Tag Archives: sustainability

Natural Business for a World That’s Waking up

Thoughts from the wonderful Giles Hutchins –

Albert Einstein threw down the gauntlet for our human evolution when he said,

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and spaceHe experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

A task not for the faint-hearted, as it requires great courage to widen our circle of compassion amid increasing tension, fear and uncertainty. Not least it requires a fundamental shift in worldview, in how we perceive our sense of self, our relationship with others, and our sense of place and purpose within this world.

Whether it’s the disciplines of quantum physics, psychology, ecology, organisational development or evolutionary theory, it is now dawning on our contemporary consciousness that life is not simply a mechanistic construct of push-pull factors and selfish genes, where separate organisms compete with each other in the struggle for survival. Rather, we are now recognising that life is an inter-relational network of inter-being, where everything is in dynamic relation with its environment, continuously communicating and collaborating within an ocean of being. The ‘self’ is not the ‘separate self’ of individualism but the ‘differentiating self’ immersed within a rich milieu of relations. It is the diversity and reciprocity of these relations which provides for the organism’s resilience and in-turn the resilience of the wider ecosystem. As the world-renowned biologist Lynn Margulis succinctly puts it,

“Life did not take over the globe by combat but by networking.”

This living-systems view of life is beginning to permeate our corridors of power. There is an increasing recognition that business-as-usual thinking is not going to get us very far. To becomefuture-fit we need to embrace a new way of operating and organising. That new way just so happens to be the way life really works – not the control-based dominate-or-be-dominated mechanistic logic of yesterday, but the real logic of life perceived beyond the illusion of separation: emergence, receptivity, reciprocity, local-attunement, power-with, eco-systemic thinking.

In practice, this means emancipating ourselves from many of the structures inhibiting our natural aliveness today by embracing collaborative soulful practices, such as Way of Council, deep listening, mindfulness-in-motion, foresight planning, prototyping, multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions, scenario planning, white space technologies and the art of hosting tools, as well as direct inspiration from living systems such as eco-literacy, biomimicry, industrial ecology, circular economics, regenerative and adaptive cycle approaches.

There are a multitude of simple yet courageous undertakings each of us can take to help nurture a more soulful, living-systems approach to work. For instance, how about starting each and every mmasteryeeting with a minute’s silence, to help centre ourselves and tune-in to more of our natural ways of knowing (intuitive, somatic, emotional and rational) allowing for more than a glimpse of what lies beyond the busyness of our masturbating monkey-minds. How about checking in with our teams at the end of the day to share in a heartfelt way, where we practice meditation-in-motion by listening and speaking from the heart. How about having a quick round-robin at the beginning of each day for people to share what they feel grateful for at the present time, perhaps sharing who we might like to thank for helping us out in small yet loving ways, and so celebrating the good qualities of ourselves and our community. How about creating a two hour space in our schedules every Friday morning for our team to sit together in a circle, having the permission to explore and envision new ways of operating that embrace and serve life. How about creating space for a half-day workshop every four weeks with other stakeholders – such as pressure groups, think tanks, customers, suppliers, investors – giving permission for us all to explore together and share perspectives of how to do things better. How about creating a ‘children’s fire’ in our boardroom, so that all key strategic and operational decisions consider the potential impact they have on the next generation, our children. All of these are very real business practices being applied by a range of organisations today. This is not some futurist utopian vision, it’s becoming mainstream.

The number one most important thing facing our leaders, managers and change agents today is this shift in logic from an essentially mechanistic, reductive, competitive, control-based, power-over logic rooted in the story-of-separation, towards the logic-of-life, and with it the realisation that our organisations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society which are immersed within the living systems of our more-than-human world. This is why my latest book Future Fit explores – indeed activates – the qualities required for future-fit business by exploring the practical tools and techniques for this necessary shift in logic from machine to living. In this way, we deal not just with downstream effects (climate change, biodiversity degradation, endemic social inequality, racism, and so forth) we also deal with the root cause – our very relationship with life, and our sense of place and purpose as human beings in our more-than-human world.

