When you start looking at today’s global social and environmental challenges through the lens of strategic opportunity – instead of costly demands for compliance and charity – a wealth of business potential opens up. Why?
What we think influences what we know to look for – so if you’re not thinking
“environment + community = opportunity”
Then you probably won’t find it. However, the human brain is a question-answering machine – so as soon as you start to ask different questions, you’ll start seeing more opportunity.
Too good to leave to government and charity?
Back in the 1960s, economists told business that their job was to “just look after their shareholders” – that concerns about community and ecosystem well-being were not for business.
- Businesses that strategically, consistently and authentically include environmental and social benefits in their planning show benefits on their bottom line. Less environmental impact comes from innovation towards smarter, cleaner, more renewable resource use. Less community impact means a happier, healthier workforce, customer base and community. Move the playing field from “compliance” to “regeneration” and your people come to work to make a difference.
- Business creates prosperity by solving problems at a profit. So leaving wicked social and environmental problems to other people to solve is ignoring a LOT of potential opportunity. Canny, nimble, small and mid-size businesses can often be far more responsive to opportunities and needs than bigger organisations.
- If you don’t design functionality IN, then it’s extremely likely that you’ve designed it OUT. Continuously extracting resources from your host communities and ecosystems and ignoring their needs while you build your business is like ignoring the need for cooking, bathing and washing as you build your house. When you DO realise you need the extra functionality, it’s likely to cost someone a LOT to retrofit. It could be the governments, communities and for-purpose agencies that get to clean up your mess – but it could also be you.
- Globally, business revenues are up to 5 times those of governments and NFPs combined – so the chances of governments and charities reversing the damages done by extractive business processes are not that great.
- The world’s inventors and entrepreneurs never stopped making better products and services because “there isn’t a need”. They’ve been working on smarter, cleaner, safer ideas before anyone even knew there were problems (the first solar panel was installed in New York in 18??) The solutions they’ve already made commercial are downright awesome, and the innovation coming to market accelerated by the information revolution is breathtaking.
- The world’s investors are increasingly demanding social and environmental responsibility from big businesses. A growing number of venture capitalists are deciding that there are far more interesting startups to invest in than Internet Marketing.
- Business doesn’t exist OUTSIDE anything – without functioning communities and functioning ecosystems, there is no business.
There are some problems with that thinking, however:
It used to be a niche – but now it’s a growing trend
The Body Shop and Patagonia are just two household names who have pioneered this trend as a core of their brand.
Many other businesses have quietly being innovating 3-D business success – without necessarily telling the world. Leaders like Interface are 25 years down the track, with millions of dollars on their bottom lines to show for it. (In the first 12 years of their program, Interface put $393,000,000 as they “climbed Mount Sustainability” towards becoming the world’s first restorative business.)
Independent modelling by Project Drawdown has identified a high return – just in solving climate change.
4. The financial case for climate solutions is crystal clear, as savings significantly outweigh costs.Drawdown 2020 Review
Overall, net operational savings exceed net implementation costs four to five times over:
an initial cost of $22.5–28.4 trillion versus $95.1–145.5 trillion saved. If we consider the monetary value of co-benefits (e.g., healthcare savings from reduced air pollution) and avoided climate damages (e.g., agricultural losses), the financial case becomes even stronger….
Want to know more?
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