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Creating a Planet Centric Future

User-centred design has taken the world in the wrong direction. The shift to Planet Centric Design needs to happen now.

by Kathrin Dimai & Joana Casaca Lemos

Planet Centric Design is a methodology for designing products, services and ways of working that enhance real environmental, social and economic sustainability — we call this planetary value.

It’s called ‘planet-centric’ because it puts our shared planet and the communities that depend on it at the centre of the design process. This means decisions are taken with a view to creating wider planetary benefits beyond the individual user. Up until now, design has been centred around satisfying individual needs, with innovations to make our lives faster, more ‘frictionless’ and efficient. But to rise to the challenges the world is facing today, we have to reconfigure this model and start prioritising the wellbeing of communities and the planet in how we design and make things.

For the past ten years, Impossible have been pioneering Planet Centric Design methods and supporting businesses to create new sustainable products. We hear a lot about sustainability in public discourse, but we know that if we are to become serious about creating systemic change it has to be much more than a buzzword. Our experience has shown us that creating true planetary value means going beyond superficial initiatives, and embodying sustainability in every aspect of our businesses, from the values that shape us down to the smallest details of how we operate.

Our holistic approach is guided by the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet and business. Using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of our framework, we think carefully about how new thinking can bring us closer to achieving these goals — whether reducing inequality, improving planetary health or championing women and girls. Our unique methodology translates these goals into actionable targets, helping organisations bring sustainability to life in a real and tangible way.

Becoming planet-centric isn’t only good for the planet — it’s untapped opportunity for business too. Re-orientating organisations towards having greater planetary purpose can differentiate their offering from others, attract the best employees, expand business into new areas, help take advantage of digital opportunities, change culture, as well as contribute to a more sustainable world. This is the thing: it’s a win-win. The planet-centric revolution has to happen, otherwise everyone loses. What kind of legacy do you want?

A toolkit for planet centric innovation

Over the past decade, digital technology has transformed the way we communicate, work and live. Yet these extraordinary innovations have often come at a planetary price, whether increased extraction of resources, spiralling consumption and waste, or widespread negative impacts on our mental health.

At Impossible, we know that to create systemic change, we have to transform our digital planet to address these undesirable consequences, creating sustainable digital solutions that put communities and the planet first.

That’s why we have designed a toolkit to help organisations create value through bridging this gap between innovation and sustainability.

Our toolkit contains a set of collaborative methods for supporting small, large or new businesses to become more planet-centric.

First, our methods show how to build a sustainability vision that aligns with the organisation’s existing mission and values.

Then it provides guidance on how to make it real through the development of new ventures, products and services.

But sustainability isn’t only about what you make - it’s also about how you work. Our tools are also designed to support widespread cultural change within organisations, fostering more collaborative and circular ways of working, and supporting healthier internal and external relationships.

Our toolkit will help organisations answer the following questions:

  • What does purpose mean to our organisation?
  • What are our short and long-term goals for creating new planetary value?
  • What is our role in building a better future for people and the planet?
  • How can we develop competitive planet-centric products and services?
  • How can we harness communities to help us achieve our planetary goals quicker?
  • How can we create cultural change that truly meets our strategic agenda?

Engaging with these questions will allow organisations to create new mindsets and develop resilient business concepts for a sustainable future.

What’s in the toolkit?

