Permaculture has achieved what the movement wished. In just a couple of decades it has been embraced by mainstream. It has become a common word and is now having to shine its boots and pull up its socks.
In the early years, businesses in permaculture was frowned upon. It didn’t seem fair to allow commercialism to profit from a grass-roots movement that had ethics and empowerment at it’s heart. In some cases the frowning came most unfairly from people who had secure paid work in permaculture-related fields (teachers, writers, lecturers in sociology, mental health advocates, organisers of festivals and conferences etc).
If it is ok to have a job related to permaculture, then surely it is ok to have a business in permaculture. In fact it is more than ok, without people in small permaculture businesses, we wouldn’t have the magazines, the news articles, the suppliers of rare plants, animals, biochar, worm-farms etc.
Most of the functions that are needed for the permaculture movement today have been filled by enterprises such as Permaculture businesses and social media enterprises (google, facebook etc).
A few impressive tools have come out of community-based projects such as wikipedia, libre-office, farm-hack, TED (and other online communities)
The activities that have truly helped permaculture flourish in the last decade include:
- the creation of large data-bases with records showing providence of teachers
- standards for the Permaculture Design Course and Diploma courses,
- networks for guilds,
- good demonstration gardens and villages.
- good marketing strategies,
- promotion, funding, organising and facilitation of guest speakers, talk-tours etc
- Information/resources including magazines, news articles and books
- video clips, animation to document sucesses over time and how these came about.
Most of these functions would never have been able to be organised and funded by an independant centralised global Permaculture Association. Luckily, existing skilled business people have had their finger on the pulse and jumped in to build these assets.
But it is important that we remind permaculture businesses that there is more reward in their efforts than just money and power. They can become leader in world business practices by building good business ethics into their permaculture businesses.
Without business ethics a successful business quickly rises to become a powerful corporatehood. Corporations crush competitors by undercutting, restricting supply and flooding the market.
Corporate-hood has become a business phenomenoa recognised well in the USA with vocal, massive backlash from communities. Corporations in the USA have become so powerful that they have earnt almost equal rights as individuals. They certainly can afford better legal representation, and have the funds to campaign for the things that will make them bigger.
Bigger is not always better. In permaculture we talk about limits to growth as well as fair share and valuing diversity.
Good permaculture business practise
- enables all the workers to obtain a local and enriching livie-hood,
- shares excess by supporting other permaculture projects,
- does not demand exclusivity at the cost of limiting a supplier to work elsewhere,
- sets up systems that acknowledge the good work of others,
- has marketing that is honest and fair (do your research before making bold claims of “being the biggest or the first or the only”)
- reflects the ethics of permaculture
- sets limits to growth
- reinvests earnings in local people and environment
- acknowledges we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and nurtures others to follow them by establishing honorable practices
- holds the torch for sustainable [ISO14000] and ethical practices.
About the author:
April Sampson-Kelly began her main small permaculture business [permaculturevisions.com] in 1993, she presented a paper at the Perth International Permaculture Conference in 1996 to open discussion and help to infant businesses. She comes from a long line of women who have had their own businesses. She learnt how to run a business by listening to and joining in conversations around the kitchen table as a child. Her mother’s last business was as systems consultant and quality auditor. She learnt about systems whilst working part-time for her mother. She never borrows money nor seeks funding for a project. She demands that the income from a project be much more than just cash earnings. She invests in local suppliers, employs others casually and supports them in their own side ventures. She always starts small and sets limits so she can have a life outside that business and includes a succession plan. She is presenting a paper on Art of Permaculture at the next national conference in Tasmania, then facilitating a think-tank at London IPCUK. She is also involved in “Next Big Step” Global permaculture group.