by Catherine Greener, member of Undercurrent and founder of Greener Solutions
ReInventing Everything is a pragmatic system of solutions for creating better organizations, better products, and better communities. It’s the disruption we need.
The COVID-19 crisis is a shared experience that has demonstrated the interconnectedness of our species, economic systems, supply chains and technology. This solidarity will amplify our ability to address the far greater crisis of unsustainability. We need to ReInvent Everything.
What is sustainability? When a concept is complex, it is often easier to define it from its inverse: what it is not. If you struggle to define sustainability (and almost everyone does) then define unsustainability. That’s easier: we’re in it. The human species has never existed, let alone thrived on a planet that has the temperatures and climate of today. We are facing ecological system collapses due to human impact slipstreams. By viewing the unsustainable in the current world, flaws, unintended consequences, inequities, waste and hidden costs become very clear. Seeing this enables us to get clarity on what must be done.
Understand the Unsustainable.
What worked in the past isn’t helping the future; and we mean tomorrow. The rear-view mirror can’t tell us where we’re going. We cling to tools that worked well yesterday, but they’re irrelevant. We told ourselves that sustainability is for the future, but we’re out of time. It’s time to reinvent everything. Identify what is currently unsustainable in your organization. It takes a different set of lenses to see this, but once you have learned to see, creating a plan to build a more resilient company becomes much easier. A deep and honest look at the overall impact can be brutal, but on a little planet, there is no “away.” Your waste is someone else’s mess. Understanding what is unsustainable in your operations and putting a financial number on it will make you a better business with less risk.
Create a Posivision.
After understanding the unsustainable, pivot and create a shared vision of a positive future, a Posivision. This would be a future of full and right employment. Waste streams will no longer clog our waterways or oceans and fill our fish and fauna (and ourselves) with debris, but become the feedstocks of innovation. Clean, distributed, energy will provide security and skies free of toxic pollution. Our transportation system will be electrified, delivering smart mobility designed around people not cars. Agriculture will store carbon while providing nutrients; grasslands return to habitats; ecosystems regain their beauty and integrity. As you allow that vision to come to you, hold it close.
Make a Plan. Get S&*t Done.
Decades of work in the field of sustainability have celebrated many companies implementing programs that are best called the “Streetlight Effect”. A policeman finds a drunk looking for his lost keys under the streetlight. The officer queries the man on where he lost his keys, to be told he lost them across the street, down the alley. The cop asks the obvious question, to be told “it’s easier to look where the light is.” Many well-intentioned sustainability programs cut some waste, offer some recycled content, sponsor energy efficiency programs, but never ask about the biggest impact the company has – they look where the light is.
Implementing a good sustainability plan should feel like trying to jump on a moving train. It’s not easy, the more you know, the more things need to change and it seems like everything keeps changing and is moving really quickly. The plan to close the gap between today’s reality and the shared Posivision starts with deep resource efficiency. Eliminating the waste buys time and frees up operating expenses. Companies that are successfully ReInventing Everything are designing in resilience by redeploying waste streams, closing loops by owning the end-of-life, by ceasing reliance on non-renewable energy and materials, designing for recyclability, assisting their supply chain with regenerative agriculture practices, simplifying logistics, investing in community infrastructure and restoring biodiversity.
Join my UndercurrentLIVE webinar on May 5th to learn what the process entails and how to jumpstart your imagination- register HERE
Sustainability is an imperfect journey, but Imperfections are at the heart of great stories. Sharing your Posivision with your employees and your customers helps them know where you are going. Sharing the progress addressing your unsustainable aspects shares your authentic path on the journey, inspires innovation and demonstrates your leadership. Your efforts will drive your story – not the other way around.
Who’s doing it?
ReInvention is happening all around us to create a Finer Future. Here are a just a few:
- Qmilk is a patented process that makes textile fibers from renewable raw materials and sour waste milk.
- Vesslworks is a disruptive solution to single-use disposables that is the marriage of stainless steel and tracking technology.
- EarthSuds provides shampoo, conditioner and body wash in single use water soluble cubes, arguing that “the best way to solve our plastic waste issue is to not produce plastic in the first place.” Their Posivision is creating zero (solid) waste body products
- Gambin paints are made from acid mining drainage in the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The company reclaims the iron and other mineral discharges and creates pigments. They are restoring riparian ecosystems and creating value from waste streams.
Humans are often limited by the belief that the current system is all that’s possible. Once a different vision is presented, the impossible becomes possible. We can’t leave solutions to policy makers and officials. It’s up to us.
Go big. Go impossible. ReInvent Everything.April 29, 2020