Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake

Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Sustainable innovations often arise from combining and understanding existing technologies.

Slowly but surely, sustainable technologies are challenging business and transforming our outdated industrial model which is no longer fit for purpose. As examples from the agri-food, chemicals and metals sectors have shown, removing barriers to the sharing of existing technologies is just as important as coming up with new and better tools. So how does this work in practice?

When working with sustainable technologies, companies must decide whether to collaborate or go it alone. This decision should be based on an assessment of a company’s in-house competencies, technical readiness and capacity.

BeniSweif is a small engineering company in Egypt that produces coloured pigments for the metals industry. With the support of the Egyptian National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC), the company invented a new yellow iron oxide-derived pigment in a process that allowed them to recover hydrochloric acid with a concentration of 25%, which can be used again.

The new product sells for almost five times the production cost. This development has created a new business model, with clear financial and environmental benefits.

Similarly, Jiangsu Redbud Textile Technology entered into a technology transfer agreement with the governments of Benin, Mali and others to promote jute fibre-green technology. The Chinese company developed and tested new varieties of jute, which are 100% recyclable and well adapted to wastelands, saline ground, low-lying wetlands and drought conditions. Now a collaborative platform, SS-GATE, is introducing this technology into Africa. The product was created to fit environmental conditions, and the institution created a collaborative space for innovation.

Another example is the series of XPRIZE awards, which help teams from across the world to compete for funding by solving a specific social, technical or environmental challenge. The $2m Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE promises to improve our understanding of how CO2 emissions are affecting ocean acidification, encouraging teams to design sensors that can help us begin the process of healing our oceans. Similarly, a Carbon XPRIZE has been proposed with the goal to develop radical new technologies and products that make capturing CO2 from power plants a source of profit rather than a liability. This is typical of open innovation for sustainability.

These are the kinds of cases being studied in a European Commission-funded research programme on eco-innovation. The programme is looking at methods for the identification, development, transfer and adaptation of technologies to further sustainable development. The aim is to develop local capacity and resources for eco-innovation in developing and emerging economies, especially through supporting intermediaries such as the National Cleaner Production Centres.

The Unep (United Nations Environment Programme) report on the business case for eco-innovation is an example of the results of the programme. Eco-innovation – as distinct from eco-efficiency – has emerged from the realisation that without innovation we are unlikely to solve many of our global social and environmental challenges, from poverty to climate change.

According to the Philips Meaningful Innovation Index, “There is an appetite for future innovations to go beyond creating technology for technology’s sake, instead aiming to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.” Hence technology is an enabler for eco-innovation, not only in terms of physical equipment and tools but also in the knowledge, techniques and skills that surround its deployment and use.

Technology can enable different aspects of the eco-innovation process, as well as being a marketable product or outcome of eco-innovation itself.

Eco-innovators push the boundaries of their companies. By modifying products, processes and organisational structures, eco-innovation improves sustainability performance and competitiveness.

Eco-innovation is the next evolution beyond eco-efficiency. Whereas eco-efficiency tends to be focused on productivity and the impact of single technologies or individual steps in the business process, eco-innovation looks to strategically transform the whole business model. When it comes to reinventing capitalism, eco-innovation is one of the next waves business will want to surf if it is to survive and thrive.

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2014) Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake. The Guardian, 4 December 2014.

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Why metals should be recycled, not mined

Why metals should be recycled, not mined

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Extractive companies need to recast themselves as resource stewards and embrace the circular economy by investing in recycling, not mining.

There is no denying that the sustainability impacts of the extractive sector are serious – sometimes even tragic and catastrophic. But they are not without solutions. Technology, which is the source of so much destruction in the mining and metals industry, can also be its saviour.

The most obvious opportunity for the sector is to embrace the circular economy. Many metals can be recycled – and in some cases, actual recycling rates are already high. For example, 67% of scrap steel, more than 60% of aluminium and 35% of copper (45-50% in the EU) is already recycled. Apart from resource savings, there is often also a net energy benefit. Energy accounts for 30% of primary aluminium production costs, but recycling of aluminium scrap uses only 5% of the energy of primary production.

