Making the Impact Matrix was fun. It was also useful, because it reminded me of two important lessons:
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey
I don’t believe that in the end we captured the essence of a cotton shirt’s life cycle. We are not experts in the field and we know little of the true circumstances where the shirt was made. The real value of the exercise lied in the systemic thinking. By going through different phases of life cycle and different aspects of environmental sustainability, we came up with a lot of important questions.
One that intrigues me the most is the question of comparability: Where do we need to benchmark if our actions are good or bad? Do other companies set the standard? In which geographical context? Or do we consider alternatives for our actions? For example, let’s take the question of low wage workers in the cotton shirt manufacturing factory in China. If we compare their conditions to Finnish standards, there would certainly be a problem. Nevertheless, if we compare to other employers in China, our workers might be better off. Not to mention that if we would compare to the option that we would run down the operations and leave them all unemployed. As always, we ended up with more questions than answers..
Simple and efficient! Pictures are far better than words. You can convey the same message a hundred time faster and people actually remember it if you have a picture to go with it. Of course, most pictures need explanations to actually convey the message. But after explanation the picture makes sense in itself. I think that the true power of impact matrix lies in the visualization, when something is wrong you literally see red!
And now I dug a hole for myself because I can’t finish this posting without a picture. So here you go: