People. Planet. Profit. Pleasure.

hyloh.
4 min readMay 12, 2020
Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

Since the term “sustainable development” was used by the World Commission on Environment and Development at the United Nations in 1987 (The Brundtland Report), sustainability is widely considered to comprise three aspects:

People — social equality

Planet — environmental protection

Profit — economic growth

Our collective efforts to be more sustainable have not (yet?) been effective in minimising climate change.¹ Nor have they reduced inequality. Are we missing something? Should the People-Planet-Profit trifecta be challenged? Prosperity² has been suggested as a replacement for ‘profit’, as well as a fourth concept proposed by academics and experts: Purpose³, or by humanitarians: Peace and Partnerships⁴. As creatives, we decided to get more alliteratively poetic and add one more P word to the definition of sustainability: Pleasure — satisfaction, delight or joy.

Why Pleasure?

Firstly because sustainability is often anticipated as some kind of constraint, a request to be better with less — without additional time, resources or budget. Being more sustainable does not have to mean a decline in profits, in fact there are numerous examples of the contrary. As well as the additional benefits of gains in social equality and environmental protection, in the collective financial health of the planet, by accounting for more than simply profit & loss (the original bottom-line), there will be gains in other economic factors such as employment creation, tax contributions and innovation for example — truly transforming capitalism.⁵ Incidentally, isn’t design all about rising above constraints and enjoying the thrill of colouring outside the lines? That is what sustainability should be about: one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges, aka a ‘blast’ for all creative minds.

Secondly, it is our love of ‘stuff’, or should we say our love for ‘too much stuff, that has brought us here. However, the accumulation of stuff could be greatly reduced by better appreciation for, and better quality of, the things we purchase, possess and idolize. The easiest way to avoid waste is by not generating it in the first place. When people truly love their things, draw pleasure from them — and when these things are well made — people are more likely to hold on to them for longer, and need fewer of them. They will be more inclined to reuse, repair, refurbish, and pass down if necessary. Designers are to pursue an — elusive — quest for aesthetic sustainability. Materials, making and quality are no doubt paramount ingredients to a successful, pleasurable and sustainable recipe for creating beautiful durable stuff. This is why we value antiques and vintage clothing over flat-pack furniture and fast fashion.

Finally, in a consumer world so eager for ‘experience’, pleasure should come from doing the right thing. Institutions and Brands committed to investing in sustainability attract and retain citizens, employees and customers because it makes them feel good, hopeful and trustful. Isn’t the ultimate enjoyable experience the one driving us out of our egomaniacal trips toward care for the fate of others and the world? (Man… does the world need a shrink session, or what!). Human motivation, at the most basic level, is about pleasure rather than pain. We need to feel good about what we’re doing, both the why and the how.

These past few years, we, at Hyloh, have definitely embarked on a sustainability adventure — trying to make a positive impact through the application of materials, processes, and circular design thinking. We are undoubtedly taking great pleasure in the shared journey: new discoveries, fascinating encounters, making connections and collecting amazing stories. Remember: People. Planet. Profit. AND Pleasure.

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¹ Our current temperature is 1.0ºC above pre-industrial levels. If global warming continues at the current rate we will reach 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052. This will have additional long-term consequences including rising sea-levels, extreme weather events, impacts on food security, and further biodiversity loss. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2018). Global Warming of 1.5 ºC. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

² Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2015). OECD Forum 2015: Investing in the Future: People, Planet, Prosperity. https://www.oecd.org/forum/about/oecd-forum-2015-issues.htm

³ Purpose can be true for both businesses and the individual. It is the why; if profit is the what; people and planet the how. Purpose has links to organisational culture, spiritual growth, deeper understanding and happiness. Ayman Sawaf & Rowan Gabrielle. (2014). Sacred Commerce: A Blueprint for a New Humanity.

⁴ United Nations Foundation. (2019). The Sustainable Development Goals In 2019: People, Planet, Prosperity In Focus. https://unfoundation.org/blog/post/the-sustainable-development-goals-in-2019-people-planet-prosperity-in-focus/

⁵ John Elkington. (June 25, 2018). “25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase ‘Triple Bottom Line.’ Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It.” Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it

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hyloh.

Hyloh is a global consultancy making a positive impact through the application of materials, processes, and circular design thinking.