Why You Need a Sustainable Start: Startup Business and the Sustainability Challenge

Headline

To secure the survival, resilience and scalability of any startup project or business in the 21st century – sustainability is the imperative mindset, practice and strategy towards success. There’s just one problem: sustainability is becoming a buzzword, everyone is using it in a variety of different ways, but hardly anyone really knows what it means.

From the smallest startups to the biggest multinationals, as organizations and as individuals - we are all parts of one complex, interconnected and inseparable whole, part of a larger social system, nested and interdependent within the biosphere of planet Earth, and beyond…

Sooner or later all businesses and organizations will have to adapt, change and drastically rethink all the parts of their business model, strategy as well as organizational structure and culture. And, the way towards a sustainable business model is a complex endeavour and not everyone understands or has what it takes to get there.

Entrepreneurs and startup projects have many challenges to deal with and too often social and environmental sustainability might not be considered something to integrate and focus on from the start.

Unfortunately, existing approaches for early-stage business development and product/service innovation do not ensure that your business as a whole is designed (to be) sustainable on a systemic level.

And that’s a problem, because you, me, we everybody and all human busy-ness depends on the whole, as the whole depends on us.

With the wisdom, knowledge and practices that we have today, entrepreneurs and startups are in the best possible position to make a passionate positive impact in the world and grow into a purposeful sustainable business.

Pale Blue Dot, planet Earth from space.

The Dawn of a New Era

From an understanding of the climate system, 97% of climate change scientists agree that humans are responsible for the changes in our environment. Simply put, we’re collectively creating results that contribute to overall unsustainability - instead of sustainability. We live in the era that scientists have called the “Anthropocene,” the time in which the accumulative effects of human civilization are undermining the resilience and integrity of the ecological and social systems.

On an environmental level, ecosystems are being destroyed and depleted faster than they can restore themselves. Human activities have been the primary cause of and accelerating extinction rates and biodiversity loss on the planet, destabilization of the climate, changing weather patterns, ocean acidification, ecosystem degradation, and air, soil and water pollution.

To highlight one very important example that most of you will have heard of. The graph below demonstrates current the atmospheric CO2 concentration of above 400 ppm, scientists conclude to pose a high risk to advance Global Change.

NASA

The Dawn of a New Era

From an understanding of the climate system, 97% of climate change scientists agree that humans are responsible for the changes in our environment. Simply put, we’re collectively creating results that contribute to overall unsustainability - instead of sustainability. We live in the era that scientists have called the “Anthropocene,” the time in which the accumulative effects of human civilization are undermining the resilience and integrity of the ecological and social systems.

On an environmental level, ecosystems are being destroyed and depleted faster than they can restore themselves. Human activities have been the primary cause of and accelerating extinction rates and biodiversity loss on the planet, destabilization of the climate, changing weather patterns, ocean acidification, ecosystem degradation, and air, soil and water pollution.

To highlight one very important example that most of you will have heard of. The graph below demonstrates current the atmospheric CO2 concentration of above 400 ppm, scientists conclude to pose a high risk to advance Global Change.

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  •    Stage 1: Pre-compliance – the strategic focus is entirely on profits and cost reduction without regard for sustainability. Often these companies actively resist regulation and other incentives for sustainable behavior.
  •    Stage 2: Compliance – liabilities are managed adequately and the company obeys the law and mandatory regulations. Sustainability is still seen as a cost.
  •    Stage 3: Beyond Compliance – proactive cost and risk reduction by improving efficiency, minimizing waste, pollution, energy use and harmful social impacts.
  •    Stage 4: Integrated Strategy – capturing added value from sustainability initiatives that benefit all stakeholders and re-branding the company with a strong commitment to integrate sustainability as the core strategy and driver of innovation.
  •    Stage 5: Purpose and Passion – in stage five the company is driven by a passionate commitment to contribute to sustainability for the company, society, and the environment - just because it’s the right thing to do.

Source The New Sustainability Advantage Bob Willard 2012

4 layers

each give a unique systemic perspective to different parts of your business model

3 steps

to make sustainable business model innovation easy

1. IDENTIFY

Step 1 helps you identify al the elements that are important if you want your business model to be sustainable.

2. ANALYZE

Step 2 helps you analyze what is currently sustainable and/or unsustainable about these elements.

3. IMPROVE

Step 3 helps you improve your negative ánd positive impacts with regard to people, society and the environment.

We depend on the whole as the whole depends on us.

4 layers

each give a unique systemic perspective to different parts of your business model

HUMANS

Innovate a unique value proposition that generates a lasting sense of fulfillment and satisfaction throughout time and culture.

SOCIETY

Build resilience, trust and engagement throughout your stakeholder networks, relationships and social systems.

ENVIRONMENT

Eliminate negative impacts and dependencies on the  environment and transition to renewable and circular resources and activities.

STRATEGY

Strategically navigate today’s increasing uncertainty with a clear vision of the sustainable future your are working to create.

get in touch!

so far we have worked with

thomas@sustainablestart.net

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