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Invitation: Capturing Sustainable Value

Join me this July at the Centre for Industrial Sustainability  5th annual conference, in Cambridge. Share your passion for sustainability, learn from progressive business and explore cutting edge techniques. There are two events – a symposium on high-value business models on 6th July and a conference on 7th and 8th of July.  More information for both events can be found here – conference, symposium.

The symposium on the 6 July will explore how to develop high value business models for start-ups and early stage ventures. There will be input from Prof Steve Evans and Dr Doroteya Vladimirova and a platform for current start-ups to talk about their approaches and discuss this with the audience. Half of the time will be spent working through challenges in small groups using some of the Centre’s sustainable business model tools.  More symposium information here and other fascinating related information here: New Business Models for a Sustainable Future  and The Cambridge Value Mapping Tool.

The conference on 7/8th July is an opportunity to meet future collaborators, thought leaders, inventive researchers and industry forerunners. Connect, discuss and debate at exhibitions, workshops, and pop-ups.  This year the theme is Capturing Sustainable Value with Keynotes:

  • Gunter Pauli – Entrepreneur and author of The Blue Economy
  • Mike Barry – Director and initiator of M&S Plan A
  • Brian Holliday – MD of Siemens Digital Factory
  • Andy Wood – CEO of Adnams Plc

Other speakers from

Tata Steel, Altro, Extremis, iema, KTN, Business.Cubed, University of Cambridge, Cranfield University, Loughborough University, Imperial College, and De Montfort University

And of course Nicola will be part of the workshop crew! 

What will you take away?

  • Business views on implementing circularity
  • Tools to capture new value in your business network
  • Demystified view of disruptive business models
  • Insights on innovative sustainability in MNCs to Start-ups
  • Opportunities to learn from and participate in the latest doctoral research
  • New Collaborators (ask us about partnerships that have formed as a result of our conference)
  • Renewed energy and enthusiasm!

Please contact Dee Dee Frawley at cis-enquiries@eng.cam.ac.uk if you are interested in attending – and MENTION Nicola! There is a discount for non-profits, students, etc.   

Looking forward to capturing sustainable value with you…

Conference

 

New Event: East-london ‘net-walk’ on pioneering disruption

Simon Cole knows London. Both the places and the stories that make it come alive and can inspire us in our work and personal lives. He has offered to host a walking tour of Hackney for 6heads and Greenskythinking. We think this is the start of a series of ‘net-walks’ – opportunities to walk and connect with like minded people. Its on 28th October. Places are limited. You can (and really should!) sign up here: Netwalk on pioneering disruption

Below, he tells us more: 

ROCKING THE BOAT TO SAVE THE WORLD

If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present” – it could be the mission statement of a modern day innovatorHackney Timber Tourin East London, the nearest that we have to Silicon Valley. Buts it’s a quote from a Hackney religious radical of the 1800s. There is a rich tradition in this part of the global city of disruptors rocking the mainstream boat to address the problems they see around them.

Hackney Tours uses walks to explore the past to reframe the present and anticipate the future; we’re tapping into that on a forthcoming walk that channels the best of this powerful desire for positive change by showcasing examples of it happening around us today.

Using inspirational characters from the past, we discover how today’s pioneers in Dalston are following in great footsteps. In Hackney we’re standing on the shoulders of giants, whether they be inventors or reformers or activitists. Many of the things we take for granted today were hard won by people who had the moral courage to stand up and risk ridicule, or worse.

6 Heads is about “Shaking things up” and it’s what Hackney personalities have been doing in various forms since the 1600s. From the groundbreaking demand for gender equality by Mary Wollstonecraft to the direct action soup kitchens of the Salvation Army, Hackney changemakers have challenged the conventional and shaped the way we live and think today.

Some of you on this experience walk, which also serves as a space to create connections and find affirmation, may be the contemporary equivalent of those who broke paradigms with new ideas or new methods. We’ll see some great projects that seek to break some unhealthy planetary patterns that need renegotiation. So come and see some good stuff, connect with how good it feels to be part of positive change. And see what Hackney innovators are doing for the field of sustainability and how they’re reinvigorating notions of community in the 21st Century city.

