Transforming the business ecosystem towards environmentally friendly “blue economy” models

Over the last few years there has been an attempt by some sectors of the business ecosystem to renew all the industrial processes that have been generating most of the waste, spills and residues on the planet. The model to follow, nature’s own recycling systems, has been applied to some small-scale industries with very good results. Some of these companies have managed to greatly reduce their environmental impact and ecological footprint, cancelling or practically eliminating the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere, or being able to recycle all or almost all the waste products generated by their production chain.

These small-scale successes have not been replicated, however, in most large companies, corporations and multinationals whose production systems are spread across multiple locations, factories or workspaces, since waste management or recycling of all the raw materials left over from each of these processes cannot be dealt with as easily as in smaller companies, or where all the processes are more centralized and geographically located in the same place.

Moreover, in general, for a large part of today’s industry, it is more profitable to get rid of everything they do not need than to look for methods and ways to recycle it and introduce it back into their production chain, just as it is still more expensive for them to invest in changes that will lead them to be more respectful of the environment and the planet’s natural ecosystem than to continue working as they have always done, despite the damage that this could entail for the biosphere.

Sustainable changes by studying nature

In spite of everything, the good news is that on a small scale, changes can be seen in business awareness to transform part of the productive ecosystem to structures more in line with the sustainability of an industry that cannot function without raw materials, and that depends on nature to obtain them, and on the resources that the planet provides us, and that realize that if these resources are wasted, misused or polluted, their own economic, personal and professional future is also being put at risk. As long as this awareness is maintained even if it is only for economic purposes or to ensure the sustainability of business models and the prosperity of these industries in the medium to long term, it is welcome that we are changing, at least in part, the way we approach the way we pollute less, and recycle much more, of everything that results from the processes of manufacturing and creating consumer products for society.

Just as many small and medium-sized companies have studied nature itself to discover ways to convert a toxic product or a waste product into something that can be reused in another part of the production chain, even if it is some other product, we still have much to learn about how natural ecosystems reuse everything that may no longer be useful for one part, but can be used as the engine of growth for another. The so-called “blue economy”, the title of Gunter Pauli’s book that refers to this type of “cloning” of natural methods so as not to waste any of what is produced, is the key to making our consumer society a sustainable society in the long term, and one that respects the growth cycles of all the ecosystems from which we then extract those materials that we use for their transformation into the products we demand.

Acting before we have no other choice

How can we make the entire industrial network based on and “copying” the models of natural ecosystems? How can we transform heavy and polluting industry into industries that do not produce toxic gases or dump chemical waste products into rivers and seas? How can we find the balance between productivity and business profit and the long-term sustainability of our society based on the availability of the resources present on the planet?

Just as there will come a day when we will run out of oil, because the pockets of crude will be so deep that we will not have the capacity to extract them, and it will not be profitable to invest in creating technology that can drill so many hundreds of kilometers into the interior of the Earth, there will also come a day when we will run out of trees if we continue to cut them down at the rate we are doing, or we will run out of clean water if we continue to pollute all the rivers and aquifers of the planet with chemicals. It does not have to happen tomorrow, and that is why a large part of the industry is taking advantage of this process that does not happen overnight, but has slow but inexorable consequences in the medium term of which they do not want to be aware, because it means acting in the “now”, where they still do not have this problem and where, if they acted to remedy it, they would lose a large part of the economic benefits that the current production systems bring them.

As such, these large corporations and industries responsible for most of the pollution of the atmosphere, of water sources and the felling of trees, prefer to hurry up deadlines until they really cannot produce a single unit more of what they produce, and, meanwhile, maintain unsustainable and completely inadequate methods of production and extraction of resources so as not to lose competitiveness with other companies, or not to lose the dynamic of benefits that they may have been having and whose shareholders, in general, do not want to interrupt the economic flow that the current state of operations entails for them.

And that is why we said that it is the small and medium-sized companies that are really leading the changes in production methods so that the “blue” economy takes shape and takes hold, because this type of industry and business ecosystem does not have the pressures, to a certain extent, that large corporations and multinationals have, which after all are the ones that control the world economy, and are present in all the important countries for their control of the planet. These small companies, not having to deal with such a vast network of interlocutors, intermediaries, and connections around the globe, find it easier to find ways to adapt and change their internal processes and structures and become more sustainable in less time and with less investment and problems in the reconversion than the rest.

