open source piece of work — I just did it because I felt it needed doing. On seeing the work, a consultant friend noted that the McKinseys of this world price such a deliverable in the six figures. Having been around a few consulting deliverable blocks myself, I’d say he’s not wrong. (Though I can also see a gerbillion things I would improve if I could, and I often think consultants charge way too much for deliverables that don’t do much.) But I had limited time and resources to get it done, so I constantly had to make decisions about what to include, versus what to let sit out this round.

In spite of what I hope was a tight filter, I went ahead and proposed that this Paris-based multinational headed by mostly older white Europeans do a better job of listening to Cows, Waterways, and the Sugarcane plant. I presented this near the end of the document (slides 22 and 23), and yet I believe it is that ending that marks our new…

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B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/