Sustainability Must Scale
I was at a rather posh dinner on Pall Mall last night where the speaker was Sir Ian Cheshire, outgoing CEO of Kingfisher and his topic was Sustainable Business Leadership. I’ll write up some more of what he said in a future post with quotes, but the point he finished on resonated with me – the need for any sustainability project to scale.
What do we mean by ‘scale’?
We mean the project must not be intrinsically hampered by its own nature – it must be able to flourish. Scale brings down prices – we don’t talk about ‘economies of scale for nothing’.
- If you develop an eco-product for a green market niche, then it will always be limited by the size of that niche. To make it scale, you have to make it attractive to the mass market.
- If you develop an anaerobic digester – if it is very sensitive to the quality of its feedstock then its use will be limited by that sensitivity. If you want to make a real difference, the technology must be applicable to a wide range of situations, including those you haven’t thought of.
- While community recycling projects are admirable, they will never deliver a circular economy on their own – the existing product design and waste industry needs to be transformed.
Scale is often a matter of mindset – we need to stop thinking small (sorry, EF Schumacher) and think big. Only then will sustainability become the new normal.