Beyond efficiency – leveling up in the sustainability game…

While efficiency is a critical element of sustainable business, it’s not the be-all and end all.  Corporate Social Responsibility can be useful if it’s used as a source of strategy (not treated as a costly obligation).

The real end game of sustainability is a big one – to re-invent how we make and deliver our products and services so that they’re profitable AND actively good for  their host communities and ecosystems.  The business winners of the future will build their careers and profits by taking the sustainability game to this exciting new level.

A new design paradigm…

Applying efficiency inside business-as-usual thinking limits our ability to find the win/win/win solutions that are increasingly part of the developing regenerative business revolution.  Leveling up in the sustainability game requires a bigger design perspective:

  • Re-designing commerce so that “growth” is about delivering valuable services rather than selling more products.
  • Re-designing how we use non-renewable material resources so that they are continuously recycled and remanufactured.
  • Re-designing production processes to primarily use renewable resources.

Efficiency still counts…

This isn’t to say that efficiency isn’t important.  Most of our products and services have their roots in an out-of-date belief that natural resources are unlimited – and it’s a view that has been difficult to shift.   In Australia, for example, our energy efficiency record has barely improved in the past 40 years.  So we still have many opportunities to make significant bottom-line improvements by improving our efficiency.

Levelling up to regenerative thinking…

The bigger game of regenerative thinking (business that actively enables community and eco-system regeneration)  has been going on since the 1990s.  It’s a developing necessity and it’s going to change some businesses radically.  Those that aren’t tuned in to the bigger game could find that they’re making their industry’s equivalent of vinyl records or camera film.   The “truth” about climate will become irrelevant in the face of this new wave of innovation.

Those that ARE tuned in are the ones that will be developing new competitive capabilities and expanding into overseas markets with new products and services (like Australian companies Close the Loop and Futuris amongst many others).

Have you “hit the wall”?

If you feel you’ve done all you can in your business as far as efficiency goes that’s great.  So now it’s time to step back and look more widely for opportunities – out into your industry; up your supply chain to your customers and their end consumers; and down your supply chain to where your inputs come from.

Build your knowledge of the simple principles behind the next level of the sustainability game and start exploring for your opportunities.  It’s amazing what’s going on – and a whole lot of fun.  Dive in and Google “regenerative business” or “cradle to cradle” or “biomimicry” and just see what you find.

Regenerative business gameEnvironmental sustainability is about much more than efficiency – it’s about radical innovation and profitability – it’s time to level up!

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About Leigh

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Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.