*Hackney Tours*
*”Best Walking Tours in London’ recommended by lastminute.com
*Recommended by Trip Advisor*

www.hackneytours.com

Scaling disruption – congratulations Clotho!

Last month we published a blog on scaling disruption. It focused on entrepreneurs that are redesigning systems to support a more sustainable future. We mentioned new Upstart Startup Clotho London that has created an aspirational second-hand clothing marketplace, saving C02, water and – best of all – changing youth mindsets around fast fashion.

We’d like to congratulate them on winning two competitions in the past fortnight. First they won funding from and a place in the True Start Accelerator. Last Friday they won (tie first place) funding and support from the Mayor of London Low Carbon Entrepreneur Awards.

Below you can see them pitching their ideas to Dame Ellen McArthur – “How many times can you mention circular in two minutes?! ”

Clotho

Do you have a world-changing idea?  For more information on Clotho and other Upstarts, please contact nicola.millson@6-heads.com

Scaling disruption

There are multiple ways we can intervene in the current business system in order to support change toward better environmental and social outcomes. One of these ways is to scale small initiatives that have the potential to create significant change in the current ways business operates. This is particularly effective where these ‘disruptors’ also act as commercial demonstrators to traditional organisations and inspiration for other emergent entities by proving the case for alternative forms of business.

I have a portfolio of these ‘disruptors’ that I currently coach from seed stage until first significant funding. This means taking them through a structured programme of business development, drawing on IDEO, LEAN and my own start-up experience across multiple sectors and stages of new business building.  The programme is underpinned my three key principles: fail fast, engage early and rapidly build credibility. This means we work closely together to:

  • Identify and engage potential customers to establish and build the business toward meeting real needs,
  • Set-up of a series of experiments where the team can quickly configure and test different operating methodologies, and
  • Understand how the market operates, where the gaps are and which organisations could inform and, even better, certify the set-up.

This is underpinned by regular ‘pivoting’ as we reconfigure the business model to meet emerging needs and cost structures. It is supported by work around vision, team dynamics, business basics and fundraising.

Two oranisations in my portfolio are currently seeking an extension of their seed funding. They are:

Clotho London: The destination for sustainable fashion. http://www.clotholondon.co.uk/

Set-up by two recent graduates from Imperial College (who worked together as Chemistry lab partners) this business aims to create a secondary market for good, used clothing. It is a simple technology platform built on the principle of clothes swapping. It provides young women with a more sustainable option for quality fashion choices. Clotho thereby works towards preventing new purchases of high-street brands and reducing the 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that goes to landfill in the UK every year. They currently operate collections at 3 UK Universities and are rapidly growing a loyal customer base. They are looking to raise investment to fund operational costs as they scale their service.

Vesco: Developing sustainable feed systems. https://vescofeed.wordpress.com (under-development)

Vesco has been set-up by four classmates from the Imperial College Environmental Technology MSc programme.  They are developing a sustainable ‘insect-based’ animal feed designed to mitigate the environmental and biodiversity impacts of contemporary soy and fishmeal-based feeds. They aim to harness the efficiency of insects in converting organic waste into high-quality nutrients and are running a number of experiments to rear  fly larvae on a variety of organic wastes. They are working closely alongside high-profile potential customers to co-develop product specifications and a unique, ‘circular’ offering and are in the process of organising trials for pilot products. Vesco is looking or funding to allow further development of the concept by paying a base wage to the team. 

Both these worthwhile organisations will effect change in the existing systems they operate within – clothing and food – through demonstrating initiative, possibility and trialing new business models.  Any funding or other suggestions to scale and support these worthwhile organisations would be appreciated.

Alternatively, if you are a young enterprise with a good idea towards a positive shared future or an investor/accelerator/incubator with disruptors in your funding portfolio  that need help in clarifying their business models towards delivering scalable impact –  please do get in touch.

