Sustainable Advantage: Sort of

It seems that the leaders of the Oregon Business Plan took Harvard Professor Michael Porter’s advice from last year to heart: they have provided an overarching focus for the Business Plan: Sustainability.

The ‘play book‘ (PDF, 869K), released in advance of Thursday’s Business Plan Summit, sets this out on the first page:

As last year’s audience will recall, Dr. Porter challenged the Business Plan and Oregon to develop a distinct competitive advantage that complements the Business Plan framework, our industry cluster network, and our culture of innovation. Porter suggested sustainability as a competitive strength for Oregon, noting that the state already has an international reputation as a leader in sustainability. It’s true. Sustainability is woven into the fabric of our public policy, many of our products and services, and the business practices of our industry clusters and individual firms. Therefore, we present a section here on the potential of making sustainability a competitive advantage for Oregon and a part of the Business Plan.

All well and good (indeed, Bravo!), and the business press is tripping over itself to reinforce the message. Friday’s Business Journal carries with it poll results that say that 63% of readers agree that sustainability is a good way to grow Oregon’s economy.

And this month’s Oregon Business (issue not yet online), also triumphs sustainability.

So where’s the problem? The play book chapter on transportation does not mention sustainability at all, other than to talk about sustainable funding. It goes on to call for new capacity. Apparently, using our existing transportation infrastructure more efficiently is not part of our sustainability plan.


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