Too often I find that many in the green movement are both too closed a shop (see Gareth Kane's excellent commentary) or too optimistic: ignoring the fundamental truth that many simply don't care no matter how loudly we shout - paying the mortgage, making sure the kids are happy, a holiday in the sun etc. are always going to take precedent for the majority. Sorting today's issues will usually seem more important than addressing our future sustainability.
Coupled with this is my fundamental belief that the basic premise of capitalism and democracy (free markets, consumer choice etc.) must be preserved - I think most people, no matter how dyed in the wool green they are, would admit that they wouldn't like to be dictated to on what they can and cannot buy or do. This doesn't mean that we can continue with our current 'take - make - dispose' economy. Nor does it mean that we can continue with the great inequality that today's capitalism is increasingly creating. But using longer term thinking and concepts such as circular business models we can preserve the freedom and choice we are afforded today.
So how do we take the majority on this journey? By making sustainable choices the default choice - not because 'it is the right thing to do' but because they are better, cheaper, 'cooler', more desirable and efficient. In other words, innovating to meet sustainability and customer needs.
We do however need to be mindful that much 'green innovation' to date has been focussed on the select few who can afford a new Tesla or the latest Nest thermostat. But the likes of Ikea and H&M (Swedish focus purely coincidental...!) are showing that you can make desirable products at low costs through an end-to-end approach innovating their business models.
I'm not for one second suggesting it will be easy (how do we address meat consumption in the West for example? Synthetic meats are probably the answer). But we stand a much greater chance of creating positive change by working to meet customer needs than by offering dull, less functional or expensive options 'because they are the right choice' or shouting from the roof tops that 'green choices' are better for the environment. The customer's choice is the right choice - so build it and they will come.
by Jesper Ekelund
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