For further information or to arrange a meeting, please fill in the form below:

 

“CHEERS TO A NEW YEAR AND ANOTHER CHANCE FOR US TO GET IT RIGHT!”

2014 has been a great year!

6heads introduced regular monthly events, we’ve had beautiful walks and talks in the UK country-side, we have swung from trapezes to explore liminal space, we’ve played at setting up a festival to extend our knowledge on systems, we’ve found wisdom on the Southbank and we’ve interrogated the narratives that underpin the stories we tell. We’ve met wonderful new people, been inspired, explored new concepts and laughed, a lot.

On the separate, advisory side we’ve continued our work with inspired corporate clients, including Interface and M&S, to explore new ways of doing business. Here, we’ve focused on the circular economy and how to create commercial, restorative solutions through creative use of ‘waste’. In addition, we’ve started working with a number of new concepts to help grow disruptors to traditional business. We’re hoping to see insects as source of animal feed, a vibrant second hand clothing market and organic waste for heat.

As we look towards 2015 and the challenges and opportunities that we face in order to have a vibrant, equitable society on a healthy planet, we have to smile at Oprah’s words: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right”. We’’d encourage all changemakers and changeseekers to:

Reflect on the past: There are many past stories of social revolutions that have led to better outcomes for humanity.  We can learn from the past to better drive forward change today. We can look into the transitions underpinning the introduction of soap, the abolition of slavery, the outlawing of CFC’s and the uptake of solar.

Feel gratitude for today: We can celebrate our achievements! We can recognise that – despite the challenges that still remain – we are living at an all time high for health and wellness: Infant and mortality rates have plummeted, diseases have been eradicated. Equity has been improved: Literacy is rising sharply and women (mostly) have a better deal. Within 100 years we’ve gone from the Wright brothers to landing 800 million miles away on a moon! We’ve got technologies now that can power us forward in completely different ways to those from the beginning of the century – we have solar, fuel cells and algae.

Attract a positive future: There are more and more examples of society and (that peculiar social construct) business, operating in ways that are positive and restorative. Let’s shift our focus from trying to reduce, report and review – and invite a rethink to how we can better service our basic needs and those of future generations. How can we get the food, energy, habitats, water and clothing we need in ways that make the world better? Can we wear plastic that has been taken out of the oceans? Can we power our homes on organic waste? Can we live in homes that provide energy back to the grid? Perhaps, the best we can do is to interrogate the work we are asked to do to reframe it against a restorative agenda, to actively seek out those products and services that are centrered on purpose and to keep asking questions.

Perhaps this thinking can lead to fresh, inspired resolutions for a positive, active and generative 2015?

We look forward to learning with you in 2015.

Thank you for being a part of our community.

Best wishes for 2015.

Nicola

Can business change the world?

Creating conditions for positive business engagement in society

Leading businesses increasingly recognise the need to go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility approaches and see contribution to societal good as a strategic imperative.

Some are engaging fodeloitte 1r commercial return, recognising opportunities to develop new value. This might be through access to additional revenue from new markets, to solve a problem and/or to build new strategic capability.

Each of these motivations results in different pitfalls for which there are some useful ‘remedies’.

1. Accessing new markets
Most businesses are aware of the value in the bottom of the pyramid. Some have noticed that this segment is also more resilient to economic flux and that businesses that have engaged here have received significant public visibility – all good reasons to develop a new market.

Some companies get this right. Grameeen is the much touted example.  Another example comes from the insurance world. One issue confronting the poor is the lack of any support system – if a child is sick or a shop burns down, there is no access to bridging funds or reparations. In many cultures this is addressed by women pooling funds to support each other through crises. Recently AXA created an initiative to support groups of these women (working through PWDS in India) to access family health insurance. Based on a community verification and penalty scheme, operating costs are kept low. This is a positive example of a company engaging with new markets in a way that is in line with existing structures and which meets real needs.

