This article is a profile on Paul Hawken and his philanthropic journey and earnest commitment to sustainability.
Among successful business leaders who also identify as advocates, many are entrepreneurs first and foremost. Advocacy, and for that matter sustainability, comes as an afterthought. This can be said of many exceptional entrepreneurs who act as prominent philanthropists in the green movement. However, Paul Hawken takes this notion and turns it on its head.
A mature businessman, Hawken has been active since his early twenties and has remained a pillar of his community for over fifty years. He has worked on everything from human rights campaigns to sustainable agricultural practices, always pushing for a humane and sustainable future.
One of the most telling aspects about Hawken’s journey has been his consistency and dedication to the causes he believes in. In the 1960s, long before his entrepreneurial success and the modern social justice movement, Hawken worked with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. himself. He contributed to their campaigns and demonstrations by offering his own volunteer work and knack for communication with the public as a press coordinator.
These early beginnings show Hawken’s earnest commitment to his beliefs. While many see advocacy for sustainable practices as a way to appease the public, as well as a marketing tactic to garner credibility, Hawken’s unique perspective allows him to have a different approach. Having spent the majority of his life supporting these movements, he has a deeper understanding and connection to them.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with new allies, Hawken is among the rare breed who have always and unequivocally supported the causes they believe in.
Paul Hawken has worked on everything from human rights campaigns to sustainable agricultural practices, always pushing for a humane and sustainable future.
Aside from his personal volunteer work, Hawken has also mastered blending his entrepreneurship and his advocacy. All of his business ventures have either wholly dealt with sustainability or contributed heavily to the cause. Hawken was among the first business leaders in the US to wholesale food produced exclusively through sustainable agricultural methods.
He later went on to become the co-founder of Smith and Hawken, which sold gardening supplies, another business related to agriculture. In his latest venture, Hawken founded OneSun, a solar powered energy company. All of these endeavors contributed in some way to his vision for a greener future. Throughout his growth as a businessman and advocate, he never broke his stride.
There is a distinct flow to his growth as an entrepreneur. Hawken found a niche he was driven in and stuck with it, advancing and innovating in various stages. He went from a businessman working with agricultural products to working with agricultural supplies, then advanced further into green energy. It is important to note that Hawken saw the rising trend of sustainable foods far earlier than other entrepreneurs, getting on-board as early as the 1960s. Building upon this knowledge, he was able to stick with this industry for over ten years.
Instead of looking for a rising trend among various unrelated fields, in an attempt to discover a lucrative business concept, Hawken stayed within his industry and learned about its workings and subtle trends. He went in with an idea of the future he wanted, as both a professional and a citizen of the world, and committed himself to sustainable practices. Growing and innovating with the market helped keep him successful and relevant throughout his career.
As an entrepreneur, it is often easy to only look at the financial aspects of a businessman’s career. However, Hawken has proved himself quite the philanthropist as well. Since the early 1990s, Hawken has participated in various charitable works related to his vision for sustainability. Hawken launched the US division of The Natural Step, and was even co-chairman of its international division. This organization sought to spread awareness and knowledge of environmental systems in order to promote sustainable development.
Hawken also launched the Natural Capital Institute, which kept an open-source database of activist organizations dedicated to environmental and social justice. He has also participated in a number of other activist organizations and volunteer work, consistently contributing to the sustainability movement.
-An earnest commitment to sustainability will go much further than occasional philanthropy. This indicates a genuine desire for change to your community and your business partners.
-Growing and developing with your industry is more beneficial in the long-term, as you gain insight and a better feel for future trends.
-Philanthropy can substantially contribute to your advocacy, but only when it is supported by other initiatives and your dedicated work.
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