Audacious Sustainability

I always urge my clients to factor sustainability considerations into their vision and strategic planning. While reading in the July 8th issue of Time, I was delighted to see an article titled, “Farming the Desert” by Aryn Baker (,33009,2146442-3,00.html if you subscribe). The article recounts how Qatar, the richest nation in the world, had difficulty finding adequate food supplies during the 2008 Economic Downturn. Qatar has plenty of oil and cash. With tight credit squeezing international trade, food was simply not for sale.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization considers only 1% of Qatar’s land to be arable and Qatar is importing 90% of their food. Fahad bin Mohammed al Attiya, Executive Chairman of Qatar’s National Food and Security Program (QNFSP), has a goal to make 6% of the land arable and grow half of the nation’s food within the next twelve years. All of this comes at a price and enormous complexity. The Qataris will need to desalinate 91 billion gallons of water a day, generate 753 megawatts in solar power to fuel the desalination, and become a leader in agricultural water conservation techniques. Audacious, but feasible!

I find the Qatar story inspiring on a number of levels. The Qataris scaled their dreams and imagination to match the consequences of not being successful. The Qatari plan gathered the resources they had in hand to obtain resources and capabilities that seemed out of their reach. Business leaders are so often schooled to minimize risk and make incremental changes. In a world that’s changing so quickly, organizations that do not realize the level of innovation required, will go the way of the dinosaur.

The lessons I take away from this are:

  • Stay abreast of technology. Know what’s possible
  • Be objective and realistic in assessing threats
  • Dream success!!

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