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A call for ‘redesigning for resilience’

July 10, 2012

We are patently aware that we live on a finite planet, yet are currently consuming more than what one planet can sustainably handle with stressed natural resources causing volatility to our economies and societies. That said, over 90% of extracted resources fail to reach the customer.

Systems that perform at 10% efficiency are not well designed systems.  Our ‘take, make, waste’ approach to industry is no longer fit for purpose in a world reaching ecological limits.

Reductions of 75-90% are now needed within carbon-based energy use and many material flows.  This radical reduction is needed quickly while delivering the same (or improved) value.

It is time to start asking the challenging question ‘is less bad good enough?’

Making the business case for sustainability without fundamentally redesigning the business is like applying the brakes to a bus going in the wrong direction – a helpful first step, but not the answer.

A radical transformation of our business paradigm and industrial system is urgently needed.

We now need to ‘redesign for resilience’ through new approaches quite different from the current ‘take, make, waste’ paradigm.  Industrial ecology, cradle-to-cradle, closed-looping and biomimicry are at the heart of these new approaches to business; new ways to deliver improved performance not incremental changes but systemic changes; business processes and industrial systems that mimic nature and are restorative of the natural world – giving more that they take.

‘Reaching zero’ is certainly ambitious and an admirable goal. Ought business to be striving for more than just limiting its negative impact?  Can business be a force for good, restoring society and the environment, providing solutions that genuinely help rather than hurt?  I think we intuitively know it can, it just requires courage to break rank from the current business paradigm of benefiting some at the expense of others.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, says:

‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else.

That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits. We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’

Professor Michael Porter when presenting to leading business in New York, said:

‘The old models of corporate strategy and capitalism are dead.  We are shifting from a business paradigm of hurting to helping where the externalities become opportunities’ 

Times they are a changin’ .  How exciting it is to be part of this transformation.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 11, 2013 12:57 pm

    WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. %a

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