Before I start talking about sustainability I need to explain what does a “meme” mean. In this blog I am not going to talk about “internet memes” that just came to minds of many readers, similar to one you see on the right.
The definition of meme for the purposes of this blog is somewhat different. According to Oxford dictionary the word “meme” comes from Greek mimēma which means “that which is imitated”. Meme is used to describe an element of a culture or system of behavior passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. Simply put a meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. Memes are cultural life force; they generate the flow of our thoughts and ideas.
And now I turn to sustainability. Sustainability is very broad concept, people hearing this world think of many things: recycling, green technology, social impact, perpetual enterprise and etc. Sustainability is emphasized all over the world, but what if sustainability we are talking is not sustainable because no common meme exists. Businesses come up with recycle bins for plastic, paper, aluminum, but we still see tons of trash on the streets. Point being no matter how sustainable your idea is if you don’t find followers it is doomed to fail. The meme that I want to bring at this point and share is “the connection between memes and sustainability”. The main idea that I want to concentrate is that sustainability as a concept should become part of our common memes and this is the way to create “sustainable strive for sustainability”.
Memes are used to create a trend or pattern. In this sense every individual is a cultural designer. Every individual creates world through their thoughts. Meme change is individual, but behavior change is social. As a result of this, I think that the biggest challenge for sustainability is this individual and social challenge. No matter how many social impact business ideas are generated, no matter how many green technologies are created, if sustainability is not entrenched as a meme of individuals it will not change their behavior. Basic idea is that it’s hard to create a green community garden without green plants in it, so as, it’s hard to create a sustainable world without sustainable people in it. The examples could go on but I think the idea is clear. International organizations, governments, companies, communities and individuals should work towards the global mind-shift on memetic level by communicating the memes of sustainability, social impact, conscious co-evolution and shared values to other members of the community. If memes of individuals reflect the above-mentioned common ideas, than the goal of achieving sustainability in business can be accomplished as well.
Big thanks to Laszlo Karafiath for very interesting presentation and for introducing me to meme idea. For more information about memes please see “10 rules of memetic marketing” by Laszlo. “it’s not about going viral. It’s about changing the collective mind.”