I am following a workshop series in how lifecycle thinking can be applied and this philosophy not only takes into account capitalist arguments but also sustainability as a whole. It you think about they end-to-end process of any service or product, you will be able to apply improvements along the way if you not only look at your part in the lifecycle but work together with suppliers, partners and customers in making a dent for the future. It makes you think about raw materials, energy use, use of land, impact on the environment and health, climate change, eutrophication of the ground and the toxicity of used in the progress. They try to measure impact by touching base on all these different axis. They calculate a benchmark called functional unit. A gain is not calculated by comparing individual parts of a product or process but on volume and the gain on that volume. A benchmark is not to compare for instance a PET bottle with a glass bottle, It is to compare the usage of commercial drinking water in a restaurant for instance. Context is also very important.
It’s not a new movement in thinking. It has been around for twenty years or even more. With ups and down people try to do business in a sustainable way. But now, since the rise of the ‘green’ and ‘clean’ energy industry, it became top of mind of both customers and entrepreneurs as it gives them an extra edge, a competitive advantage.
It is more a philosophy than a science, although some instances try to treat it like a science… But with all things that are measured in a philosophy, the truth of finding a benchmark number is pretty far fledged as with numbers you can proof pretty much everything and you can certainly find meaning and value. That’s what it’s all about. Emotion defines how far you run with the ideology.
One example was someone who did in coatings. Because he works with small quantities only, he loses about 50% of this powder. If he could collect that powder and reuse the same power as a raw material instead of throwing it away, he can buy less to start with, he doesn’t need to bear the cost of the waste, … Although the cost is too low today to recycle, it made him think. If he applies a solution for it in which he recuperated 95% of the powder, and took his time frame broader than 1 year, this isn’t such a crazy idea to apply. He would definitely win most on raw materials, but also on the part that comes from the waste business and has an impact on our environment, etc.
Therefore, my idea today is to create an international sustainability label and certification. One in which companies should show that a percentage of their business revenue and/or profit is used to analyse, evaluate and make modifications to the lifecycle of the product or service they are involved in.
This certification could have different levels in which investing in the knowledge (set benchmark) gets you the lowest level of certification, a percentage of the budget spent on improving the benchmark gets you to the second level of certification. A third, and highest level, of certification can be acquired if you actively improve the lifecycle 360 degrees, meaning you don’t only look at your own impact but on the lifecycle as a whole.
The business model for something like this? The label needs to be renewed yearly, certifications should be renewed yearly, a ‘certified partner’ membership network could be created, …
There is no competition in this market yet. So the first who runs with this idea, wins the market.