My one trend for 2018.
And you probably never heard of it.
When we have too many solutions, it becomes a problem.
It’s proven that excess paralyses us, and it probably contributes for our modern diseases as anxiety and lack of attention. Sustainability is my new disease. It makes me anxious because it can be treated as everything. In fact, based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it could solve all problems of the world. Or like professor David Harvey says:
“Nobody is in favor of un-sustainability. So sustainability tends to mean almost anything you wanted to mean”.
Other view-point is if we actually need a sustainable world. Professor Hugh McLachlan has the idea that life shouldn’t be sustainable. Our universe is not sustainable, we are probably disappearing in a timeframe difficult to imagine. Our life is not sustainable, we just hope to live a long healthy life. Our economy is not sustainable, its balance is based on imbalance.
The conversation is getting blurred and that paralyses us. Even though the definition of sustainability is quite the opposite: “remains diverse and productive indefinitely”.
Everyone is talking about it, but not sure how to act on it.
It’s great to see the recent Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs, chairman of BlackRock, one of the most influential asset management company, addressing the sustainability topic so prominent, he wrote:
“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society (…) without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.”
However, research from Delloite says that nearly every CEO wants to use their business to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but only 17% say they’re actually doing it.
Sustainability has become vulgarized, and need more reflection.
My way to reflect is to think of sustainability as a system. We start with the notion of PROVENANCE, or where things come from. It can gives us a context and an evidence of origin, author and process. That’s all build up to create value, and I’m glad that this isn’t new as there are so many initiatives for that, such as certifications (Fair Trade, B Corp), technologies (Provenance) and many brands telling their provenance stories.
Then we move to USAGE, or how long we extend the life of a product. The opposite of that could be represented by the Fast Fashion culture. We have been impacted by many documentaries and cultural movements pressing big companies to act. An important consequence is that Inditex, the giant behind Zara and a symbol of fast fashion, has sustainability as a core topic on their annual report.
What comes after is what I think we need to reflect most, and where the new innovation will be coming from.
And here I want to use the idea of Lorne Mitchell of TELOSONANCE, or caring about where something will end up. I’m not referring to 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) or to the Circular Economy. But a step before, figuring out the process and technology to make telosonance happen.
If we are consuming too many textiles, maybe the solution might not be to stop consuming or asking people to drop-off unwanted clothes. We have created a new problem that requires a new solution. For example, a fabric with the high performance of synthetics but can biodegrade, become a compost or even food. Or a textile made of algae that change colors as much you use, so it renews and extends the life of a product, presented by Rasa Weber at TEDxHamburg:
“How long do we wear a t-shirt, not longer than 3 years. So why should our colors stay the same? After all, people change, so should textiles”
Other example is the emissions of carbon dioxide. It’s clearly a problem really complex to solve. The way it’s approached is to decrease emissions, add fees or offset carbon. But might exist different solutions like the idea of Klaus Lackner of treating it as a regular waste, which have to be disposed of. He says this way people can stop arguing about wether it’s a problem and finally start doing something.
Reflecting about sustainability help us to reflect about TELOSONANCE, and start doing something.
To prosper overtime, businesses need to embrace sustainability and understand what that means for them. There’s a huge need to create innovative solutions and TELOSONANCE is the area for me that will dictates a long-lasting value. If sustainability is also causing you problems, breaking down into pieces might be a good way to find solutions.