Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sustainability sweet spots

Fortune Magazine, running major sections on sustainability. They've been hipping up old Fortune lately. Lots of titans probably spinning in their gilding at the thought.

The December 12 issue had a special section with a number of articles about sustainability and enterprise.

It opened like this: "Without any fanfare the sustainability movement is gaining powerful momentum. The concept is simple: Economic development, if carried out in a careful manner, can proceed without exhausting the natural resources needed by future generations. While conservation and development often seem at odds, corporations are realizing that they can employ eco-friendly strategies while running and growing their businesses."

I'm not going to paper over the fact that there are rogue enterprises rooting up the commons. If you were to go 1,000 years in both directions from now you'll find rogue enterprises rooting up the commons.

However, civilized types have been growing smarter and more sustainable economies and societies throughout history. It's our duty to not only defend the commons, but to grow it. Creating smarter, helpful, sustainable enterprises is a part of all that.

While the Fortune article focuses on large organizations benefiting from smart less-waste strategies, so can we all. In fact, there are a zillion small, smart enterprises that can be grown and developed by the rest of us in support of this strategy.

You want an idea for starting your own enterprise? Follow that lead.

Find a specialty that helps specific target customers get smarter about their enterprises. Get great at that specialty. Identify a core market of precisely focused end users.

I recommend setting up your enterprise to sell to other enterprises. I strongly believe that it's much easier and more rational to make and sell stuff to other enterprises than civilians. While your vendors should be eclectic as hell, your customers should be filtered carefully.

There are many, many enterprises within your reach that could benefit by the addition of smarter, more sustainable technologies. Make one of these tools or processes the thing you're great at. Specifically for (you fill in the blank) type enterprises and organizations. Find a technology niche, a set of tools, or a proprietary process you can reproduce inexpensively then fire it off with rifle barrel accuracy at just the customers you choose.

Breakthroughs don't have to come in extra large sizes. Breakthroughs can mean a few percent more efficiency someplace. Breakthroughs are processes done safer. Breakthroughs can come in all manner of shapes and sizes and levels of recognition. If you can help other enterprises produce their work with less waste, you've got the start of a sustainable business model.

That’s my pitch. Done over a number of enterprises, repeat-ably, throughout your network, you make a living and the whole place gets better.

Get really smart about something that helps. Search it out in magazines about stuff you already love. That’s a big help, as love can sustain you (for a short while) during times of bad cash flow. Don’t push this though. Analogies don't pay the bills.

The Fortune article quoted, “To Andrew Savitz, a Boston-based consultant who specializes in environmental and sustainability issues, there’s been a tipping point in one area after another, in which 'business and societal interests are clearly seen as intersecting'. He calls them ‘sustainability sweet spots’.”

Mr. Savitz goes on to report how Toyota bet its future on rising awareness of environmental performance in all walks of life. They are about to become the world’s largest auto maker. Figure it out.

You don’t have to develop hybrid engines, though I encourage that if you’ve got the stuff. You can make the world better in tiny incremental steps. That’s how most of what makes the planet grow happens anyway. Unnoticed hard work, getting it done better, little by little.

Your neighborhood is only limited by the internet.

Get smart about something helpful then go be helpful. Keep good notes and, among the right company, never pass up a chance to sell.

Come on in. The water’s fine. Your enterprise life awaits.

Fortune Magazine

Andrew Savitz works from Boston as a partner in PriceWaterhouse-Coopers' environmental sustainability business services practice. I can't locate a link to him but here's the PwC front door PriceWaterhouse-Coopers

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