Economic thinking of the 20th century put the responsibility for community benefit firmly in the hands of governments and charities. The theory was that businesses looked after their shareholders and provided income to their employees.
It was up to other parties to raise and educate the workforce on which they relied and provide the infrastructure on which they depended. And the lower they could drive the cost of labour, the higher their profits (but not their reputation).
This ignores the reality of relative resourcing:
As a new understanding of license to operate has emerged, smart innovators and entrepreneurs have been exploring ways to create value and renew communities.
This has been reflected in the rise of a whole range of enablers, a few of which are:
- Community development cooperatives
- Worker cooperatives
- Creative commons licensing
- Open source products
- Crowd-sourced investment financing
“First we’ll do business THEN we’ll do good (maybe)” is flawed.
Like anything else, if you don’t design community needs into your business model, you’ve most likely designed it out. (It’s like building a new office without considering wheelchair access or visual handicaps – you’ve designed diversity out of your workforce.)
Gunter Pauli, who wrote The Blue Economy in 2010 put the regenerative business proposal succinctly:
“In a Blue Economy, business meets local needs from local resources, creating local jobs and regenerating local ecosystems”Gunter Pauli, The Blue Economy
What does this look like in action?
Carpet manufacturer Interface set up a program called Net-Works in the Philippines and Cameroon so far it has:
- Successfully established a community based supply chain for discarded fishing nets – a major source of plastic pollution and a hazard to marine life – collecting and recycling 224 metric tonnes so far.
- Now building out an ecological and inclusive seaweed supply chain for carrageenan (seaweed extract) in Southeast Asia directly linked to measures that replenish fish stocks and avert the risk of carrageenan becoming the ‘palm oil of the sea’
Interface gets old nylon nets to recycle into new, high-value carpet. Communities get independence, work, and support to run local sustainable development projects from seaweed farming to community banking facilities.
Key insight questions
Where could we add value, regenerate our community and grow our business?
And there’s more…
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