The Future in 5 Words… #5: ‘Sustainable’

Why Life should be… ‘Sustainable’

#5Sustainability means very different things to different people – and I am not talking about debating the definition, as most of us are long past that point. For some in the more developed regions of the world and relatively affluent strata of society, it might mean investing in eco tech, CSR and social good – everything from waterless washing machines, to wellbeing and workplace diversity – which is, of course, important. However, for others less fortunate, the meaning can be something entirely different. For victims driven to climate migration fleeing flooding or drought, facing hunger due to crop failure, battling disease through lack of clean drinking water, suffering abuses under oppressive regimes, or exploitation in modern slavery, Sustainability is not just a word, not some abstract concept: It is about survival.

Sustainability is a fact of life; a reality to be proven (or not) every second of every day, on an ongoing basis. It is not a luxury; it is a basic human right.

This is why, in future, life should be sustainable, for everyone.

The Future in 5 Words:

  1. Cities will be… ‘Sensorsational’;
  2. Business will be… ‘Sociable’;
  3. Innovation will be… ‘Loopy’;
  4. Work will be… ‘Inclusive’; and
  5. Life should be… ‘Sustainable’.

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future in 5 Words… #4: ‘Inclusive’

Why Work will be… ‘Inclusive’

#4V2Diversity is desirable; we know this. It is intrinsically linked to principles of fairness and respect, equality and human rights; with its arch nemesis Discrimination outlawed by state legislation and workplace regulation. This is not, however, why work will be inclusive in the near future: Inclusivity will be a matter of economic necessity. Why? Here follow two sample supporting arguments: one highlights a global megatrend; the other a sector-specific case study.

Firstly, according to the Global AgeWatch Index, the number of older persons (aged 60 years or over) is expected to more than double to 2.1bn by 2050, exceeding the number of children and constituting 21.5% of the population (1 in 5). In fact, in Switzerland, older persons already make up almost 1 in every 4 people (24%). This demographic cannot be ignored: either as human resource in itself, with people working later in life and organisations becoming increasingly age-friendly; or as a community of retirees dependent on the shrinking proportion of people in employment, whose rising productivity targets call for optimal labour levels.

Secondly, certain job markets are almost in crisis. Take for example the case of the construction industry in the UK, stuck with an image problem as the near-exclusive domain of middle-aged white males. At the last count, the sector was found to employ 2.1M people – enough to fill 262,500 double-decker buses – and yet, it is struggling with a looming skills gap, under pressure to find an additional 224,000 new hires by 2019. As well as attracting poor levels of young starters, school leavers, students and apprentices, plus a below-average proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers, it is failing to recruit women. In terms of diversity, women make up 46% of the overall UK workforce but represent just 14.5% of the total in construction and a mere 1.2% in trades. For Construction, therefore, embracing Inclusivity is a must, not a mere nice-to-have.

This is why, in the future, work will be inclusive.

Tomorrow, a 5th Mystery Word: Why Life will be… ?

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future in 5 Words… #3: ‘Loopy’

Why Innovation will be… ‘Loopy’ 

#3At the back end of last year, the new Circular Economy Package from the European Commission came out to a cacophony of mismanaged expectations, eliciting cries of disbelief and sighs of relief, in almost equal measure. It was both lauded and lamented for the sake of a few percentage points either way. In one sense, of course the details matter; however, in another, they really do not. Even as the landfill and recycling targets were published, the game had already moved on.

The emphasis for the Commission and the market at large is now shifting towards engagement of the design community – in everything from consumer packaging and household products, to building projects and industrial plant. This is not about Europe, per se; it is about closing loops and tying up the loose ends of linear thinking and doing. We are on a worldwide creative and intellectual quest for resource alchemy, of which the EU steer will prove part-symptom, part-cause. Why? Well, for starters, commodity costs and constraints are already driving the food-energy-water nexus almost to breaking point in some parts of the planet. Secondly, there is money to be lost and made.

The Circular Economy concept holds real bottom-line and pocket-warming promise, whether by way of global savings revenue of $1tr by 2025, or delivering maybe 205,000 jobs in the UK alone by 2030. Any talk of a resource revolution, though, means seeing waste as more than merely system inefficiency. Smart, sustainable design cannot just be about removal and reduction, but becomes regenerative and restorative. We can only cut so far; we still need to create. This is why, in the future, innovation must get ‘loopy’.

Tomorrow: Why Work will be… ‘Inclusive’

***

For a global Who’s Who on Social Media in the Circular Economy, please see our new @SustMeme Top 500 ranking, published weekly with Enevo.