Recyclability of metals is as important as recycling rates. We need more companies that grow the markets for recycled materials, like Novelis, which announced the commercial availability of the industry’s first independently certified, high-recycled content aluminium (90% minimum) designed specifically for the beverage can market.

The opportunity to increase recycling rates is significant. Today, less than one third of 60 metals analysed have an end-of-life recycling rate above 50% and 34 elements are below 1%. The irony is that recycling is often far more efficient than mining. For example, a post-consumer automotive catalyst has a concentration of platinum group metals (like platinum, palladium and rhodium) more than 100 times higher than in natural ores. Already, special refining plants are achieving recovery rates of more than 90% from this ‘waste’.

This sustainability business case logic has not gone unnoticed. Given the importance of rare earth metals in electronics and renewable technologies, Japan has set aside ¥42bn (£231m) for the development of rare earth recycling, while Veolia Environmental Services says it plans to extract precious metals such as palladium from road dust in London.

Some recycling technologies are hi-tech. For example, the Saturn project in Germany uses sensor-based technologies for sorting and recovery of nonferrous metals. Similarly, Twincletoes is a technology collaboration between the UK, Italy and France that recovers steel fibres from end-of-life tyres and uses them as a reinforcing agent in concrete.

By contrast, E-Parisaraa, which is India’s first government authorised electronic waste recycler, is much more low-tech, using manual dismantling and segregation by hand before shredding and density separation occur. This is a good reminder that the best available sustainable technology is not always the most applicable, especially in developing countries.

Recycling is not the only way for technology to reduce the impact of metals. If we look at energy consumption, each phase of the steel-making process presents opportunities. For example, direct energy use can be reduced by 50% in the manufacture of coke and sinter through plant heat recovery, and the use of waste fuel and coal moisture control. In the rolling process, hot charging, recuperative burners and controlled oxygen levels can reduce the energy by 88% and electricity consumption by 5%.

Other technologies, like using pulverised coal injection, top pressure recovery turbines and blast furnace control systems, can reduce direct energy use by 10% and electricity by 35%. In Electric Arc Furnace steelmaking, improved process control, oxy fuel burners and scrap preheating can cut electricity consumption by 76%. In fact, applying these kinds of energy saving technologies could result in energy efficiency improvements in the steel sector of between 0.7% and 1.4% every year from 2010 to 2030.

Water is another critical issue, but with significant opportunities. For example, BHP-Billiton’s Olympic Dam in South Australia achieved industrial water efficiency improvements of 15%, from 1.27 kilolitres to 1.07 kilolitres per tonne of material milled. That may not sound like a lot, but when scaled across the operations of the world’s fourth largest copper and gold source and the largest uranium source, it makes a huge difference.

Sometimes the technologies are fairly simple. In the metal finishing sector, improving rinsing efficiency represents the greatest water reduction option. For example, C & R Hard Chrome & Electrolysis Nickel Service switched its single-rinse tanks to a system of multiple counter-flow rinse tanks, and installed restrictive flow nozzles on water inlets. As a result, the process line has reduced water consumption by 87%.

We can see, therefore, that technology can help to rescue the high-impact extractives sector from its siege by the forces of sustainability. However, it requires some critical shifts. Extractives companies need to recast themselves as resource stewardship companies – experts at circular production and post-consumer ‘mining’. And customers and governments need to give up their compulsive throw-away habits and embrace the take-back economy.

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2014) Why metals should be recycled, not mined. The Guardian, 5 November 2014.

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Tackling the food waste challenge with technology

Tackling the food waste challenge with technology

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Innovation in packaging and refrigeration can reduce waste – as can changes in behaviour.

The challenges of the 21st century will stretch our collective capacity for innovation like never before.

