…this is one of the most transformational aspects of technology. It’s a platform for personal expression and even entrepreneurialism if our own art catches the fancy of others. The traditional gatekeepers have given way to a jury of our peers. If you have created something worth sharing, you are in business.
It is important that we become aware how our micro-decisions affect what we do online. What are we paying really attention to? what are we really focusing on? Are we following a specific direction, contributing to something of value, achieving something or just losing ourselves and out time among all the things one can do, find, share?
Ray Anderson tells the story of how he set out to change the economic model that governed his company Interface (and still governs most businesses).
The dominant industrial model is extractive, linear (take – make – waste), abusive, focused on labor productivity, dependent on fossil fuels. In this model environmental impact (I) is generated by people (P), what they consume (their affluence – A) and how it is produce (the technology – T). Paul and Anne Ehrlich summarized this as:
I = P x A x T
Realizing that he had the power over the way his products are made, Ray started working since 1995 to change that formula for Interface to
I = (P x A)/T, so that technology decreases the impact instead of multiplying it.
Towards the end of his talk he then goes a step further to advocate that affluence expressed by a capital A denotes an end in itself, and should instead be a small ‘a’ that is a means for happiness, thus changing the formula to
I = (P x a)/(T2 x H)
Great vision! Watch the video to hear the numbers of how this model made his company not only reduce a lot of its impact (they aim for 0 impact by 2020) but also much more competitive.
Article by Kevin Kelly on the characteristics that make goods (especially digital ones) valuable. He identifies 8 qualities that add value: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, and Findability.
In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced.
Nature is full of generative value (cannot be copied, cloned, faked,…) and yet we are using lots of natural resources without paying (adequately) for their use. How come?
In short, the article Do Global Clients need Sustainability Strategy today? on Triple Pundit suggests that sustainability advocates should use the openings offered by the need for cost saving and improvments in managing risks to get companies on the sustainability train, but to not overdo it:
[W]hat are some of the key concepts to consider when developing and promoting sustainability solutions today?
- Pick ‘tactical’ sustainability projects which may be an oxymoron… such as strategies for maximizing the efficiencies of existing systems, buildings, and assets.
- You should articulate an accelerated ROI for your clients, but provide a ‘platform’ technology based or process based to allow your client to leverage incremental successes over time across his / her enterprise
- Assessment and benchmarking: executives place a high value on validation of industry trends and insights.
The first time I thought about this was after watching The Story of Stuff. We are currently (more in the global North, but also increasingly in the South) living in a throw-away and consume economy. With resource prices likely to increase dramatically over the next decades, will we see a repair and upgrade economy emerging?
Not sure if it is the fact that I live in Brazil now and see all these small shops specializing in repairs of machines, clothes and other stuff, but I have the feeling that more emphasis on repairing and upgrading could become a trend also in the US, Europe and other rich countries.
A system that values repairing an iron, or a fridge, or a jacket instead of buying a new one? You might argue that for some goods where technological change happens very fast it will not change. But how about building computers, mobile phones and other products that get old after months, in ways that allow to not only upgrade one part (e.g. the harddrive in a PC) but any part that sees performance improvements?
Besides saving resources this could also create a whole new set of jobs that are not as easy to replace by machines than when you are automating a whole production process. These jobs would be created where consumers are living reducing the need for long distance shipping and large production sites.
What would need to change? Companies have to shift their business models from selling more to making it easy to repair and upgrade products. Money will not be made with new designs but with spare parts. This will also require standards that cannot be as easily changed anymore. The shape of a computer chip will have to be the same from generation to generation to allow upgrading.
Is this a realistic scenario? Are there signs out there that would support or contradict this idea? Such a system would just reduce resource use, but not represent a real paradigm shift. What would need to complement such a change for the new system to be truly sustainable?
[T]hey have a “deliberately unsustainable” business model. In other words: do great stuff while you can, and when you can’t do it anymore, stop. This is the model that governs most businesses and artistic endeavors. It’s the reason terms like “jump the shark” exist. Most companies, rock bands, and sports teams are only brilliant for so long. Then they start to slide. Then they die.
via Museum 2.0: Deliberately Unsustainable Business Models. Found through this talk.
Some businesses are set up not to last, as is the case of most non-profits trying to solve societal problems. When the problem is solved or the vision is reached their purpose to exist vanishes.
[T]here are two kinds of approaches to transform the behavior of organizations, one approach is to use empathy to understand human needs and motivation, and the other is power, the ability to force or coerce a particular behavior. (…) It appears to me that the empathic approach and power based approach are often at odds in organizations or out of balance.
I believe that the rise of the participatory internet culture and the growing concern about environmental impacts by companies will force many organizations to emphasize empathy much more than they currently do to keep clients, staff and partners.
The principles for a sustainable business I get from this post are: (1) use the resources you have efficiently and do not overuse them (time, money, natural resources, employees); (2) diversify economic activities (core biz and related) to be less dependent on one activity or market; and (3) share business with others that are working in the same niche to build up a network you can fall back on in times of crises and to not overuse your resources.