For those that are prepared to see and to open their minds to listen; it is clear we live in a future of energy, physical resource constraints and sinks in which to dispose of the by-products of our efforts to create ‘value’ which we can sell at a profit to potential customers.
For over a generation now we have been told by environmentalists and consultants that ‘greening’ our businesses would make them more ‘sustainable’ ~ that reducing our environmental impact and reducing waste and recycling it would make us good people to do business with, good corporate citizens and by turn profitable and growing.
Whilst environmental, energy and resource ‘stewardship’ is clearly a good thing it is not the whole story and the way in which the story is told is misleading at best. The ‘Circular Economy’ is similarly said by many to be the additional tool in the toolbox of the corporate strategist that will save the day.
The first generation of environmental and sustainability consultants acknowledge that resources and sinks are constrained, with the inevitable results we are seeing all around us. However, they will not make the necessary intellectual leap to enlightenment; probably and understandably because they recognise that their potential clients and their customers do not want to ‘hear the truth’ ~ as Jack Nicholson said in a ‘Few Good Men’.
Unfortunately, some, because of their background in the environmental sciences, will not or cannot see the truth themselves, and that simple truth is that there is no such thing as a ‘green’ business.
Successful businesses add value, that is the only way they attract customers, and in an environment where energy, physical resources and sinks are not constrained that value can be Essential Value or non-essential value ~ anything that will attract sufficient customers to make a profit. This is market capitalism ~ a primeval force that has brought mankind to where it is to today, to the edge of the abyss, and the only force that can stop us falling into it.
In his 1982 book ‘Out of the Crisis, W Edwards Deming, the recognised father of Quality Management said in his Preface.
“Failure of Management to plan for the future and to foresee problems has brought about waste of manpower, of materials and of machine time, all of which raise the manufacturer’s cost and the price the consumer must pay. The consumer is not always willing to subsidize this waste….”
W Edwards Deming was writing before sustainability concerns came to the fore but they can be read into this statement none the less, and I hope he will forgive my attempt to do so.
‘Failure of Management to plan for the future and to foresee problems’ is the central issue here ~ societal and corporate management has failed to recognise that resources and sinks are becoming increasingly constrained and that waste of manpower, of materials and of machine time include increasingly unacceptable and unsupportable environmental, social and economic costs ~ leading ‘in the limit’ to the consumer, (society and the Earth) not being willing (or able) to subsidize this waste”
IN THE LIMIT
‘In the Limit’ is the crucial phrase here to Future Advantage, survival and growth; and to the truth that there are no Green businesses but only those that maximize the ‘Essential Value’ they create whilst minimizing their ‘Resource Intensity’ in so doing.
In the Limit, Management will also foresee that consumers will also only be willing or able to pay for Essential Value and that their primary function is to be able to define concisely, in terms of the categories below, what that Essential Value is.
Their only other function is to work on the work, with the workers and manage value, rather than cost, John Seddon, Freedom from Command and Control, 2003, to maximize its creation and to deliver it at minimum Resource Intensity.
Recognizing that ‘in the limit’ environmental and social elements of Resource Intensity will predominate.
‘Essential Value’ is that needed to ensure a satisfactory Quality of Life for all citizens and in a wider sense, the stakeholders of a society”. This is the only way Future Advantage can be gained by a business, and maintained to maximize the opportunity of an enterprise to survive and grow.
If management can define the Essential Value they create within the parameters of these categories then this possible. The more categories they can include within that definition the higher the probability of survival and growth.
- Satisfy emotional and spiritual need rather than gratuitous wants.
- Satisfy essential needs in the lower orders of Maslow’s Pyramid
- Employ people rather than energy where humanely possible.
- Create or use renewable energy and other resources.
- Minimise water use or create the technologies that do.
- Create and deploy climate stabilising and mitigation technologies.
- Virtualise and minimise the Resource Intensity of Mobility
- Be increasingly local.
- Provide a service rather than a product.
- Practice life-cycle stewardship of their resources.