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Sustainable business >> Industrial symbiosis >> The food system

Sustainable business – The new Industrial Revolution

In just a few decades, the metabolism of the global economy will be fundamentally changed, as fossil fuels are replaced by renewable energy. 
 

And the whole paradigm of take – make – waste, will need to be replaced by circular models. This is at the same time an immense challenge, and an unprecedented business opportunity. 

Green Economics 

Business Principles for the 21st Century

There is ample evidence that business can and must be a force for good. Needless to say, business has contributed enormously to positive societal outcomes such as health, wealth, and job creation. Our collective prosperity is to a large extent built by businesses.

But increasingly obvious is the fact that business the way it works today has many negative side-effects on our planet, to the extent of a planetary crises.

So business can (and should) do more. As the challenges of our world are evolving with growing concerns about the future of humanity, a number of entrepreneurs, innovators, enterprises and researchers are finding ways to explore big business opportunities in solving important problems for our world. During the past decades there has been several influential books and thought leaders that have impacted how leaders operate their companies. We could call this period, the rise of ‘green/conscious economics business’.

The Now and the Future of Norrbotten

Long time backbone of Swedish industrialisation and economic development, the Norrbotten region has been home to a number of “old economy industries” such as mining, steel production and forestry. All driven by fossil energy and responsible for a negative impact on climate and nature. 

 

This is presently in transformation, and the north of Sweden is today the centre of a strong push to decarbonize the “impossible to decarbonize” industries. LKAB, Fertiberia, SSAB, Vattenfall, H2 Green Steel, and Northvolt are some of the businesses who are developing new technologies to decarbonize their operations. 

The push to decarbonize industries and find innovative solutions to meet Sweden's economic needs is motivated by various factors. While reducing emissions is a key driver, there is a growing emphasis on achieving self-sufficiency and securing the domestic supply chain, highlighting the need to lessen dependence on imports.

There is no doubt there is huge demand for green solutions in the market. Green steel, green batteries, and the storage of hydrogen – are just some of the areas attracting a lot of investment and innovation right now. Greenhouse farming and land-based fish farming are other interesting possibilities, allowing the establishment of circular economy clusters.

 

One important reason to establish in Northern Sweden is access to low cost, 100% renewable electricity. But that is not all that needs to be in place. 

In the coming years, northern Sweden needs to recruit tens of thousands of new employees. This requires infrastructure developments in houses, road and rail, public service, health and medical care, and not least education. Higher education, in addition to traditional education in trade industries. A big challenge – but a necessity to scale up the green industries. 

 

This region has the technologies, the will, the history, means and resources to drive this transformation - in the world and in Norrland. Now is the time to do it. 
 

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To care for the future, we must think more holistically about our current capital system

Ethan C Roland

Green and 'Next Gen' Economics

The overarching premise of this ‘green economy’ is that no longer should the sole purpose of a company be to make a profit for its owners, but to serve a larger set of stakeholders. John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market (sold to Amazon in 2018 for USD14 Billion) expressed this idea of conscious capitalism like this:

 

'Profit is like oxygen. It is necessary for survival (of a person and a business). But the purpose of life / business need not to be to breath in as much oxygen as possible or to, as a business, generate as much money as possible for its owners. Rather it can serve a whole set of exciting and meaningful purposes and passions, to serve people and planet.'

 

This new era of business can be characterized by a more balanced view on value creation. Just as Gro Harlem Brundtland suggested with social, economic and environmental focus, it has also been proposed that business could and should generate many more sources of capital than just financial.

 

8 Forms Of Capital is a model originally developed by Ethan C Roland of Appleseed Permaculture, as the foundation for creating, preserving and applying wealth in ways that enhance resilience. The 8 Forms in their original concept are illustrated below:

Challenges and Success Factors 

Some of the biggest challenges we have right now are to create incentives for all of our existing businesses to transform to something more sustainable and, in addition, create new businesses with sustainability in the core of the business strategy and the business models. To make this shift is not easy with the systems and governance models we currently have in place. Leading an existing company through this transformation will come at a cost and need some patience from all stakeholders. 

The Three Horizons framework by Bill Sharpe (see diagram below) has become popular to visualize how the steps might work to successfully transform. H1 represents something that needs to be stopped in order to create a sustainable future (e.g., Fossil fuels within transports). H3 are solutions that are fit for the future (e.g., Electrification and/or hydrogen gas). H2 is solutions with a purpose to work as transitional solutions, those that might work for now but will not be fit for the future (e.g., Biofuel). In theory we could just close all the existing businesses and start fresh. This will obviously not work in practice, hence the need for navigating the balance between H1-H3 will be key for the business world. 

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