The methods in this toolkit are based around three strategic approaches to innovation:

  • Systemic: A systems view of the organisation allows to zoom out from individual products and users to assess the wider networks and cycles in which they participate. Assessing products from a broader, more circular perspective allows you to explore opportunities to create positive impacts at each stage of their life cycle — from design to production, distribution, disposal and reuse.
  • Social: This approach identifies ways for the organisation to act as an enabler of sustainable lifestyles and generate behaviour change at scale. This could be within the organisation itself, or more broadly in the community through their interaction with the products and services created.
  • Long-term: This allows to understand, envision and take responsibility for the long-term impact of the business on the world. This will allow to apply resilience thinking, future-proofing the business by challenging assumptions and preparing for future environments.
One of the worlds biggest challenges is tendency to look inward, not outward to not expand our view. We get stuck in the small things, become disconnected from reality and miss the opportunities that are out there. Zooming in and out helps us to do all of that elevates what we can achieve individually and together.
A wise person once said that our problems are probably closer to home than we think. Inside and outside of ourselves, to our teams or our networks. No great change happens comes from the same people or space in which it was created. Plus there’s no point modernising on the outside if we’re still working and behaving in an old way on the inside.
Thinking long-term goes against all our instincts and the way we measure ourselves, but not only is it the best way to leave a true legacy, it’s also a great test if an idea can stand the test of time or would have long-term side effects. Going backwards 100 years in the opposite direction can help us in a different way — What were the core human needs? What was our reason for being? How can we bring the humanness back? How can we start from there, rather than the legacy of the last 70 years.

How does it work?

Our toolkit contains methods that we mix, match and adapt for each project.

Whether trying to identify the organisation’s sustainability vision, developing a new product or assessing the sustainability of an existing value chain, we select different methods based on the following activities and work in planet-centric workshops or sprints:

Assess: Assessing the structure of the business or life-cycle of existing products, setting design priorities for each dimension of sustainability

Align: Aligning the whole business & people with planetary thinking & the UN Sustainable Development Goals, setting your own micro SDGs as actionable and realistic targets

Envision: Developing a proposition that revitalises or goes beyond your core business to offer wider planetary benefits

Design: Creating planet-centric products, services and cultural change

Test: Applying long-term resilience thinking to initiatives — prototyping, testing and iterating in loops from the beginning

Measure: Building a sustainability roadmap with actions and when they must be implemented, measuring progress throughout

Who is the toolkit for?

Everyone! For small or large enterprises, or those looking to build a new venture, Planet-Centric Design can help create value for business through making a positive impact on the world.

The world is changing — and businesses need to adapt fast. Embedding sustainability in the business core is increasingly becoming a condition of survival. New mindsets and long-term thinking are required to meet the demands of this new landscape.

So whether trying to redefine a business mission and purpose to more sustainable ends, or to differentiate the offering from competitors, our methodology will show how becoming planet-centric is not only good for our world, but can be a business asset and strategy too.

For complex organisations struggling with change or what your future looks like, our tools can help transform in a sustainable way driving growth through creating new products, services and operations or improving existing ones with planet-centric features:

  • Translate the planetary vision into practical strategy and product solutions that differentiate you from competitors
  • Analyse the product lifecycle to identify new and future opportunities
  • Research user behaviour and design tools that enable people to make responsible choices
  • Create cultural change within the organisation by shifting from linear to circular perspective and operations
  • Develop green software and tech infrastructure to reduce impact on the planet

To build a new venture, our tools can help identify unique new business opportunities with planetary purpose:

  • Map the industry ecosystem to identify possible leverage points
  • Envision how the business or industry can create planetary value and make a plan to achieve it
  • Set actionable micro-goals aligned with the UN SDGs, to embed sustainability in the core business proposition
  • Design a business ecosystem geared towards a bigger impact
  • Create a competitive and unique planet-centric business offering

To rethink how to do business for good and move sustainability beyond just a measuring and reporting function, our tools can help assess and improve impact, transforming into a planet-centric business that stands out among competitors and becomes a pioneer:

  • Define the sustainability vision and a plan to achieve it
  • Find opportunities for sustainability and set short-term goals
  • Create value through developing planet-centric offerings
  • Future-proof the business and its impact on the planet
  • Harness communities and forge partnerships to achieve planetary goals quicker, together

Visit our website to access the Planet Centric Design Toolkit.



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We are a team of designers, engineers, consultants and communicators who have a passion for preserving our world. These are our stories.