Other companies don’t get this right. A large water company tried to set up a water purification scheme in India. This provided entrepreneurs with the equipment to purify water, at an ongoing cost for maintenance over a ten year period. This wasn’t successful – it required new entrepreneurial structures, forced communities into long term debt but also, importantly, didn’t address the real problem – prevention of dirty water would be better than cure.

The main pitfall with this motivation is lack of alignment to communities and this is best solved by operating closely and within communities to determine and meet their actual needs.

2. Solving a problem.

Often this is driven by CSR practitioners or corporate philanthropists as a more sustainable alternative to traditional ways of donating. This may take various forms – the Carbon Trust was tasked with creating new businesses to shift sectors towards low carbon alternatives, M&S recently looked at how a new initiative could solve both a growing skills shortage in the food industry and help employ young people.

Both of these initiatives  – like most other initiatives of this type – suffered from a lack of inherent commercial rationale. They were looking for solutions where unmet customer needs (and therefore a commercial value proposition) were not the main focus. This made creating a business case very difficult.

These cases were ‘cracked’ by developing an indirect customer (e.g. suppliers, philanthropic funders), using new business models (e.g. long term equity upside) or finding a value differentiator (e.g trusted brand ).

A solution to a lack of inherent commercial rationale is therefore using ‘extreme’ commercial creativity. 

3. Strategic engagement.

These forward thinking pioneers are actively creating the customers, capabilities or resources for their future. A great example is Interfaces Net Impact programme.  It pays fishermen for old nets and then transforms these into tufting material for carpets. Fishermen from poor communities receive value from a ‘waste’ product. These nets are no longer thrown into the ocean and loss of marine life is prevented. Interface has a differentiated input for its carpets and new capabilities in setting up partnerships and accessing resources. Currently we are working on another Interface initiative to alleviate poverty, create a secondary market for used carpet and develop capability for global recycling.

A pitfall of companies operating with a strategic intention is the negative effect of ‘unintended consequences’. For example by enriching only part of the population resentment may be stirred up which results in domestic violence or tribal warfare.

Uninitended consequences can (often) be addressed by organisations taking a systems thinking approach to any new initiative.

For any organisation venturing into this space three new competences need to be built:
– extreme partnering: bringing together unlikely play mates with different agendas and resources towards achieving a common goal (e.g. AXA, PWDS charity, local women),
– lateral innovation: designing business value in entirely new ways, and
– ecosystem thinking: making sure that supporting initiatives and structures are in place to provide all the elements required (for example
Interface recognised the need for a banking partner for its networks initiative).

There are tremendous benefits for companies venturing into social change. From the bottom line benefits (e.g. new customers or premium products), to risk mitigation (e.g. diversified sourcing) to intangibles (e.g. employee loyalty, customer aw
areness).

I’d go further and say that no business can, over the long term, separate itself from the society that supports it – as suppliers or customers. Positive engagement with society is an imperative for business to build a robust and resilient global future. 

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This article is an excerpt from a talk Nicola did for Deloitte at a Net Impact event. She is focused on creating new commercial solutions for social and environmental change and is interested in exploring thinking and opportunities in this area. What is your experience in this area? Any lessons you’d like to share? How could your company engage better with society?

Please contact her on nicola.millson@6-heads.com for further information.

28 Days of Inspiration: Hope in an urbanising world

Tomorrows cities today

Hope in an urbanising world

urban_rural_graph2

The statistics on our rapidly urbanising world are compelling – more people now live in cities than in the country-side.  This is expected to continue to grow, particularly in parts of the world that are both poorer and at sea-level. In a time of diminishing natural resources and a changing climate, this gives us a new set of concerns.

These two projects show possibility for a different kind of urban environment:

Mata de Sesimbra in Portugal is an endorsed One Planet Living Community Resort with 5,000 zero-carbon, zero-waste homes, hotels and shops. The scheme includes Europe’s largest-ever nature restoration scheme, to return almost 5,000 hectares of surrounding land to native Mediterranean woodland. It is innovative and ecological in its development by using sustainable building materials, solar power and being energy and water efficient. The development has a 20 year target of having ‘zero waste’ – but reaching a massive 50% of landfill diversion in the first year. A €90 million sustainable public transport network is also planned, and will eventually provide hybrid eco-shuttles, free bicycles and car clubs.