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future in 5 Words… #2 ‘Sociable’

Why Business will be… ‘Sociable’ 

#2V3For the company of tomorrow, as environmental sustainability becomes increasingly commonplace and the language used to describe it sometimes flat and tired, so its underachieving sibling social sustainability will blossom and grow in popularity. This more human-centric business vision will necessitate a subtle linguistic shift towards ‘people-words’. The combined trends of social-media engagement and interaction with the sharing economy (forecast to be worth $335bn by 2025) currently see corporates being ‘communicative’ and ‘collaborative’, but will translate in the future into business becoming ‘sociable’. From here on, the expectation and aspiration for a good company is to be good company.

Tomorrow: Why Innovation will be… ‘Loopy’

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future in 5 Words… #1: ‘Sensorsational’

Why Cities will be… ‘Sensorsational’ 

#1V2Mushrooming urbanisation has already seen us race past the halfway point for the proportion of people living in cities (with estimates reaching 54% in 2014) and is predicted to hit 2 in every 3, by 2050 (66%). With the boom in mobile and digital technology exploding alongside, driven by smartphone ubiquity, we as people are becoming increasingly connected by sensor technology to the physical environment around us. In effect, the Internet of Things has been creeping up on us by stealth; and that creep is fast turning into a gallop. Already, the forecast date for hitting the one trillion sensors mark has been brought forward from 2030 to 2025. Sensors will connect us to the buildings in which we live, learn and work, the shops where we buy goods, and all modes of transport in between. Within 10 years, that degree of connectivity will see the equivalent of around 120 sensors in operation for every human in existence.

Tomorrow: Why Business will be… ‘Sociable’

***

@SustMeme will be publishing a global Who’s Who on Social Media for Future Cities, with the launch of a new weekly ranking for 2016. If you would like to Sponsor, please see the full Top 500s Menu for details. 

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stories from the Dark Side of the Moon

Dump Linear Language for a Circular Economy

Last Tuesday evening, I experienced one of those minor green-geek moments that trips off a train of thought…

The trigger was rubbish, literally. Walking the dog in the dark and drizzle, I got a small feelgood buzz seeing how many households had made the effort post-festivities to put out their waste for recycling. The detritus of seasonal gift-giving and boozy excess sat neatly piled, boxed and binned, sorted and separated, ready for kerbside collection the next morning.

OK, it was a pretty domesticated demographic along the lanes in leafy Lancashire, but all the same I was handing out virtual high-fives all round for susty awareness and behaviour change.

The kicker came, however, when my mind moved on to thinking more about what this means for the Circular Economy (CE).

The fact is, UK recycling rates had already plateaued and were barely crawling towards the original EU target of 50% by 2020, when the new Circular Economy Package from the European Commission raised the longer-term bar still higher, demanding 65% by 2030. Moreover, recycling really represents only one chapter in an epic circular story.

Selling the CE concept at present reminds me a lot of pitching for sustainability at the turn of the Millennium – your efforts meet with lots of interest and good intentions, but much less activity and action. The challenge for communicators and would-be influencers is that although our aspirations might be circular, for the most part we still think and talk linear, or in terms of curves and arcs, at best. In general, the words we use betray us.

For example, in professional parlance we discuss concepts such as ‘end-of-life’ and the need for designers to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Now whilst both are important ideas and have their place, the language remains essentially linear. We are still talking beginning and end. And, if we don’t say it, we can’t see it.

As a result, we have something of a collective blindspot when it comes to what actually happens between the ‘end’ and the ‘beginning’.

What goes on after we bin and before we buy? 

Businesses might create recyclable products and dispose of them responsibly, plus pay attention to specifying and sourcing recycled in purchasing and procurement, but I doubt many truly make the connective loop, either intellectually or commercially.

It is complicated. Links in the circular chain seem myriad; as cog cycles over cog and wheel whirls within wheel. So, expectations of widespread systemic insight are way too big an ask. It would be wildly unrealistic to imagine significant numbers of people – even waste-industry professionals, never mind bin-day amateurs at Number 23, Acacia Avenue – being able to tell the cradle-to-cradle tale of every material and product.

Happily, ambitions of generating global CE savings revenue of $1tr by 2025, or delivering maybe 205,000 jobs in the UK alone by 2030, do not depend on freak universal spikes in encyclopaedic technical knowledge; at least not right now.

What we want at this early stage in the transition to a circular economy is merely a subtle mindset shift. A little uplift in understanding is all the call; some vague sense of a shared vision. And, in order to start ‘seeing circles’, I believe it would help to hear more tales from the backend of the CE machine.

What we need are stories from the dark side of the moon.

FOOTNOTE: For a global Who’s Who in the Circular Economy on Twitter, see the new @SustMeme Top 500 ranking, published weekly in association with Enevo, transforming the impact of waste through IOT and analytics @enevo.

***

‘Sustainability: Say the Words!’ is a series of aphoristic ‘thoughts and shorts’ appearing regularly throughout 2016 – feedback welcome via Email, or Twitter: @SustMeme.
.

Posted in Sustainability: Say the Words | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment