How Environmental Principles Can Help Us

reThink Business
How Environmental Principles
Can Help Us Achieve Sustainable Success
This workshop was made possible because of generous contributions from
The Natural Step Canada,
The Greater Sudbury Development Corporation,
and The Trillium Foundation.
reThink Green thanks them for their continued support.
Learning Objectives
By the end of this workshop, hopefully we’ll have learned …
 What sustainability means
 The 4 system conditions - ‘rules’ for the development of a
sustainable society
 How these system conditions affect the way we live and do
 How to apply sustainable thinking to solve contemporary
business problems
How To Destroy the World…
You’re an interstellar consultant hired to ‘decommission’ the Earth. Standing on the
moon we see a beautiful, self-contained environment… how can we break this system?
For Example…
We could take toxic
substances from within
the Earth, dig them up,
and spread them
throughout our
We could create
entirely new toxic
substances, produce
them rapidly, and
spread them throughout
our environment.
We could physically
degrade our
surroundings until
we’ve fundamentally
changed our
We could exploit
people, undermine
their livelihoods, and
slowly degrade the
world’s social
So What is Sustainability?
“Sustainable development is development that
meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their needs.”
“A method for the harvesting or utilization of a resource so that the
resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”
- Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, 2013
- Bruntland Commission Report, 1987
“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that
we need for our survival and well-being depends, either
directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.”
- US Environmental Protection Agency
“Sustainability is the capacity to
- Wikipedia, 2013
“Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can
exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other
requirements of present and future generations.”
- Environment Canada
“The quality of not being harmful to the environment or
depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting
long-term ecological balance”
- David Suzuki Foundation
“Enough, for all, forever.”
- Bob Willard,
Sustainability Advantage
Sustainability in 2 Minutes
Flawed Interpretations
The “Cylinder Paradigm”
The earth has unlimited resources
The earth has unlimited ability to absorb our wastes safely
We can go on and on like this forever...
The earth’s overall supply
Society’s overall demand
The Funnel Paradigm
The reality is that we have created a situation for ourselves where
we have less and less room to manoeuvre.
What impacts does this have on our businesses and communities?
Coffee Break: System Condition Quiz
When you buy Fair Trade coffee, which system condition are you helping to achieve?
Hint: Fair Trade = Premium Prices for Farmers
The “Fair Trade” system involves customers paying farmers premium prices for their coffee
products. This allows the producers to overcome some of the traditional economic barriers
associated with non-Fair Trade coffee sales
The Answer: System Condition 4
Coffee Break: System Condition Quiz
When you buy organically produced coffee, which system condition are you
helping to achieve?
Hint: Organic Products = Produced Without Pesticides
The Answer: System Condition 2
Coffee Break: System Condition Quiz
When you buy shade-grown coffee, which system condition are you helping to
Hint: Shade Grown = Coffee Grown Without Cutting Down Forests
The Answer: System Condition 3
Coffee Break: System Condition Quiz
When coffee is shipped long distances from growing areas to markets and
consumers, which system condition is being violated?
Hint: Fossil Fuels for Transportation = Substances From the Earth’s Crust
The Answer: System Condition 1
Back-casting: Where Am I Going To Live?
Group Exercise 1:
IKEA’s Supply Chain
The Background:
 You’re the new product manager of IKEA’s North American operations.
 The company employs 53,000 workers across a network of over 150 stores in
29 countries on four continents.
 Recently adopted environmental legislation has pushed the retail
community to embrace energy-efficient products in their stores.
 If IKEA doesn’t take a proactive stance on this issue, there will surely be
pressure on the company from its customers, employees, and other
The Problem:
 IKEA had been selling conventional incandescent light bulbs for some time.
 Compact fluorescent light bulbs are 5 times more efficient than incandescents,
and last between 8 and 10 times longer.
 The Product Manager’s task is to source a supply of new compact fluorescent
bulbs (or CFL’s) in response to the new regulation and customer demand.
What’s The Solution?
Product Decision Factors – CFL’s
Less use of uranium / fossil fuels in manufacturing
Contains trace amounts of mercury
Less mining
Greater up front cost
Less nuclear waste
Energy efficient and longer lasting
What Really Happened:
 IKEA found a Chinese manufacturer who could produce the bulbs with mercury
content below the European standard.
 The company worked with the manufacturer to ensure that fair labour practices
were in place in its facilities.
 IKEA cut their bulb prices by one third and offered every Swedish household one
free bulb to get them started.
 They developed a mercury recycling program with a German company and offered
to take back used CFL’s for free, so that 99% of the mercury contained in the bulbs
was recovered.
 The campaign significantly increased household sales of CFL’s in Europe and
ultimately proved to be a profitable business strategy for IKEA.
Group Exercise 2:
The Mom and Pop Grocery Store
The Background:
 You’re the manager of a small grocery store that sells local food
 The store is a co-operative, meaning all of your members have a say in
decisions that affect the business
 Your membership is highly aware of environmental issues and their biggest
concern is the eco-friendliness of the store’s operation
The Problem:
 You’ve been losing money and customers because of strict environmental
policies that members have established
 Reducing fuel consumption, energy use, and carrying only regional products
has made the store an ‘uncomfortable’ place to shop for customers
 The business model needs to be re-evaluated or the store will be forced to
 How can we grow a viable grocery business while still keeping our
membership’s commitment to being sustainable???
The Solution:
Store Needs
Membership Needs
More revenue to continue to pay staff / overhead costs
‘Customer comfort’ - amenities like
air conditioning to make the store
inviting to customers
Maintaining supply and wide variety
of food products to cater to customer
Availability – store needs to be
accessible for customers
Minimize the fuel consumed in
transporting food
Minimize energy / electricity used in
the store
Maintain a strict ‘local product’
policy to ensure the food available at
the store was eco-friendly
Streamline budget for staff and store
in order to ease some of the financial
pressure facing the store
What Really Happened:
 Our case study is based on the experience of Eat Local Sudbury, a co-operative
local food store in downtown Sudbury. Their first decision in addressing these
problems was to reach out to their customers for ideas.
 Eat Local broadened its definition of ‘local’ and began stocking more items from
across Ontario.
 Full air conditioning and refrigeration systems were installed in a newly
 The co-op established the ‘We Want Northern Chicken’ campaign based on
customer demand for poultry, improving their product selection in the process .
 The Eat Local team has made partnerships with local food groups in neighboring
communities to share freight and transportation costs.
 The store also expanded its business hours and is currently open every day of the
week, with at least one staff person present to assist customers, answer questions,
and stock merchandise.
Did It Make A Difference?
 Eat Local Sudbury is now surpassing their monthly sales targets by 30 – 40 %
Actual and Projected Sales, 2013
Sales Target (in %)
Did It Make A Difference?
 The business has realized a 100% increase in revenue when compared to
this time last year
 50% increase in membership sales, with a record number of individuals
investing in full-year memberships
 The co-op has grown from approximately 400 members in January of this
year to around 600 at the end of August
 The business has observed a remarkable uptick in the amount of positive
word-of-mouth they’re generating amongst the public, their network of
food producers continues to grow, and revenues are climbing steadily
Our Brand New Co-Working Space…
Thank You All for Participating!
 4 System Conditions
 Backcasting
 Sustainability in business context
 Case Studies

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