An article from Entrepreneur Magazine talked about the impact of setting personal and business goals versus systems and targets but it started me to question the effectiveness of focusing on goals and targets rather than systems and processes in sustainability. Think of star ratings, once the property industry reached the top level 6 stars, innovation stalled, we met the target, been there done that, oh we must be sustainable now. Now imagine what the impact would have been if we focused on designing processes and systems that focused on long terms rapid transformation rather than an end goal – there is after all no end goal, we will always have to be better.
So here are a few snippets from the article together with a few of my thoughts as to what it means for sustainability at the end.
First the article.
“We all have things that we want to…
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Inspired by Entrepreneur Magazine @EntMagazine that took an article from Rolling Stone about “how unfair capitalism is and where Occupy Wall Street organizer Jesse Myerson writes about The Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For” and looked at it from an entrepreneurs perspective. @EntMagazine believes that “Entrepreneurship, Not Socialism, Is the Answer to Economic Problems“.
So in the same vein – Is Entrepreneurship, Not Socialism, the Answer to Ecological Problems?
If it is, what are some of the approaches or philosophies of entrepreneurs and start-ups that might help us accelerate positive social, cultural and ecological impact.
Here are three that I think we could use more of.
1. Always ask questions
Entrepreneurs by their nature are questioners, rule breakers, disruptors. They ask why or why not about almost everything. They question why we should do the same thing as before, why don’t we do something different. They are always on the hunt for doing things differently while saving time, money or resources. But it is more than just saying why don’t you use renewable energy, it is about questioning business models or engrained social views.
Use the questioning mind set to generate new opportunities to create positive impact.
2. Accelerate growth
The whole purpose at start-up stage is to generate sustainable growth as soon as possible. This is done through social media, networks, marketing and the awesome term growth hacking. Why not do the same for generating positive social, cultural and ecological impact – impact hacking. Growth hacking isn’t just for start-ups.
Use start-up thinking to accelerate the positive changes we desperately need.
3. Lean Thinking
Lean start-ups is an addictive approach to growth and its not about doing it cheaply. The lean start-up methods of eliminate waste, defer committment, rapid prototyping, minimum viable product are focused on resource efficiency and productivity. It uses a continuous feedback loop of Build, Measure, Learn to accelerate uptake.
Use lean thinking in your business, your company or your life to accelerate uptake and eliminate waste.
So is Entrepreneurship, Not Socialism, the Answer to Ecological Problems? Entrepreneurial approaches will appeal to the capitalists but socialism will appeal to the treehuggers. Mass generalisation – love it. But I think to stop us from following our current path we need both – we need to hack impact into our existing companies, products and services AND we need to create the spiritual awakening that we are all connected, all live on one planet and are all in this together.
My first post of 2014 is something that lies at the route of my loves – entreprenuership. Over the next couple of weeks I will be moving my blog to Wild About Sustainability, a new venture I am exploring with my amazing partner Jessica Wild. Stay tuned for updates.
A great article on the 10 sustainable business stories from 2013 from Harvard Business Review. For those who are time strapped this time of year, below are the snippets of the hbr article, if you have more time or need something to read over the festive break read the full article.
Here are the snippets –
1. The science of climate change gets clearer: the IPCC lowers our carbon “budget.”
The report expresses “near certainty” that humans are causing climate change and calculates how much more carbon we can “safely” put in the atmosphere and hold to the 2-degree warming. PwC suggest 6% reduction per year, every year through to 2100 is necessary. McKinsey suggests 3% reduction is profitable through to 2020.
2. The reality of climate change and pollution get scarier: Australian heat, Philippine devastation, and Chinese air pollution all break records.
The models and carbon budgets aside, the weather this year got even more extreme, helping make the case for action in a more visceral way. Australia’s meteorologists had to add new colors to weather maps to deal with temperatures ranging up to 54 degrees. The Philippines faced the most powerful storm ever recorded to hit land, some climatologists suggested we add a “Category 6” to the top end of the storm scale. China’s air became, at times, dangerous and unbreathable. Several cities experienced days with small-particle air pollution running 25 to 40 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit.
3. The clean tech markets keep growing fast: three of the world’s biggest economies — the U.S., Germany, and Walmart — add lots more renewable energy.
In October, 99% of the new energy added to the grid in the U.S. came from renewables (solar alone was 72%). Germany keeps breaking its own records, with wind and solar providing 59% of the country’s energy one sunny day in October. Walmart, already the largest private sector buyer of solar power in the US (with more solar capacity than 38 U.S. states), committed to a 600% increase in renewable energy by 2020.
4. Deep concerns about labor conditions, wages, and equity take root: From tragedies in Bangladeshi apparel factories to minimum wages in the U.S.
