By Bill Baue & Ralph Thurm
Thresholds of Transformation represents an apt theme to summarize 2020, as we transition into 2021. The year ended with the sad news that our Steering Board Member Brendan LeBlanc unexpectedly passed across the threshold of mortality, transforming from a vibrant living being into a cherished memory.
We are nurturing Brendan’s legacy by dedicating our first White Paper, From Monocapitalism to Multicapitalism: 21st Century Value Creation (which we are just now releasing) to him, given the key role he played in helping birth it into existence. Here’s what we have to say:
Dedicated to Brendan LeBlanc, who passed away unexpectedly just before this White Paper was released. Brendan was a close friend and colleague who we remember for his keen intelligence and wicked good sense of humor. As a r3.0 Steering Board Member, he championed this White Paper in particular (you wouldn’t have it in your hands now without Brendan’s tireless advocacy) and the work of r3.0 more broadly — particularly our work on Sustainability Context and the Carrying Capacities of the Capitals. Brendan’s fingerprints are all over the famous Paragraph 58 in the International Integrated Reporting Council’s Background Paper on Value Creation, which integrates carrying capacity and thresholds & allocations prominently, and we remember him for his most memorable quote: “The only thing more dangerous than no progress is the illusion of progress.” But ultimately, we remember Brendan for the deep belly laughter he inspired every time we were together. The world is a much better place for his having been here.
In memory of his humor, we share these pictures of Brendan joking around with r3.0 Managing Director Ralph Thurm and Senior Director Bill Baue at the 2016 Sustainable Brands Conference:
The release of the Multicapitalism White Paper has been a long time coming, as Baue explains (quoting David Crosby) in the Author’s Foreword. Indeed, acting in his joint roles as r3.0 Steering Board Member and International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) Ambassador, Brendan started lobbying for this White Paper as a joint project as early as 2017. By Spring of 2018, when Bill met with then-IIRC CEO Richard Howitt (now an r3.0 Steering Board Member) in Boston, Brendan’s advocacy had been sufficiently successful that Richard Howitt commenced the meeting with “you don’t have to pitch me, Bill — I’m already sold!”
Fast forward more than two-and-a-half years, after Richard keynoted on the Paper at 2 r3.0 Conferences and fundraising efforts hit endless roadblocks, when Bill sent the final draft to IIRC, they responded that the paper was “important and provocative.” Too provocative to put their name on it, as it turns out — so rather than ask us to edit out the provocations, IIRC showed respect to the ideas by stepping back for r3.0 to publish the paper on our own. We believe Brendan would be proud of the paper, as it advocates for transcending the illusory progress of Monocapitalism and Impact Valuation and other incrementalist doctrines, and instead advocates for progress with respect to the carrying capacities of the multiple capitals. We hope you enjoy the Paper!
Speaking of carrying capacities, 2020 was, of course, the year of “flattening the curve” within the capacity of the healthcare system. While Covid is predominantly bad news, with almost 77 million cases and almost 1.7 million deaths globally (as of this writing, according to Johns Hopkins), the good news is that it raises awareness of carrying capacities thresholds, as we at r3.0 pointed out in our March 2020 article. Essentially, the healthcare system capacity limits (the dotted line in the left graphic above) exposed by steep Covid curves correspond to such carrying capacity thresholds across the board (as generalized in the 1972 Limits to Growth study in the right graphic above), from climate change to biodiversity loss to living wages to economic and social inequities.
Almost a half-century has passed since Limits to Growth introduced the concept of “overshoot and collapse” when systems transgress carrying capacity limits — which humanity has been doing since then, according to Ecological Footprint data. We at r3.0 have been trying to confront this problem for two decades, and 2020 represents a breakthrough year.
Last week, we launched the “Thresholds of Transformation” project for pilot testing the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development’s Sustainable Development Performance Indicators (see here for our article on the project). More the 40 partners joined us from over 20 organizations in our Kickoff Meeting for piloting the Three Tiered set of Indicators (Tier One = Incrementalist; Tier Two = Contextualized / Thresholds-Based; Tier Three = Transformational). r3.0 will train the companies (and several of our Advocation Partners) to implement the indicators, after which we will analyze the results for UNRISD, who will publish a report and host a Conference to present the results. We at r3.0 consider this a historic event, as the world has been waiting for applying these carrying capacity thresholds across the spectrum for many decades.
Speaking of Conferences, we at r3.0 of course pivoted from hosting our Conference in Rotterdam at the Erasmus Pavilion again, to hosting it online (quite successfully, we should add.) You can find link to the videos here and to the presentation decks here. At the Conference, we also released two Blueprints: the Sustainable Finance Blueprint and the Value Cycles Blueprint, with two tracks of the Conference devoted to the themes of Finance & Growth and Value & Circularity.
In addition, the Conference devoted two other tracks to themes around which we are launching Blueprints and other activities in 2021: on the themes of Education & Governance, we soft launched the Educational Transformation Blueprint at the Conference, with Co-Authors Anneloes Smitsman and Joe Brewer speaking; and we will launch the Systemic Governance & Funding Blueprint in 2021.
On the theme of Science & Behavior, r3.0 continues to advance the Global Thresholds & Allocations Council, both at the global level and increasingly at the bioregional level, where Bill is serving as Convener of the Connecticut River Valley Bioregional Collaborative (a member of the global Regenerative Communities Network), which is pursuing a National Science Foundation grant to create a toolkit for bioregional networks to measure and manage carrying capacity thresholds in the energy and food & agriculture systems.
Finally, r3.0 is already gearing up for 2022, when Bill and Ralph will be teaching the Transformation Journey Program in the new Chief Value Officer MBA program that r3.0 Academic Alliance Member Delphine Gibassier is launching at Audencia University. See Bill discuss this in a video here. Delphine has also joined us as a Steering Board Member, as has Will Szal, Board Chair of Regen Network (which is also an Advocation Partner).
The whole team of r3.0 wishes you and your beloved ones a relaxing festive season and a great start into 2021. May it be a year of continued breakthrough towards a regenerative and distributive economy!