Environmentalists care more about business than most businessmen

“I met with the senior management team at Macro, which is the third largest retailer in the US, and I said Greenpeace is more committed to its business than they are. They were shocked and asked what I meant. I told them that fish stocks forms part of their product line and if they continue sourcing fish from unsustainable sources then the end result will be to kill their product line. We are not against palm oil or fishing, but against what is unsustainable.”

–      Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace

Environmentalists care more about business than most businessmen. Right now, the green movement is the driving factor behind almost every big social trend. Transparency, co-creation, open innovation, community-centred, crowdfunding, self-sufficiency, transition…. All these terms are more than just resonating well with the foundations of the green movement. They are imbedded in them.

Kumi Naidoo touches a sensitive spot by calling environmentalists more committed to business than most businessmen. CEO’s and management-boards are not used to think outside the micro-system that their company is. They are not comfortable with thinking about the entire chain they’re working in. Even in popular management-methods like LEAN-management, CEO’s are encouraged to think of production chains in terms of “things I can influence” and “things I cannot influence”.

Environmental systems thinkers try a different approach. They start from the ideal result and start re-imagining the process from there. Instead of trying to make a phone less damaging in the production process, they start over and go for a positive phone (check out the fairphone-project here!).

In a recent post, Jo Confino emphasised the power of systems thinking in sustainable development and innovation tout court. Whereas businesses are just getting interested in these methods, the green movement has been applying them for years already. Not only are enviromentalists more concerned with business, they are also way ahead on most businessmen in designing the new business.


About leyssensjan

Jan Leyssens is a designer and entrepreneur who strongly believes you can’t turn sustainability into a positive story if your main focus is on negative impact. When designing, he is always looking for the overlap between activism and entrepreneurship, technology and community. His main expertise lies in strategic business model development, Circular Economy, the makermovement, and social innovation. With a background in Industrial Design, Jan quickly shifted his focus towards business design and using the design process in strategic management. Jan is the father of two kids and founder & CEO of Regenerative Design, co-founder of Full Circle, ImpactBoost, and the Circular Design map, podcaster, storyteller, and changemaker.

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