The Sustainable Agriculture Institutes
Approach to Profit Centers
Table of Contents
Introduction to Sustainable Natural Wealth Development
Money can be a force for good and play a huge role in our overall wellbeing and happiness. It lies at the foundation of our economic system and facilitates social movement, the distribution of resources, and the exchange of knowledge, services, and skills.
Money is one of our greatest inventions and is a cornerstone of modern society, yet commercial interests, unethical, practices, and hierarchical power structures have come to paint a very different picture.
Our society is built upon an ideology of growth at all costs. Growth and money both mean power, yet in order to maintain their value, our monetary system is built on scarcity, which empowers some at the expense of the majority.
Ironically, there is no fixed amount of money in the economy, and it is being created from nothing all the time.
As it stands, 95-97% of the money is created by commercial banks when they issue loans in the form of bank deposits the remaining 3% is government-owned or held in paper money.
We all know that this system isn’t working
Our economy is based on ravaging the Earth’s finite resources and on immense social injustice.
When we open a current account, invest in mutual funds, or take out a loan, pension scheme, insurance, or mortgage (to name a few), our money doesn’t just sit there.
In many cases, these providers re-invest our funds in unethical, speculative, and volatile industries, from fossil fuels to human rights abuses, or questionable lobbying practices. Most people would never sanction their money being invested in projects that fuel climate change, destroy the rainforest, or fund weapons creation, but due to a lack of transparency, awareness, and choice, as well as consumer convenience, this is happening all the time.
A successful economy needs a transparent banking system that can support a fair and sustainable economy. We need to find an economic system where ecological sustainability, social justice, and financial stability go hand in hand: an economy that meets the needs of all, not just the privileged few, and allows us to thrive.
The bottom line is we need to slow our rate of consumption and production and bring our economy back in sync with our planet’s ecology.
The good news is that times are changing
People everywhere are starting to realize that we have a right to demand a fair system in alignment with our personal values and ethics.
People are coming together as communities and networks and taking back control of their local economies.
Alternatives are becoming available, and the time is ripe to be part of the movement.
Investing in Sustainable Agriculture
How do you profitably invest in sustainable agriculture – farms producing diverse, fairly-priced healthy food without harming the environment, but which also restore soil fertility and provide farmers with a fair living? Small farms and community-supported agriculture partnerships are nice, but they are predicted in the best-case scenario to reach only 1% to 2% of the population.
Beyond Organic to Sustainable Best Practice
To replenish the soil, conventional agriculture uses fertilizer that is synthesized from mined materials. Although organic fertilizer must be natural, it can still be mined. And organic farmers often use manure from feedlots or compost imported from off-site. Between crops, they use cover crops for protection against erosion between seasons, drought resistance, pest control, and to restore nitrogen and soil carbon.
There are two ways to move to sustainable best practice:
- The first is to plant annual cover crops such as clover or legumes – something that New York chef Dan Barber features in his new book, The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food . Barber points out that we cherry-pick organic farms when we eat ecologically demanding and expensive foods like heirloom tomatoes, and he argues that we should support the whole farm by including cover crops in our cuisine. Right now, organic farmers typically do not sell their cover crops for cash.
- Pasture is another form of cover cropping, and one that could result in a very different diet of the future than the one Barber is promoting.
In Permaculture Design we learn how we can imitate the diversity of nature by planting the pasture in multiple perennial types of grass in the same space. Unlike annuals, these plants have deep roots that can access nutrients and water not available to annuals, meaning they need less from the farmer. But it also makes them more resilient in extreme conditions. And they are also less energy-intensive than annuals because they don’t need to be replanted each year. This forms the basis to build upon to create truly sustainable farm and food systems.
Ultimately, though, the idea is that livestock and crops work together to regenerate the soil. Perennial plant roots link up with fungi that can delve 25 feet deep and pull minerals out of the earth’s rock, which is expressed in leaves. These, in turn, are eaten by animals and become part of the topsoil as the live stock’s manure decomposes.
Cover crops are halfway there in a sustainable agriculture system, but that’s not enough, adding livestock also improves the economics of sustainable farming. Instead of just having a cost for the cover crop, you can convert that cover crop to a cash crop.
Teaching Sustainable Agriculture
Operating as a Not-for-profit Organization
One of the distinctive characteristics of a nonprofit organization is the absence of a profit motive in its operations. A business enterprise is established to earn profits from the products or services it sells and to distribute those profits to its owners (shareholders, partners, or members).
Ensuring your organization meets its yearly revenue goals is a must. It can be easy to get caught up in the minutia of the day-to-day operations without giving a second thought to what your profits are year to year.
As a nonprofit, you have a responsibility to your community, as well as your donors, to be successful and operate in a way that is, ideally, fiscally independent of donations. Choosing to run your nonprofit like a for-profit business can ensure you meet your revenue goals each year, as well as operate on the lean side without making unnecessary expenditures that could cost the livelihood of your organization.
A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view. In economic terms, it is an organization that uses its surplus of revenues to further achieve its ultimate objective, rather than distributing its income to the organization’s shareholders, leaders, or members.
The key aspects of nonprofits are accountability, trustworthiness, honesty, and openness to every person who has invested time, money, and faith into the organization. Nonprofit organizations are accountable to the donors, funders, volunteers, program recipients, and the public community. The more nonprofits focus on their mission, the more public confidence they will have. The activities a nonprofit is partaking in can help build the public’s confidence in nonprofits, as well as how ethical the standards and practices are. Nonprofits are not driven by generating profit, but they must produce enough income to pursue their social duties.
A common misconception about nonprofits is that they are run completely by volunteers. Most nonprofits have staff that works for the company, possibly using volunteers to perform the nonprofit’s services under the direction of the paid staff. Nonprofits must be careful to balance the salaries paid to staff against the money paid to provide services to the nonprofit’s beneficiaries. Organizations whose salary expenses are too high relative to their program expenses may face regulatory scrutiny.
A second misconception is that nonprofit organizations may not make a profit. Although the goal of nonprofits isn’t specifically to maximize profits, they still have to operate as a fiscally responsible business. They must manage their income (both grants and donations and income from services) and expenses so as to remain a fiscally viable entity. Nonprofits have the responsibility of focusing on being professional, financially responsible, replacing self-interest and profit motive with mission motive.
Setting effective missions is key for the successful management of nonprofit organizations. There are three important conditions for an effective mission: opportunity, competence, and commitment. One way of managing the sustainability of nonprofit organizations is to establish strong relations with donor groups. This requires a donor marketing strategy, something many nonprofits lack.
Sustainability Institutes are organized groups of people that aim to advance sustainability and/or those actions of organizing something sustainably. Unlike many business organizations, Sustainability Institutes are not limited to implementing Sustainability strategies that provide them with economic and cultural benefits attained through environmental responsibility. For Sustainability Institutions, Sustainability can also be an end in itself without further justifications.
The natural environment has become a key strategic issue in both the business and academic communities.
Through “implementing sustainability strategies, Institutes can integrate long-run profitability with their efforts to protect the ecosystem, providing them with opportunities to achieve the traditional competitive advantages of & cost leadership and market differentiation via environmental responsibility“.
Sustainability strategies have been persistently employed in a number of Sustainability Institutions worldwide.