Designing a revival

This current recession proves that business-as-usual has failed

This current recession proves that business-as-usual has failed

Rachel Brown

Design //

This current recession proves that business-as-usual has failed.

What’s required is a lot of new thinking and a massive redesign. Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart, co-authors of the book Cradle to Cradle (Buy@Fishpond), have issued a challenge to prepare businesses for the next industrial revolution.

Their strategy asks that we move beyond eco-efficiency (turning off the light switches) to eco-effectiveness, where savvy businesses add value that is ecological, social and economic. In this future, all waste becomes nutrients for the soil or remain in a technology loop, becoming part of the next product/service cycle. From an economic perspective, profitability remains a driving imperative. From a social perspective, human beings and their activities are not seen as environmental threats but as an opportunity.

Design is one industry with the potential to make the biggest impact. The Sustainable Business Network is working to grow the capability of Kiwi designers through the recently-established Sustainable Design Working Group.

We also publish the Sustainable Business Network Review, a unique and timely collection of opinions from some of New Zealand’s leading commentators—including journalist Rod Oram and Peter Salmon of Moxie—along with case studies of business leadership and the results of SBN’s work with over 200 organisations. Download it at

Peter Neilson from the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development warns that 2009 will be the year that New Zealand puts a price on carbon. It’s time to ‘evolve or die’. Or ,as Rod Oram says: “You can persevere with your current business model, hacking back cost and hanging on for the upturn. Or you can understand how the world is changing and play to the new drivers.”

Glen Saunders, investment banker and chartered accountant, offers this example: “While many finance companies have been failing during our home-grown crisis, our sole social banking example, Prometheus Finance, celebrated its 25th anniversary and has been rock solid.”

To avoid major business collapse reminiscent in scale and manner of the dinosaurs, embed sustainability into the main functions of your business: in leadership and decision-making; in product and service innovation; and daily operations and communications. And good luck!

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