Take food security. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is first to find 175-220m hectares of additional cropland by 2030; second, to increase total food production by about 70% by 2050, mostly through improving crop yields; and third, to achieve all this without damaging the land, poisoning ourselves or impairing the health of our finite and already fragile ecosystems.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that meeting this challenge will require investment in developing countries’ agriculture of $9.2tn (£5.4tn) over the next 44 years – about $210bn (£123bn) a year (PDF) – from both private and public sources. Just under half of this amount will need to go into primary agriculture, and the rest into food processing, transportation, storage and other downstream activities. A priority will be finding ways to close the gaps between crop yields in developed and developing countries, which are around 40%, 75%, and 30-200% less in developing countries for wheat, rice and maize, respectively (PDF) – all while using fewer resources and less harmful substances.

This challenge is hard enough, but we also have to tackle the problem of 1.3bn tonnes of food wasted every year (PDF) – roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption. Fortunately, this is an area where technology can play a strong role, and where the economic, human and environmental benefits are compelling. An assessment of resource productivity opportunities between now and 2030 suggests that reducing food waste could return $252bn (£148bn) in savings, the third largest of all resource efficiency opportunities identified by a McKinsey study.

Reducing food waste through improved packaging

Although food waste is highest in Europe and North America (PDF), it is also a problem in developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa and south and south-east Asia.

According to the FAO, the total value of lost food is $4bn per year in Africa and $4.5bn a year in India, with up to 50% of fruit and vegetables ending up as waste. In developing countries including China and Vietnam, most food is lost through poor handling, storage and spoilage in distribution. It is estimated that 45% of rice in China and 80% in Vietnam (PDF) never make it to market for these reasons.

One of the most effective ways to reduce food waste is to improve packaging, for example by using Modified Atmosphere Packaging (Map) – a technology that substitutes the atmosphere inside a package with a protective gas mix, typically a combination of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen – to extend freshness.

This is a well-proven solution that calls for technology transfer rather than invention, which has been the approach of the Sustainable Product Innovation Project in Vietnam. Through the project, Map has been applied to over 1,000 small-scale farmers, resulting in reductions in post-harvest food waste from 30-40% to 15-20%.

Another simple packaging solution being promoted in developing countries is the International Rice Research Institute Super Bag. When properly sealed, the bag cuts oxygen levels from 21% to 5%, reducing live insects to fewer than one insect per kg of grain without using insecticides – often within 10 days of sealing. This extends the germination life of seeds from 6 to 12 months and controls insect grain pests (without using chemicals).

Improved storage and transportation

Besides improved packaging, a second way to reduce food loss and waste is through improved storage and transportation. A new report on creating a sustainable “cold chain” in the developing world estimates that about 25-50% of food wastage (PDF) could be eliminated with better, more climate friendly refrigeration. For example, Unilever has committed to using hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants, which saved 40,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2013.

Waste into energy

Finally, even when food waste cannot be eliminated, its impacts can still be reduced, or even converted into benefits. For instance, animal by-products from slaughterhouses that are usually incinerated or disposed of in landfills can be treated by a new technology called the APRE process (PDF), which can treat 11 tonnes of dead animals every day, producing 4,000 metres cubed of bio-gas (60% of which is methane) and 44 tonnes of liquid fertiliser. The heat generated can be turned into electricity to be used in production or sold on.

As we can see, many technological solutions to agri-food waste already exist and only need to be more effectively shared and affordably adapted to local contexts. However, as always, technology is only part of the answer – something that Paris retailer Intermarché creatively, humorously and profitably demonstrates with its recent Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign, which discounts and celebrates fresh food that does not comply with EU size and colour restrictions and would otherwise have been dumped.

The sustainability revolution is as much about changing perceptions, attitudes and behaviours – the software – as about changing the technology.

 

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Visser, W. (2014) How to use technology to make our planet more sustainable, not less. The Guardian, 29 July 2014.

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How to use technology to make our planet more sustainable, not less

How to use technology to make our planet more sustainable, not less

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Investment is booming in clean and green technologies. But can they be implemented quickly enough to meet current challenges?

The controversial demographer Paul Ehrlich distilled the essence of his somewhat apocalyptic 1968 book, The population bomb, into a simple equation: impact (I) = population (P) x affluence (A) x technology (T). Twenty years later, Ray Anderson, the sustainability pioneer and then-CEO of Interface, asked the question: what if it were possible to move T to the denominator, so that technology reduces, rather than increases, impact on the environment and society?

Anderson’s challenge is the Apollo mission of the 21st century – a near impossible project that, if achieved, will inspire generations to come. The only difference is that achieving a sustainable technology revolution – let’s call it Mission SusTech – is playing for much higher stakes than JF Kennedy’s space race. Failure is an option and it’s called “overshoot and collapse”.

The good news is that Mission SusTech is well underway. This article is the first in a series that will spotlight trends, breakthroughs, cases and lessons on the development and transfer of sustainable technologies around the world. But be warned: it won’t focus on the latest touted miracle technologies but on the challenges of sharing, implementing and bringing to scale existing sustainable technologies.

What are the trends?

Not only is technological innovation booming, but it is rapidly shifting towards sustainable solutions. For example, many of the World Economic Forum’s top 10 most promising technologies have a clear environmental and social focus, such as energy-efficient water purification, enhanced nutrition to drive health at the molecular level, carbon dioxide (CO2) conversion, precise drug delivery through nanoscale engineering, organic electronics and photovoltaics.

The 2012 Global Green R&D Report found that private investments in clean technology and green economic and commercial solutions reached $3.6tn for the period 2007-2012. This included more than $2tn in renewable energy, $700bn in green construction, $241bn in green R&D, $238bn in the smart grid and $231bn in energy efficiency.

For specific clean energy technologies – including wind, solar and biofuels – the market size was estimated at $248bn in 2013 and is projected to grow to $398bn by 2023, according to the 2014 Clean Energy Trends report. Biofuels remain the largest market ($98bn), followed by solar ($91bn) and wind ($58bn). In what Clean Edge hails as a tipping point, in 2013 the world installed more new solar photovoltaic generating capacity (36.5 gigawatts) than wind power (35.5 GW).

This rapid growth is being fuelled by significant investment in research and development and breakthroughs in sustainable technologies, as indicated by a spike in patent applications.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), more patents have been filed in the last five years than in the previous 30 across key climate change mitigation technologies, or CCMTs (biofuels, solar thermal, solar photovoltaics and wind energy). While the average global rate of patent filing grew by 6% between 2006 and 2011, these CCMTs have experienced a combined growth rate of 24% over the same period.

Contrary to what some may think, emerging markets cannot automatically be assumed to lag on sustainable technological innovation. China and the Republic of Korea have filed the most patents in recent years across all four CCMT technology areas, while in solar PV, the top 20 technology owners are based in Asia.

What does the future hold?

The sustainable technology innovation wave is only just building. Research by McKinsey shows that improvements in resource productivity in energy, land, water and materials – based on better deployment of current innovative technologies – could meet up to 30% of total 2030 demand, with 70% to 85% of these opportunities occurring in developing countries. Capturing the total resource productivity opportunity could save $2.9tn in 2030.

We are living through the birth of what David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, calls “another renaissance” in the industrial revolution: “Human ingenuity is the answer”, says King.

“We created the science and engineering technological revolution on which all our wellbeing is based. That same keen intelligence can point to the solutions to the hangover challenges and this requires nothing less than another renaissance.”

 

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Visser, W. (2014) How to use technology to make our planet more sustainable, not less. The Guardian, 16 July 2014.

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Finding your inner sustainability superhero

Finding your inner sustainability superhero

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Unlocking Change series for The Guardian.

For change to be sustained and transformational we need to tap into the powers of different types of sustainability superheroes.

Have you ever wondered why do we do it? The sustainability hokey cokey, I mean. Most of us – whether we are sustainability professionals, academics, consultants, students, activists or wannabes – could have pursued different career paths. For my sins, having studied marketing, I could have become a spin-doctor or an ad-man. So what makes us choose sustainability instead? What makes us tattoo the S-word to our foreheads (metaphorically speaking, I hope)?

