We don't lobby, litigate, or harass those with whom we disagree. Rather than focusing on problems and assigning blame, we find better ways of meeting human needs that turn snowballing costs and problems into cascading savings and solutions.
A Positive Approach
The reasoning behind our positive approach is simple. Environmental damage arises from an effort, usually sincere, to meet human needs. Environmentalists opposed to inappropriate means can be too easily cast as being opposed to the goal as well.
The benefits of a positive approach are many. It avoids alienating those who share our ends but have so far chosen different means. It broadens our constituency. And by focusing on what we are for rather than against, it inspires and energizes our staff—and often enlists unexpected allies.
We believe in respecting other people's values, if not always their conclusions. In this spirit, our staff have helped coordinate the "greening" of the Pentagon; encouraged major automakers to adopt a fundamentally new type of car; consulted for multinational oil companies on how they can make more money selling efficiency than oil; advised agrichemical manufacturers on what to market instead of pesticides and fertilizers; and helped turn dam-builders into water-savers.
We help institutions that may feel threatened by change, or fearful of obsolescence, to adapt and flourish as vehicles of the transition to a sustainable society.
Much of RMI's success stems from a quiet commitment to practice what aikido master and business consultant Tom Crum calls "aikido politics."
Aikido is a nonviolent martial art practice where an onrushing attack is not opposed by rigid force, but by blending with the energy of the attack, helping deflect it harmlessly and harmoniously. Thus in aikido politics, others' beliefs are honored, even if they are not shared. Practitioners remain centered in their values, but not fixed in a position, instead moving around to flexibly view an issue from many angles. Commitment is to the process, not outcome, in the belief that from a good process will emerge a better outcome than anyone thought of in the first place.
The Tao Tê Ching says of water, "That which is of all things most yielding can overcome that which is most hard…Being substanceless, it can enter in even where there are no cracks." Aikido teaches the politics of water: A way of entering, in a friendly and open spirit, even into the midst of bitter controversy. Handling conflict with integrity, respect, and sincerity, we've found, can often turn it into an opportunity for mutual learning, trust-building, and resolution.