Travesties like the death of more than 1100 workers at the Rana Plaza apparel factory in Bangladesh are increasingly unacceptable to the buying public. And it’s getting harder to hide how connected we all are to these workers. When the news hit about the loss of life, front pages around the world included the names of major brands that depended on the factory to make their goods. Swedish retailer H&M recently said it would pay a “living wage” to 850,000 workers in its supply chain by 2018 – a somewhat vague, but important announcement.
5. Food and food waste gets more attention, debate, and innovation: Can cows save the world, or should we make meat in labs?
The level of concern about how we’re going to feed 9 billion people by 2050 is rising. Food waste also got more attention: a UN report estimated that the world throws out $750 billion worth of food annually. Fenugreen, a smart startup that won the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open in June, sells sheets of paper made with natural ingredients that fight food decay – they can keep fruit and veggies from going bad 2 to 4 times longer than they would last normally.
Finally, a quirky, totally different meat story was fascinating. Billionaires Bill Gates and Sergey Brin are funding experiments to grow meat in labs, a process that – once people get past any “ick” factor – could greatly reduce the footprint of producing meat-based protein.
What Companies Are Doing
6. (Some) businesses get off the sidelines in the climate policy fight: Hundreds of companies sign onto the Climate Declaration.
Accenture produced a fascinating survey of 1000 CEOs around the world, in which a surprising 83% agreed that government should play a critical role in enabling the private sector to advance sustainability. And 31% even supported “intervention through taxation.” In a world where business generally fights all regulations and government interventions, it’s astonishing that one third of global CEOs basically said, “tax us.”
7. Companies are aiming higher, for themselves and their partners: Dell, Coca-Cola, Lego, and many more set very aggressive environmental and social goals.
75% of the world’s largest companies now have multiple environmental and social goals in place (see website, http://www.pivotgoals.com, a searchable database of 2500 environmental and social goals set by the world’s largest companies). In addition, research shows that more than 50 of the top 200 companies have even set carbon goals in line with PwC’s 6% per year reduction recommendation.
8. Sustainable companies are winning the talent wars: Unilever ranks 3rd in LinkedIn’s list of in-demand employers.
Just consider LinkedIn’s top 20 most in demand companies (in order): Google, Apple, Unilever, P&G, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, PepsiCo, Shell, McKinsey, Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson, BP, GE, Nike, Pfizer, Disney, Coca-Cola, Chevron, and L’Oréal. What’s surprising is Unilever’s rank — for a company not nearly as well known as the others, it came in just behind two of the hottest, most valuable companies in the world, and ahead of much better known brands like Disney, Nike, and Coca-Cola. Executives at Unilever credit their ranking to the company’s known leadership on sustainability. It’s hard to argue the point.
9. Systems innovation starts to take root: NIKE, NASA, USAID, and the Department of State create LAUNCH.
LAUNCH is an initiative to identify and accelerate innovations that help solve global problems with water, health, energy, waste, and systems. This program is new so it’s unclear what the impact will be, but it’s an interesting and indicative story for two reasons. First, look at the partners — what a weird, wonderful mix of business, government, and scientific organizations. Second, the goal is really systems change, and if we’re going to solve the mega challenges in our midst, we need to work across value chains and traditional lines.
10. Better tools for companies to assess “materiality” get closer: SASB releases its first sustainability accounting standards.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has been plugging away, drawing together executives from the world’s largest companies to develop the right sets of questions – specific to each sector – that will help leaders identify which environmental and social issues are really material to their business.
2014 and Beyond
Will the divestment movement continue to gather steam and put significant pressure, either financial (unlikely) or moral (much more intriguing), on fossil fuel companies?
Will all the talk about building a circular economy gain mainstream acceptance?
Will we get better at valuing natural capital (and will companies and markets care)? It certainly garnered lots of attention this year, with new estimates of the damage the global economy does to natural assets (trillions), new tools to measure natural capital, and an important new book from former Goldman partner and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, Mark Tercek.
Can challenges to our consumption-driven model go gain currency? Patagonia continues to launch programs like its Responsible Economy initiative and a backlash to Black Friday, “Worn Wear,” which suggests that we should enjoy what we already own.
Will the resilience push take hold? New York City released a $20 billion plan to get the city ready for more extreme weather — will companies embrace the risk-reduction benefits of different thinking and planning?”
One of the great traits of Australian’s is that they are (in most part) modest, humble, self-deprecating and with a sense of humour. So with a laugh for Christmas here are a few of my favourite sustainability jokes. Not sure what is meant by the third one though!
Q: Why are environmentalists bad at playing cards? A: They like to avoid the flush.
Q: What did the environmentalist get when he sat down for too long on an iceberg? A: Polaroids!
Q: Why doesn’t a Sustainability Consultant look out the window in the morning? A: It gives him something to do in the afternoon!!
Q: Why does a Time Magazine survey state only 85% of Americans think global warming is happening? A: The other 15 percent work for the oil industry!