My research shows that there are deep psychological – even existential – reasons why we ‘do’ sustainability. And you may be surprised to know that it is not because we want to save the world, or because we care about people, or even because we want to ‘make a difference’. At least, not directly. The real reason is because it gives us personal satisfaction – not of the sugar-rush or warm-cuddly variety, but of the purpose-inspired, life satisfaction kind.

If we dig a bit deeper, we find that six motivational forces drive our work in sustainability. First, it allows us to feel that our work is aligned to our personal values, whether these are faith-based or humanistic. Second, we find the work stimulating. Sustainability a bit like Sudoku for hippies – it is complex, dynamic and challenging, like an ultimate earth-puzzle that needs solving. Most sustainability enthusiasts share these two drivers.

The other four drivers tend to be distributed across the sustainability tribe. Some find meaning in giving specialist input, while others prefer empowering people. Some are motivated to come up with effective strategies, while others feel most satisfied if they are making a contribution to society. These drivers translate into a set of sustainability leader archetypes – think of them as our very own Fantastic Four, namely: Experts, Facilitators, Catalysts and Activists. Each represents a different kind of sustainability change agent.

Sustainability Experts tend to be focused on the details of a particular issue, with a deep knowledge and understanding, often of a technical or scientific nature. They like working on projects, designing systems and being consulted for their expertise. Their satisfaction comes from continuous learning and self-development. They are most frustrated by the failure of others to be persuaded by the compelling evidence, or to implement systems as they were designed.

Sustainability Facilitators are most concerned with using their knowledge to empower others to act, using their strong people skills to make change happen. They like working with teams, delivering training and giving coaching. Their satisfaction is in seeing changes in people’s understanding, work or careers. They become frustrated when individuals let the team down, or when those in power do not allow enthusiastic groups to act.

Sustainability Catalysts enjoy the challenge of shifting an organisation in a new direction, using their political skills of persuasion to change strategies. They like working with leadership teams and articulating the business case for sustainability. They are often pragmatic visionaries and are frustrated when top management fails to see – and more importantly, to act on – the opportunities and risks facing the organisation.

Sustainability Activists are typically passionate about macro-level issues and their impacts on society or the planet as a whole, using their strong feelings about justice to motivate their actions. Their satisfaction comes from challenging the status quo, questioning those in power and articulating an idealistic vision of a better future. They tend to be great networkers and are mainly frustrated by the apathy of others in the face of urgent crises.

As you reflect on what type of sustainability superhero you may be, I expect all four will resonate to a greater or lesser extent. This is because we are composite beings when it comes to making sustainability change happen. But we do gravitate more strongly to one archetype, based on what gives us the deepest personal satisfaction. And there are three good reasons why you should know which cape and tights fits you best.

First, aligning with your inner superhero means embracing a mode of action in which you are most professionally effective and purpose-inspired. Second, it allows you to check that your formal role, or the direction of your career, is consistent with your archetype – the mask must fit the cape and tights. And third, it encourages you to consciously put together teams with a balance of Experts, Facilitators, Catalysts and Activists – the ideal earth-crime fighting force.

So it is not enough that all change begins with individuals. For change to be sustained and transformational – for sustainability to be a force for good in the world, and to save the earth from humans – we need the joint efforts of the Fantastic Four, each with their particular superpowers: knowledge for the Experts, collaboration for the Facilitators, imagination for the Catalysts, and compassion for the Activists. Will you join in the heroes’ crusade?

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2013) Finding your inner sustainability superhero. The Guardian, 21 October 2013.

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Will anyone join your revolution?

Will anyone join your revolution?

Article by Wayne Visser

Margaret Mead once said, ‘The only person who likes change is a wet baby’, to which Hunter Lovins added ‘and the baby squalls all the way through the process.’ So change is never easy, especially on the big issues of sustainability. In thinking about this, I have found Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher’s Formula for Change rather useful: D x V x F > R. This means that three factors must be present for meaningful organisational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
V = Vision of what is possible; and
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.

