Articles

The time for sustainability has come

Chronicle published in Swedish communications magazine Resumé.

The time for sustainability has come. But the real change is yet to come among companies and in society. Maybe sustainability challenges are not close enough to our everyday lives to be uppermost in our minds. Maybe companies who can bring about real change have not yet unleashed their creativity to make it happen. But the time is now. We are convinced that it is possible. And that everyone has everything to gain. Just look at the Swedish company IKEA that has announced its change towards a circular business model.

We are convinced that it is possible. And that everyone has everything to gain.

The amount of articles discussing climate change increased by almost twenty percent in 2017. Pictures of mountains of floating plastic in our oceans, starving polar bears and dead coral reefs along paradise beaches have been spreading like never before. Many people agree that we have global warming. Many people agree that it needs to be turned around soon in order for the human and environmental effects not to become catastrophically and unforeseeably costly. 193 of the world’s countries have had a common agreement for two years now, Agenda 2030, with 17 targets for sustainable development. Despite this, for many it is still business as usual. We are continuing to use our earth’s scarce resources as if nothing has happened and are consuming like never before. Curves that should be turned downward are instead pointing steeply upwards. Emissions from newly registered cars are increasing despite talk of electric cars and hybrids. Aviation is increasing, while it requires a concerted effort to book a reasonable train ticket to continental Europe. How is it possible that despite our insights and good intentions we are not capable of breaking old patterns and living more sustainably?

The slow change is due to two fundamental challenges. First, our society is built on century-old economic models where welfare is measured primarily in terms of increased GDP. Consumption and short-term gains are rewarded before long-term well-being for the planet and its people – a viewpoint that was founded when there were still few of us on a large planet and our harvest of natural resources and dumping of harmful substances and chemicals therefore did no noticeable harm.

Second, companies often have a will to act sustainably, but there are too many that act reactively and see sustainability merely as a demand to follow regulations and minimize risk. We need more companies that see sustainability as a business opportunity that should be integrated into the core business of the company and not be treated as a side business. This would create more sustainable alternatives that are attractive to more customers.

We spell the solution philanthrocapitalism. In other words, that there is no conflict between doing good and doing good business.

We spell the solution philanthrocapitalism. In other words, that there is no conflict between doing good and doing good business. We are convinced that successful companies of the future will be the ones who realize that the sustainability challenges we face bring about new business models and ways of thinking where the wellbeing of the planet and its people are included as a measure of success and where long-term ethical aspects will be a natural part of decision-making and steering. The future belongs to companies who see the possibilities that Agenda 2030 offers for new potential businesses founded on a more sound and long-term way of thinking. Success factors today and tomorrow will be to find the intersection between the three “p” perspectives – planet, profit and people, where we are all winners. It is remarkable how often it is actually possible if you are actively seeking the possibility.

Sustainability can easily become elitist, something for the well-informed and wealthy public. A key to success can be the opposite, to see the possibility among other broader customer segments and find the paths towards everyone’s good will.

Sustainability can easily become elitist, something for the well-informed and wealthy public. A key to success can be the opposite, to see the possibility among other broader customer segments and find the paths towards everyone’s good will. Our experience is that it is there. Why is it possible to sell a low-price concept like the Swedish grocery store Willy’s initiative “organic for all” (author’s translation) and why is the German low-price grocery chain Lidl trying to strengthen their sustainability profile? How can a burger chain like Swedish Max successfully lead the way towards a more sustainable way of thinking? It surely boils down to good intentions in these companies, but also a sound commercial thinking where they attract customers by speaking to their good intentions in the right way. We are all different and have different drivers and barriers to more sustainable consumption, but all people have a fundamental need to contribute and do good somehow. We just need to meet in different ways, depending on our situation and what we value.

Sustainability is not exclusive for those who believe or those who can afford it. Sustainability is a journey for everybody. It is the biggest change of our times, after the digital one. But do not wait too long to join the movement, because then it might be too late. Both for your company, the planet and humanity. The best innovations are yet to be discovered! But be sure to change your mindset and use the philanthrocapitalist map and your way forward will be easier to find.

 

Sara Watz, Managing Director & Co-founder, New Venture at Lynxeye

Johan Ekelin, Co-Founder Lynxeye