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Sustainable business practices are necessary for the common good

profile image of Richard Morrison in black suit and glasses
April 08, 2013

As part of Earth Month 2013, Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-founder Richard Morrison will be visiting to discuss “Ethics and Sustainable Practices” from noon to 1:30 p.m., April 29.

As a native Arizonan, Morrison grew up on a family farm in Gilbert. His ties to the land led him to become a natural resource and water rights attorney at Salmon, Lewis, and Weldon, PLC and a managing member of the Morrison Brothers Windmill Ranch, LLC.

The Morrison Brothers Windmill Ranch, LLC in northern Arizona has been in Morrison’s family since 1983. The ranch purchases Arizona-grown cattle and feed them on locally produced brewers grain. A main objective of the ranch is to be as ecologically and economically sustainable as possible.

As an attorney, Morrison focuses mainly on irrigation districts and negotiating Native American water rights. He is the author of numerous journal articles on ethics and natural resource management.

In 1991, Morrison received his master’s from the San Francisco Theological Seminary and became an Episcopal priest. He is currently a full-time priest at Saint Matthew's Episcopal Church in Phoenix in addition to his law and ranching duties. He is also a co-founder of ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a department that focuses on objective research for public policy issues.

More recently, Morrison has focused his work on ethical business practices – or what he calls, “a standard of public virtue.” By combining his experience in sustainable ranching, natural resource law, and priesthood, Morrison provides a novel approach to how corporations can improve the world with their services and goods. 

Morrison will discuss this “standard of public virtue” as part of the Sustainability Series hosted by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. He details his challenges and work in this Q&A:

What is the global sustainability challenge that concerns you the most, and why?

On a global basis, the biggest challenge will be the need to feed 9 billion people without degrading the natural environment that enables food production and sustains the quality of life. The impacts of expanded agricultural productivity on the water supplies of the world will be especially grave, as many regions of the world are already drying up, and clean water supplies may not be available to replace the groundwater that is used to expand or continue food production at existing levels.

How do you contribute to solving the above sustainability challenge?

As a trustee of the Farm Foundation, I have worked aggressively to develop and promote the Foundation’s Dialogue Project for Food and Agriculture Policy in the 21st Century. There are many stakeholders in the global food system, often working against each other for the sake of their respective agendas. Some of the conflicts can be reduced by reaching a common commitment to feeding a hungry world. 

What inspires your commitment to this effort?

There are many sources of inspiration to alleviating world hunger, including a recognition of basic human needs being unmet where over half of the world’s population subsists on a per capita income of just $2.00 per day. I was also inspired by meeting Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1970. He was often criticized by environmental groups that thought his genetic research in plants would contribute to a rapidly expanding world population. While granting this possibility, Borlaug said: “You can’t ignore the moral mandate to feed the people we have.”

What person or persons have influenced you the most throughout your lifetime?

It would be easy to point to prominent politicians and business leaders, and perhaps I should name all of them, but across the whole spectrum of the professions and vocations that serve in various ways, I think Mother Theresa and Dwight D. Eisenhower stand out. Mother Theresa understood that we must make a difference where we are, and that the poorest among us deserve our attention and our care. Eisenhower was committed to long-term, strategic planning. He was committed to that as a young military officer whose plans made a singular contribution to winning World War II.  Later as President, he envisioned the importance of the interstate highway system to the economic growth and prosperity of our nation. Long-range planning seems woefully in short supply these days.

You can RSVP for Morrison’s lecture here:

The Sustainability Series is hosted by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and features a wide variety of speakers from education, business, nonprofit, humanities, and government sectors discussing a range of topics within the environment, society, and economy. View upcoming Sustainability Series lectures.