If the product of these three factors is greater than R (Resistance), then change is possible. I have seen sustainability change efforts fail for all four reasons. Deep-seated resistance often exists because the benefits of the status quo to those in power are considerable. Sustainability initiatives, especially if they are integrated into the core business, are often seen as extra burden. For instance, an operations manager of a plant really doesn’t want the extra hassle of collecting emissions data for a sustainability report, or subjecting his staff and facilities to an audit.

Most often, I think, the dissatisfaction that we may feel with the state of the world or the company’s actions really isn’t widely shared enough. Jonathon Porritt, author of Capitalism as if the World Matters, after many years in the sustainability game (he started the UK’s Green Party and chaired the government’s Sustainable Development Commission among other things), told me: ‘Looking at people all over the world today, rich and poor world, they are not remotely close to a state of mind that would call for anything revolutionary. There’s no vast upheaval of people across the world saying, “This system is completely and utterly flawed and must be overturned and we must move towards a different system.”  There isn’t even that, let alone an identification of what the other system would look like.’

Likewise, on creating a compelling vision, Porritt concludes that ‘we have not collectively articulated what this better world looks like – the areas in which it would offer such fantastic improvements in terms of people’s quality of life, the opportunities they would have, a chance to live in totally different ways to the way we live now.  We haven’t done that. Collectively we’ve not made the alternative to this paradigm, this paradigm in progress, work emotionally and physically, in terms of economic excitement.  We’ve just not done it.’ Taking first steps is something companies are generally much better at, especially picking the so-called ‘low hanging fruit’. But the reason these steps so often don’t get beyond the pilot or peripheral stage is because the other two factors – dissatisfaction and vision – are not strong enough.

Another way to think of change in a structured way is Peter Senge’s concept of the learning organisation, popularised in his book, The Fifth Discipline. He described the five interrelated disciplines as follows: ‘Systems thinking [the fifth discipline] needs the disciplines of building shared vision, mental models, and personal mastery to realise its potential.

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2013) Will Anyone Join Your Revolution? Eurocharity Yearbook 2012/2013.

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Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes?

Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes?

Article by Wayne Visser

An International Sustainable Business column for The Guardian

In March 2013, London mayor Boris Johnson – already feted for his pay-as-you-go Boris bikes introduced in 2010 – announced plans for the longest bike route in any European city. This is part of a £1bn bid to double the number of Londoners who cycle over the next decade.

This is certainly welcome news for a city that hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by 60% by 2025. Currently, the average Londoner emits 9.6 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is lower than New York (10.5 tonnes), but almost three times Stockholm (3.6 tonnes), despite Sweden having a far colder climate. Cycling is one obvious way to make a dent on our carbon footprint in the west. But are we convinced?

According to the CTC, the UK national cycling association, a person making the average daily commute of four miles each way would save half a tonne of carbon dioxide per year if they switched from driving to cycling per year. If the UK doubled cycle use by switching from cars, this would reduce Britain’s total greenhouse emissions by 0.6m tonnes, almost as much as switching all London-to-Scotland air travel to rail.

There are obvious health benefits from cycling as well. One classic study found that, while people are killed each year in the UK while cycling (in 2012, 122 cyclists died), many others die prematurely because of lack of exercise. The study estimated that regular cycling provides a net benefit to personal health that outweighs its risk of injury by a factor of 20 to one. If anything, the situation is more extreme today, with estimates that, if things don’t change, 60% of men and 50% of women will be obese by 2050.

The charity, PleaseCycle says the benefits of cycling are demonstrated with some handy statistics. It reports that 79% of employees wish their employers had a more positive outlook on cycling and a 20% increase in cycling by 2015 could save £87m in reduced absenteeism. The charity also claims there is up to 12.5% difference in productivity between exercising and non-exercising employees and regular cycling can reduce a person’s all-cause mortality rate by up to 36%.

