Sustainability: The smart and the stupid
Per Grankvist, one of Sweden’s leading experts on sustainability, was guest speaker at Södra’s customer event in Barcelona.
He began by sharing one of the world’s most reproduced images – the Blue Marble, an image of the Earth taken from space in 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft. It was in the same year that the UN held its first Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, recognising that the environment was too big and complex an issue for one country and the UN environmental programme was created.
The Blue Marble image became a symbol of how mankind is not at the centre of everything – all our resources are concentrated on this little planet. There are only two approaches when it comes to resources: the stupid and the smart. Those who choose to use the world’s resources in the most ‘resourceful’ way will be the most successful.
Sustainability is common sence
There is often a tendency to believe that sustainability is a question of morality when it isn’t. It’s common sense. Acting sustainably just because it’s the right thing to do does not usually bring results; an inferior sustainable product is no use to anyone.
Swedish clothing firm, H&M, launched an environmental collection which initially failed. Why? Because the product itself was unattractive and consumers didn’t buy it. Contrast that with the groups’ latest environmentally-friendly, the “conscious collection”: Sustainable but fashionable, durable and well marketed – it sold out within six hours of launching. H&M now leads the way in raising awareness of sustainable fashion and has committed to being a completely circular business by 2030, recycling everything it makes.
It Is time to think about consumption in a smarter way./Per Grankvist
It Is time to think about consumption in a smarter way. Cost is an issue, but there really is no such thing as a cheap product these days in the sense that someone will be paying the price when corners are cut. If a sustainable product costs more money to produce, consider the smarter use of resources: Make something that will last three times as long and charge three times the price for it. These days, to quote the American businessman, Dave Ramsey, “we buy stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t know.”
This must stop. Our insatiable desire for stuff has a price and now the planet is sending us invoices: We no longer have a climate threat but a climate crisis. We need to talk resources rather than sustainability and be smarter when it comes to using them.
UPS realised that if their trucks avoid turning left and opt for right-turn routes, they could help reduce traffic congestion and avoid constant (expensive) stop-starts at lights. This smarter more sustainable thinking has saved the company more than $100 million USD per year. In contrast to what you might associate with sustainability, talking about and following the money is more than OK, it’s necessary.
IKEA is another example of smart sustainable thinking: Their innovative flatpack offering was not motivated by morality when it started in the 1960s but by the recognition that transporting air around bulky furniture was costly and inefficient. Paying to transport space is stupid. Flatpacks reduced transport and therefore costs, and these savings could be passed onto the consumer. They also happen to make IKEA more sustainable and more profitable in the process.
When BMW created its electric car division, it was brave enough to move out of its traditional factory space in Munich and set up a new facility in Leipzig with an entirely new team of designers, competing within its own business. The result was an electric car that is more effective than its traditional models and the electric cars of its rivals, made of lightweight carbon fibre with reduced fuel consumption, streamlined wheels and a wealth of other features. The BMW i3 is now the most sustainable car on the market and the most popular. BMW’s mission is no longer to only sell premium vehicles, but to provide premium mobility, and it has launched a care-sharing service in several European cities called Drive Now, – a sustainable approach which is a win for the consumer.
Sustainability is a question of common sense, not morality/Per Grankvist
Sustainability is a question of common sense, not morality, argues Grankvist. Think about the resources you use and how you could use them in a smarter way to make more money and be sustainable in the process. Ask Södra how they could help you use less of their product. And if you don’t know what to ask, ask them to help – collaboration is extremely important in the quest for smarter solutions.
Södra hit the right note with its latest marketing campaign: Ordinary consumers who make sustainable choices are unaware they are heroes. Companies need to help the consumer to live a rich life but do it by using resources smartly and make the consumer feel smart for making sustainable choices. If you don’t come up with the best solution immediately, keep trying: H&M didn’t get it right at the start but by showing the way, they encouraged others to begin thinking differently too.
Some people may always want disposable fashion to avoid wearing the same thing twice, but maybe their outfit could be printed on paper on a Friday and recycled on a Monday. We are being forced to rethink our consumption because our use of the world’s resources is just too stupid. Those who do things in a smarter way hold the key and plant-based materials are the future.