« The time has come to go beyond the green economy, where renewable energy cannot compete without subsidies, and whatever is good for our health and the environment costs more. » These are the words of Gunter Pauli, a Belgian entrepreneur who has created over 10 companies, in fields as diverse as business, culture, science, politics and the environment. His entrepreneurial experience and expertise has led him to reflect on the whole system in which his companies evolve, and come to the conclusion that the green economy is not enough to guarantee a sustainable future. To move beyond it, Pauli has thus developed a range of concepts and ideas: the “Blue Economy” and the “Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives” (ZERI); and has also started to work with the government of Bhutan to help “design an economic development concept based on GNH (Gross National Happiness) principles and values.” This man is “on a mission with passion, inspired by wisdom of science, shaped by the beauty of nature and the arts”, as he emphatically writes on his website. And he has a view for the future, where corporations have a major role to play.
The future is bright
Pauli believes that it is imperative we change the way we do business: companies have been focusing so much on cutting costs that local economies have been progressively deprived of cash and job opportunities, and our environment now faces a very worrying threat. And the “green economy” is not enough: because not everyone can afford it, because it needs public subsidies to develop and because it is not always that good for the environment, as this video explains. Pauli’s idea is very simple:
implement a society and industries which respond to people’s needs using what is locally available.
Reinject cash and jobs into local economies. And, above all, use natural systems and designs to inspire business. In other words, adopt nature’s way of processing resources and waste, and try to make the most of both of them to ensure competitiveness, while protecting the environment. Anything that is not needed or that will create useless waste must be removed and replaced. Waste must be viewed as a resource, he says, giving the example of coffee: « a coffee company can generate income from the coffee, its core business, and can now also generate revenue from the mushrooms farmed on the waste, and whatever is left over after harvesting the protein-rich fungi is excellent animal feed. A one-revenue model is now transformed into a three-revenue model. »
This business model, which he started to develop in the early 1990s, bears the name “Blue Economy”, because our planet, the oceans and the sky are blue. Blue is the new green. Alongside this reflection on the business world, Pauli also works with governments, companies and communities to help them identify the sectors that are attractive and contribute to building social capital. In 1994, with the support of the Japanese government and the United Nations University in Tokyo, he launched the “Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives”
to design an economic framework and business model that converts all waste, including emissions, into a value added cascade, modelled on ecosystems.
Subsequently, he established the Global ZERI Network to help share this insight across the world. Pauli is well aware that his vision cannot be adapted to large corporations en masse, as it is very complicated for them to change their business structures, but he does hope that it will inspire entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to come up with innovative ideas that can be implemented everywhere.
The aim is to demonstrate that the future is bright, provided we go beyond the known and the obvious.
It is as simple as that.
(Photo from http://www.foromundialdenegocios.com.mx)