Even the economic benefits are compelling. The specialist economic consultancy SQW showed that, an increase in cycling by 20% would release cumulative saving of £500m by 2015. A 50% increase on current cycling rates would unlock more than £1.3bn, by reducing the costs of congestion, pollution and healthcare.

So why aren’t more of us cycling? Surely it’s not that we’re all just lazy? This is where I believe we can learn some lessons from other countries – the Netherlands in particular. The Dutch have turned cycling into a national pastime and the bicycle into a cultural icon: wherever you go in the country, there are swift-flowing rivers of cyclists.

The population of the Netherlands is under 17 million — roughly twice that of New York or London — yet they make more cycle journeys than 313 million Americans, 63 million British and 22 million Australians put together, and they do so with greater safety than cyclists in any of those countries. Londoners only make around 2% of journeys by bike, and New Yorkers even fewer, at only around 0.6% of commutes. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands on an average working day, five million people make an average of 14m cycle journeys.

So why, in an age desperate for more sustainable transport solutions, has the Netherlands succeeded so spectacularly where others have tried and failed?

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/article_uk_cycling_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes? (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2013) Cycling is sustainable and healthy so why aren’t more of us on our bikes? The Guardian, 20 June 2013.

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A Test for Future-Fitness

A Test for Future Fitness:

Make it Safe, Smart, Shared, Sustainable and Satisfying

Article by Wayne Visser

Are you fit for the future? Will your product, organisation, community, city or country survive and thrive in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years?

We live in a world that is changing faster and challenging us more than ever before. Great progress has been made in lifting people out of poverty, advancing scientific frontiers, connecting the globe with technology and making knowledge more accessible. At the same time, there are disturbing trends of increasing inequality, catastrophic destruction of ecosystems and loss of species, pervasive corruption, increasingly volatile and dangerous climate change, waves of forced migration and floods of refugees, a rise of religious extremism and the omnipresent threat of terrorism.

The question is: how can we – as individuals, businesses, communities and policy-makers – prepare for the future? How can we maximize our chances of success, not only by being ready, but also by helping to shape the future that we desire? I think it helps to view future-fitness in two ways: in terms of alignment – i.e. fitting, like a jigsaw piece, into the bigger picture of an emerging world; and in terms of agility – i.e. building up the kind of fitness that allows quick reflexes and strong performance in response to future conditions.

The biggest trends in society and our most enduring ideals suggest that there are five key criteria for future-fitness: our products, organisations, communities, cities or countries must be safe, smart, shared, sustainable and satisfying? These 5-Ss of Future-Fitness are summarised in the table below and then briefly defined in the subsequent sections …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/inspiration_future_fit_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] A Test for Future Fitness (article)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

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Visser, W. (2012) A Test for Future Fitness: Make it Safe, Smart, Shared, Sustainable and Satisfying, Kaleidoscope Futures Inspiration Series, No. 1.

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Future Trends in CSR

Future Trends in CSR:

The Next 10 Years

Article by Wayne Visser

Looking to the future, what is needed – and what is just starting to emerge – is a new approach to CSR, which I call Systemic CSR, or CSR 2.0. This is a purpose-driven, principle-based approach, in which business seeks to identify and tackle the root causes of our present unsustainability and irresponsibility, typically through innovating business models, revolutionizing their processes, products and services and lobbying for progressive national and international policies. I have identified 10 trends:

Trend 1 – In the future, we will see most large, international companies having moved through the first four types or stages of CSR (defensive, charitable, promotional and strategic) and practicing, to varying degrees, transformative CSR, or CSR 2.0.

Trend 2 – In the future, reliance on CSR codes, standards and guidelines like the UN Global Compact, ISO 14001, SA 8000, etc., will be seen as a necessary but insufficient way to practice CSR. Instead, companies will be judged on how innovative they are in using their products and processes to tackle social and environmental problems.