Q: How many climate sceptics does it take to change a lightbulb? A: None. It’s too early to say if the light bulb needs changing.
Q: How do Prius owners drive? A: One hand on the wheel, the other patting themselves on the back
Q: How do you know your a bad recycler? A: You give the recycle bins to your kids to use as toboggans.
Q: What do you get when you cross an environmentalist with direct action? A: Arrested!
“They said on the news tonight that if gas prices get any higher, we could see something totally unprecedented here in California. People actually walking.” Jay Leno
Two planets meet. The first one asks: “How are you?”
“Not so well”, the second answered “I’ve got the Homo Sapiens.”
“Don’t worry,” the other replied, “I had the same. That won’t last long.”
If you have any more please post them in the comments below.
McKinsey & Co described ‘advanced materials’ as being one of the disruptive technologies happening over the next 10 years. When I wrote about ‘advanced materials‘ early this year I approached it from a materials perspective – how will materials become more advanced? But I missed the obvious – how will the way we work with materials change or disrupt? Markus Kayser’s SolarSinter has the potential to disrupt manufacturing when living within the means of one planet through his 3D printer that uses sunlight and sand to make glass objects.
Markus describes the inspiration for his idea “In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.”
“In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.”
“Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.”
Wow, we need more dudes like this guy.
He is currently in the US at the MIT Mediated Matter Group, which focusses on ‘how digital and fabrication technologies mediate between matter and environment to radically transform the design and construction of objects, buildings, and systems’.
Mediate between matter and environment! I have to do some research on those guys.
So did it work?
After initial testing “The Solar-Sinter was completed in mid-May and later that month I took this experimental machine to the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt, for a two week testing period. The machine and the results of these first experiments presented here represent the initial significant steps towards what I envisage as a new solar-powered production tool of great potential.”
Absolutely mate. I wonder what we could do with this in Australia?
Make sure you check out his website.
As our own government tries to sweep carbon under the proverbial carpet the illustrious ‘capitalists’ now have carbon risk at the forefront of every deal thats made on Wall Street through their Bloomberg terminals with a new financial tool lets Wall Street calculate the climate-change risk of investments.
Reported on The Atlantic “Wall Street is starting to take seriously the prospect that a carbon-constrained economy could put fossil fuel companies in the red. Bloomberg terminals—those ubiquitous desktop computer screens that everyone from state treasurers to hedge-fund cowboys rely on to make financial decisions—have quietly added a function called the Carbon Risk Valuation Tool, or CRVT in Bloomberg-speak. The CRVT for the first time allows investors to view the impact of say, declining oil prices due to carbon regulations, on companies’ stock prices, or how a carbon tax would affect the value of a portfolio.”
And from The New York Times “A new report by the environmental data company CDP has found that at least 29 companies, some with close ties to Republicans, including ExxonMobil, Walmart and American Electric Power, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans.”
And individuals are calling for action, this one from Angus Gordon “This is 25 year plus journey. However it a journey we need to travel. If we don’t we must ask our selves what happens when we wake up one day and: 1. We are still the most carbon intensive economy but the rest of the world is now a low carbon economy; and 2. Our coal is no longer in high demand and the price we receive and the quantity we can export is very low”
So, financial investments are being analysed for their carbon risk, big corporates are now factoring it in to their long term financial planning and individuals are calling for action but our government is saying man made carbon emissions are not causing climate change and we shouldn’t have a price on carbon. For someone who says he is all about business he doesn’t seem to be in touch with what business is doing.
I had hoped that I would get a stir from a few people on yesterdays post “Candy Crush – time sucking vampires” and luckily I did. They ranged from “what’s wrong with just having a bit of fun” to “they actually encourage the development of problem solving and application skills”. Absolutely agree but what if they did good as well.
I’ve written a few times about the need to shift our thinking from “i’ve worked out a way to make money, how do I make it less bad for the planet” to “I’ve worked out a way of enabling us to live within the means of one planet, now how do I make money from it”.
If we changed the intent or purpose of the creation of gaming apps from ‘let’s make a shit load of money’ to ‘let’s use peoples desires to problem solve, to escape, to have a bit of fun for the benefit of living within the means of one planet, oh and make shit loads of money’ then I think it would be a good shift to the need to do things ‘better’.
If we use the captive audience of the equivalent of all the students at the University of Sydney or all the employees at Telstra willing commit their working time for free every single day, and if we could create the addiction of Candy Crush they might actually pay to give you their time for free, then the possibilities are endless.
Why not use the benefit of ‘gaming’ – fun, problem solving and endorphin producing time – to help solve some of the global problems we have. Impact Investment is gaining ground – how about Impact Gaming.
Would you be willing to commit your Candy Crush time to doing something better?
End note – I am an endless hypocrite, recovering candy crush addict and actively encourage my kids to play games.