By diverting the economic flow of the population towards environmentally responsible companies

Will it be enough for the entire small and medium-sized industrial ecosystem to convert to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly model in order to “save” it and avoid the destruction of our entire natural ecosystem? No, it will not be enough unless the population and society itself also realizes that the world’s major polluters are not doing anything to stop being polluters, and are only creating marketing campaigns over and over again to make us believe that they are leading the fight against climate change. If we manage to dismantle this farce, to which the world’s largest industrial companies spend billions of euros every year, then they will have no choice but to make real changes, but to do so, we will have to start marketing and buying products from companies that have really committed and demonstrated that they are making substantial changes in their production processes to be able to offer the products we demand without impacting the environment.

If only every consumer knew the ecological footprint of each company that provides a product or service, and how much that company pollutes in order to provide it, we would have a way to decide for ourselves whether we want to contribute to that company to continue doing so or to purchase a product from some other company. That company may be smaller or may have somewhat fewer resources or may make a somewhat different product than the one we are looking for but that already meets or fulfills the needs we have, which would begin to divert the flow of the economy away from large corporations to eco-sustainable and biosphere-responsible companies.

To achieve this, obviously, we need certain changes in legislation to introduce some kind of label on all the products and services we consume to help us assess what impact on the environment has had the process of creating that product, which will possibly involve governments and regulatory bodies to introduce laws and standards in the industrial sector that will force, in some way that we can not yet estimate, how to carry out this measurement of the total impact that has had to create a product or another. Since many companies that have many interests at a political and global level will be against this type of legislation, it will be difficult to see something like this being developed in most of the developed countries of the world, but it is not entirely impossible if society demands to know, at least in a general way, the environmental impacts that each of the corporations and multinationals of the planet are having for each of the products they are selling us.

Let the consumer be the one to decide

The idea is simple in that aspect, that it is the consumer himself who decides from where or from whom he wants to acquire what he needs, if from those who are making the effort to change and adapt all their production models to not pollute, not damage and not contribute more to the destruction of the natural ecosystem, or from those who despite trying to make us believe otherwise, continue to act as if the planet had infinite resources and that the day when these may end will never come.

In this way, once the consumers themselves are choosing and becoming aware of the power they have to decide where they derive the economic flow that gives them the power to buy something or not, it is the companies themselves that are harmed because other competitors are playing within the framework of the “blue economy”, within the framework of natural sustainability and respect for the environment, those who will be forced into a race to transform themselves so as not to miss the “train” that society has set in motion to take care of the resources that remain on this planet, before it can become completely uninhabitable at some indeterminate moment in time if we continue along this same path and path of atmospheric pollution, destruction of forests and jungles, and pollution of rivers, lakes and seas on a global scale.

Pressure to convert to “green” companies

As soon as the main companies responsible for most of the world’s pollution initiate conversion processes, the rest of the world will follow in their footsteps, since, as we have mentioned, by controlling practically the entire global economy, their decisions and changes of course inexorably drag the rest of the business and industrial ecosystem towards new practices, methods or production techniques which, in the long run, may end up being positive for everyone, because they may allow the regeneration of everything we are now destroying, and may help the Earth itself to recover what is now being lost.

And it has always been known, and has been taken into account by those who have had more contact with the natural world, the countryside and the natural ecosystem, that if nature is left to work, it always finds ways to recover and regenerate, therefore, if we start working on a sustainable model of collaboration with the environment, and allow this regeneration by not pouring more toxics or chemicals, not polluting the air and not cutting down more trees, we can recover the planet we live on and make it more habitable for all of us.

Business models will have to change a lot for this to become a reality several generations from now, but it is a possible path because we have seen demonstrated in the natural ecosystems themselves how everything can be recycled, used and transformed for the benefit of all plant and animal life. Let us do the same for the benefit of human life, and let us take advantage of the teachings of our biosphere to implement as quickly as possible the changes that will allow us to recover the splendor of the planet on which we live, without it ending up becoming a garbage dump or an unbreathable space full of pollution that can no longer be counteracted by trees and plants, or by anything that, at some point, and perhaps already desperate, we may invent to deal with the ecological disaster that we are generating without compassion.

It is time to act, and we can start by provoking those who have decided to transform their business models to assist the planet to receive our support for it through the use of their products or services, while those who have decided the opposite, see their economic flows diminished by the refusal to buy them until they really execute changes that can demonstrate that they are working for the greater good of the planet and humanity, and not only for an annual profit and loss account.

By the IDHUS Institute

The Institute for the Development of Human Societies is a think tank shedding light on the complex interplay between demography, human development, the impact of technology on society and global population dynamics