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Ryan E. Day

Health Care

Three Things More Important Than the Global Economy

The world’s bottom line as a subsystem of the biosphere

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 12:45

Last month I, along with millions of other people around the world, celebrated Easter. For myself, a religious observance, for others a celebration of seasonal renewal. I think for most people, Easter is a time that elicits reflection on what matters most in the world. The state of the global economy is rarely at the top of anyone’s list.

In an interview on Quality Digest LIVE! Andrew McKeon, director of operations for Markit Environmental Registry said “The global economy is a subsystem of the Earth and the biosphere... Not the other way around.” So, if the global economy is not the end-all-be-all, then what is? In a nutshell, these three areas trump the global economy every which way to, well, Easter Sunday:

Natural resources

  1. Energy
  2. Land/Food
  3. Water
  4. Materials


  1. Clean air/water/land
  2. Plentiful habitat for all creatures

Human resources

  1. Physical health
  2. Mental health
  3. Spiritual health


McKeon cites Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) as a method for assessing all that drives and supports the global economy and rightly notes, “[That although] the global economy is probably the most powerful subsystem of the biosphere and the Earth, but it is indeed a subsystem because it is completely dependent on that system whereas the biosphere is not dependent on the economy. So in terms of appreciation for a system, how do we then manage the global economy as a subsystem of the planet and what does that mean in terms of alignment?…”

Deming’s SoPK does indeed point to the value of interpreting the global economy as part of a larger system and according to The W. Edwards Deming Institute “[Deming] defined a system as a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. The aim for any system should be that everybody gains, not one part of the system at the expense of any other. In a business context this includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community and the environment.”

All of which—in my mind—brings us back to those three things more important to the global economy, i.e., those things upon which the global economy completely depends.

Natural resources
Obviously, availability of natural resources in the form of raw materials is absolutely essential to manufacturing. The real point to ponder is how the extraction, refining, and distribution of said raw materials aligns with the well-being of all components of the biosphere. That leads to the next “more important thing.”

In pondering the extraction, refining, and distribution of raw materials—as part of a system— we need to consider the effects of each process on the whole of the system. How will those processes affect the health of the other parts and, ultimately, the sustainability of the economy that depends so much on the health of the entire system?

Human resources
It’s interesting that the most important part of the system is too often the last consideration. From a human standpoint that part would be us—humans. Without humans there would be no reason to harvest natural resources and no one to do so. We humans are the sole reason for, perpetrators of, and heirs to the effects of the global economy. We are where it starts and ends. We are also ultimately responsible for our own place and contributions to the global economy. As a species, we can do pretty much anything we want to—except avoid the consequences of our actions.

So, as we reflect upon what is most important in our world, perhaps we can expand our interpretation of a shareholder in business, and perhaps we can look beyond the state of the global economy and consider the state of our Earth as a guideline for business models as we move forward.


About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s project manager and senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20 lb tabby cat at his side.