Life was simpler in 1968 Carbon dioxide in the air was at 324 ppm. Today it is over 400 ppm. (We are advised to keep it below 350 ppm) Overall, civilization was living in balance with the capacity of the earth to support it.
Now there are more of us Earth’s population DOUBLED since 1968!
Each of our ‘footprints’ was smaller Average house size has doubled since 1968. o Remember 1 car, 1 phone, 1 bathroom? o Only TV per American family? Air-conditioning? Maybe a window unit. Only 20% of Americans had ever been on an airplane.
Less than 50 years later The Earth’s capacity to support all of us has been exceeded by 50%! o We now need 1.5 Earth’s to support us However, we need 6 to 8 Earth’s to support the average American lifestyle for everyone. The rest of the world longs to be ‘just like us’!
How did we get here? We have all stood by as corporations EVOLVED to scour the planet to satisfy our consumer desires.
It’s happened so quickly Industry of our grand-parents did not have the technology to create such waste.
Where is this going? Is it possible for corporations to EVOLVE again to support our grandchildren's society sustainably?
Corporate sustainability “To take from the earth ONLY that which can be replaced naturally by the earth” - Ray Anderson, Interface, Inc.
Ray Anderson Founder and CEO of Interface, Inc. in Georgia Converted his carpet making factory into a clean, sustainable operation. Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur of the Year, 1996 TIME Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment, 2007 Served on Worldwatch Institute Board of Directors
Ray’s version of true sustainability? Corporations should take responsibility for all resources used for their entire product life cycle o To create all their raw materials o During the manufacturing process o Manufacturing waste, by-products generated o Packaging, transportation for entire supply chain o Post consumer waste / re-cycling
Interface sustainable practices 1.Recycling materialNOT Extraction 2.Renewable EnergyNOT Fossil Fuel 3.Waste free productionNOT Wasteful 4.Cyclic systemsNOT Linear systems 5.Resource NOT Labor Productivity Productivity
Linear System RAW MATERIALS FACTORY WASTE HOME WASTE ELECTRIC WATER
Cyclic system RECYCLE RAW MATERIALS FACTORY WASTE HOME WASTE ELECTRIC WATER
Resource Productivity NOT Labor Productivity Resource Productivity NOT Labor Productivity Efficiency is NOT how few PEOPLE are required to make the product Efficiency is how few RESOURCES are required
How is sustainability possible? The drive for corporate growth and profitability will not go away
Infinite growth not possible The Earth is a small planet All corporations cannot all grow forever
Business will be forced to evolve Business will respond to new market forces: Pay for use of the commons Market adjust to scarcity Consumers will be more educated
Force 1: Pay for use of the commons Taxes on carbon o Tax those who release carbon into the air o Reward those who sequester carbon Taxes on water, wetlands, forests, etc. o Tax those who use them for commercial purposes o Reward those who reclaim / restore them
Force 2: Adapt to scarcity Scarcity stimulates conservation As prices go up, business seeks substitutes Sustainable substitutes become ‘affordable’ Cheaper to recycle / re-furbish used products
Force 3: Smarter consumers Advocacy groups force better labeling Consumer groups educate consumers to read labels Consumers change their buying patterns
These forces will disrupt ‘business as usual’… Established companies always react slowly Innovators adapt more quickly
…creating winners and losers Businesses slow to change become non-competitive Innovators have the advantage for survival Survivors will grow as their competition shrinks or dies
Sustainability Profitability Companies with sustainable practices will prosper o Increased energy efficiency o Less waste in production material o Re-purchase / re-condition of used products COST PROFIT
New industries will emerge Transformation to renewable energy systems Overhaul urban transportation systems Movement to greener industrial food production Reclaiming wetlands, forests, fisheries Mining landfills and recycling contents
Summary Business always adapts to new forces placed on them in the marketplace. We must apply new forces in the marketplace… …to give corporations with sustainable practices a competitive advantage. …then corporations, in their own self-interest, and in a free market, will evolve to sustainability.
Long term goal for society “More happiness with less stuff, all made sustainably ” -Ray Anderson, Interface, Inc.