Masdar  was started in 2006 in Abu Dhabi. It uses high tech solutions to push sustainability barriers. Its vision is to provide the highest quality of life and work environment with the lowest environment footprint – and to do so in a commercially viable manner. For transport, there are no cars, but a rapid, automated transit,. They use fully renewable powered, ½ water of others places, use sustainable materials (100% sustainably sourced timber), 90% recycled-content aluminium used for the inner façade, green concrete and water-based paints.

More? See http://6-heads.com/

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 25: The power of one

Daring to be great

Today’s inspiration is about those people who have chosen a different path – one of making a real difference in the world. They’re just normal people doing something they believe in, day after day…

faces

A question we often ask is “Where best to intervene in a system to create significant change?”. Paul Dickenson saw a pressure point in the role of shareholders. He is Co-founder and Chief Executive of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which provides a coordinating secretariat for 330 investors with assets of over $40 trillion who request information on greenhouse gas emissions from over 2,400 corporations. With more than 1,300 large corporations reporting through CDP, the CDP web site http://www.cdproject.net is the largest registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

There are lots of lawyers – most propping up the status quo, Polly Higgins talks of love and leadership, and runs a strong campaign on eradicating ecocide, fighting for its legal status to be enshrined by 2020.

A co-founder of Tsiba University, Leigh Meinert set-out to provide education opportunities to deserving youngsters from impoverished backgrounds – fundamentally changing society in South Africa. 5 Mandela Rhodes scholars produced in 4 years means she and fellow luminaries are doing something right.

Many people travel through communities facing extreme struggles to survive – few do anything. Alison Hall is different, after a trip to Uganda she set-up Seeds for Development which started off advancing funds to farmers in post-war Uganda to enable them to buy seeds and other farming equipment. Today they support around 15 000 people.

Miriam Turner, Carmel McQuaid, Tom Domen, and many others aren’t names you’ll necessarily recognise. They are are corporate intrepreneurs. All have an agenda to introduce and scale change to make their organisations ‘future-fit’. Often their resilience is tested – just like the entrepreneurs mentioned above. Yet, their efforts allow the organisations they are part of to take that different path and pioneer new ways of doing things.

There are many, many more ordinary people each in their own way daring to do extraordinary things… What are you choosing to do today? 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 24: Don’t waste the opportunity

Don’t waste the opportunity

Composting-at-Pomona-College-700x466

Kate Hammer, a friend of 6heads from KILN, likes Compostory.org – she writes below:

Recycling organic material – what we commonly call “waste” – represents a huge opportunity. Today, the processes of making compost and biogas out of organics are well known and the benefits for the environment and the economy are proven. Yet still, many cities and businesses are still sending organics to landfills or incineration. Enter Compostory.org [www.compostory.org], a unique website driven by not-for-profit enterprise Green White Space [www.greenwhitespace.org].

Compostory.org is committed to building awareness and sharing best practices on how communities can create value from their waste stream and positively impact their environment. So the team has built an unprecedented online learning platform for local governments, agriculture and businesses in effort to bring their influencers up to speed on the subject matter.

The website offers open access to:

  • a free course for municipalities, farms and businesses on collecting – digesting – composting organic waste, now followed by more than 2500 influencers of waste management systems in 20+ countries
  • an industry directory to help you navigate the resource recovery industry and find support in your region
  • The Organic Stream: A podcast series featuring expert interviews and case studies from around the world, for inspiration and valuable how-to advice

Enter the learning space by subscribing here [learning space] using the guest code “6HEADS”
The weekly podcast is available on iTunes here [podcast]

Kate is part of  [www.kilnco.com], Throughline [www.throughline.co.uk] and StoryFORMs [www.storyform.co.uk]  She is likes Compostory so much she works on their advisory board.