The McDonough Conversations: The Value of Values

Modern economics are focused on numbers, according to William McDonough. “We need to start with our values and say, ‘We really care about how we treat each other.’ The way to turn around is waging peace through commerce,” he says.  This is the theme of the latest installment of The McDonough Conversations, “Sustainable business and value of values” with Joel Makower of

Joel Makower: I don’t think most corporate sustainability is based on values.

William McDonough: Look at the whole idea of being less bad. How is the world getting better if you’re letting it down, albeit more slowly? If somebody says, “I saved $15 million on energy and water last year while I made textiles, and still released all of the dyes into the river,” well, you saved 10 percent of your energy and water. Great. That was just business. That’s something you do because you know how to do math.

Joel Makower: Isn’t eco-efficiency enough for some companies? They get to say, “We’re doing less bad and we’re saving some money. Leave us alone.”

William McDonough: For most companies, that’s enough. But those are people where money or numbers is enough. That’s it. That’s exactly what we’re talking about. They’re not talking about values, just numbers.

Read the full interview with William McDonough on