It's time to think differently.
By Tom Huston, GAMEPLAN:IMPACT
Sustainability as a recovery and growth driver...
COVID-19 has been a Category 5 hurricane on the global economy, sparing no one its wrath. If ever there was a perfect moment to rethink the way we do things in society, business and government, it is now.
(For any sustainability non-believers reading this, you can skip down to the Massive Economic Growth Opportunity section below...)
Innovation = Survival
Throughout history, mankind has innovated its way out of difficult times. Driven by absolute necessity with our backs against the wall, each iteration has resulted in significant advances in science, healthcare, technology, transportation, communication, agriculture and much more, incrementally improving quality of life along the way. From the invention of the wheel and aqueducts to vaccines, textiles, the printing press, micro-chips, satellites, global communication and much more, society has progressed thanks to both the unique human ability to analyze and reason as well as our most primitive core-survival instincts.
Today is no different. Only that today the stakes are higher than ever before because of the sheer scale of the challenges that need solved urgently. This pandemic has deservedly taken all of our attention, not only because of the loss of life and economic damage but also because it has revealed our general lack of preparedness and systemic weaknesses. We should not allow ourselves to be caught off-guard and complacent elsewhere either. In the face of a rapidly growing global population, decreasing natural resources and ever-growing man-made environmental disasters surrounding us everywhere, it is essential that we re-think everything we do, why and how we do it and then do what we do best – innovate our way forward to a better future.
It is time to rebuild the world, literally...
Our entire global infrastructure is based on the foundation set by the industrial revolution (IR) in approximately 1830. Steam-powered machines quickly created quality of life improvements like humanity had never seen before. Coal was the primary power source to create the steam needed to run the machines. Everything was based on the linear model of consumption; extract natural resources, convert them into products, buy the product and then throw it away. In 1830 there were only about 1 billion people in the world, so the concept of running out of natural resources OR humanity overwhelming the natural ecosystem’s ability to recover were unfathomable. And so we raced ahead, using the same linear models. As it turns out, nature’s ability to recover does indeed have a breaking point and that’s where we are now. There are over 7 billion people on earth, consuming, throwing away and requiring enormous amounts of energy and natural resources to live our daily lives. Ecosystems that we rely on are at their breaking point and the planet is pushing back.
The “Smart Cities” industry understands this point very well. Every year in November in Barcelona massive numbers of companies and over 750 municipalities come together at the Smart City Expo World Congress to showcase infrastructure transformation technologies and discuss solutions and innovations that will transform the world as we know it to better, cleaner, “smarter” solutions. The innovations are truly inspiring from large and small companies alike and the event is growing in size and importance every year. But implementation remains slow due to investment, regulatory hurdles and resistance from established “traditional” industries that cannot figure out (or have not tried) how to transition to circular sustainable solutions. The enlightened entrepreneurs and leaders who can see the trends, who understand where we are headed, they get it... and are excited about it!
Sustainability is a massive economic growth opportunity...
The market for new products and services needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is projected to be $12 Trillion per year by 2030. It is estimated at $13.5 Trillion per year to successfully implement the provisions of the Paris Agreement. I don’t know anyone in business that would not like to have a piece of a market that big... Literally everyone can have a piece of this pie and become part of the new circular economy, there is no downside. Increased profits and having a planet we can live on long-term - everyone wins.
Positioning your organization to be a revenue generating machine that simultaneously contributes to solving serious problems does not have to be as hard as it might sound. Business leaders simply have to be open minded about doing things a bit differently and have the right support resources around them to support their analysis and decision making processes. Anyone who says that sustainability is a cost has it totally backwards. When conceived correctly and implemented into the DNA of one’s brand and culture, sustainability is a powerful growth and revenue driver that will serve organizations very well during recovery periods, as well as long term when times are good. Not taking this approach is the real risk and cost. Don’t get left behind...
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Tom Huston is a former sports marketing executive turned sustainable business development expert who has built successful brands, created award-winning campaigns and generated stakeholder returns in both North America and Europe. His company, Gameplan Impact, is a strategic business development consultancy that helps organizations unlock trapped growth and ROI by transitioning to Triple Bottom Line business models where People, Planet and Profit all win.