Trend 3 – In the future, self-selecting ‘ethical consumers’ will become less relevant as a force for change. Companies – strongly encouraged by government policies and incentives – will scale up their choice-editing, i.e. ceasing to offer ‘less ethical’ product ranges, thus allowing guilt-free shopping.

Trend 4 – In the future, cross-sector partnerships will be at the heart of all CSR approaches. These will increasingly be defined by business bringing its core competencies and skills (rather than just its financial resources) to the party, as Wal-Mart did with its logistics capability in helping to distribute aid during Hurricane Katrina.

Trend 5 – In the future, companies practicing CSR 2.0 will be expected to comply with global best practice principles, such as those in the UN Global Compact or the Ruggie Human Rights Framework, but simultaneously demonstrate sensitivity to local issues and priorities. An example is mining and metals giant BHP Billiton, which have strong climate change policies globally, as well as malaria prevention programmes in Southern Africa.

Trend 6 – In the future, progressive companies will be required to demonstrate full life cycle management of their products, from cradle-to-cradle. We will see most large companies committing to the goal of zero-waste, carbon-neutral and water-neutral production, with mandated take-back schemes for most products.

Trend 7 – In the future, much like the Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP), some form of Generally Accepted Sustainability Practices (GASP) will be agreed, including consensus principles, methods, approaches and rules for measuring and disclosing CSR. Furthermore, a set of credible CSR rating agencies will have emerged.

Trend 8 – In the future, many of today’s CSR practices will be mandatory requirements. However, CSR will remain a voluntary practice – an innovation and differentiation frontier – for those companies that are either willing and able, or pushed and prodded through non-governmental means, to go ahead of the legislation to improve quality of life around the world.

Trend 9 – In the future, corporate transparency will take form of publicly available sets of mandatory disclosed social, environmental and governance data – available down to a product life cycle impact level – as well as Web 2.0 collaborative CSR feedback platforms, WikiLeaks type whistleblowing sites and product rating applications (like the GoodGuide iPhone app).

Trend 10 – In the future, CSR will have diversified back into its specialist disciplines and functions, leaving little or no CSR departments behind, yet having more specialists in particular areas (climate, biodiversity, human rights, community involvement, etc.), and more employees with knowledge of how to integrate CSR issues into their functional areas (HR, marketing, finance, etc.)

Collectively, these trends reflect a scenario …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/inspiration_csr_trends_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Future Trends in CSR (article)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

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Visser, W. (2012) Future Trends in CSR: The Next 10 Years, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 11.

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The Future of CSOs

The Future of CSOs:

The Many Faces of CSR Activism

Article by Wayne Visser

The third principle of Transformative CSR, or CSR 2.0, is responsiveness. Some of the most important players in the responsiveness game – especially through cross-sector partnerships – are civil society organisations (CSOs, which I prefer rather than the term NGOs).

Reflecting on how this sector is changing in the face of increased calls for responsiveness, I have distinguished 10 ‘Paths to the Future’ for CSR activism. I believe that CSOs acting in the CSR space will increasingly be:

  1. Platforms for transparency – Undertaking investigative exposes & hosting disclosure forums;
  2. Brokers of volunteerism – Providing project opportunities for employee volunteers;
  3. Champions of CSR – Raising awareness and increasing public pressure for CSR;
  4. Advisors of business – Offering consulting services to business on responsibility;
  5. Agents of government – Working with or on behalf of regulatory authorities;
  6. Reformers of policy – Pressuring for government policy reforms to incentivise CSR;
  7. Makers of standards – Developing voluntary standards & inviting business compliance;
  8. Channels for taxes          Receiving and deploying specially earmarked tax revenues;
  9. Partners in solutions – Partnering with business/government to tackle specific issues; and
  10. Catalysts for creativity – Creating social enterprises & supporting social entrepreneurs.

Let’s explore these ‘future faces’ of CSR activism in a little more detail below, drawing on examples from around the world of CSOs emerging roles …

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/inspiration_future_csos_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] The Future of CSOs (article)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2011) The Future of CSOs: The Many Faces of CSR Activism, CSR International Inspiration Series, No. 10

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