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Economy

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

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I recently attended a conference where Janine Benyus, author of the inspiring book Biomimicry said, “We are all part of nature.” I agree, and if we all believe this, anything we do to undermine the integrity and strength of natural systems also undermines us.

How often do we put ourselves in the picture of a world full of connections, information flows and impacts? It’s easy just to see our direct relationships, to the people, places, institutions and the environment we interact with.

We often think only in direct transactions, our direct influence and the external responses to them. Do we seek information beyond this, looking to understand the unintended consequences of our actions, the indirect outcomes of the decisions we make? Most of the time, I’d suggest, no.

Why is this? In part it’s because we use our brains in the most efficient ways possible so that what we directly influence around us is of most importance to us.

Much earlier in human development, that was sufficient for survival when any impacts away from us rarely undermined our lives. Yet now they do, and it is often a default that we still focus on our immediate situation without reflection of the wider world.

In our modern lives, we don’t directly ‘pick up the bill’ for our actions, yet the negative impacts are shared with others, even far away (often called ‘externalities’).

If we closely analysed the relationships our demands have, then we would begin to recognise the social impacts of our desires for cheap consumer goods in factories in the far east and the consequences of our thirst for oil in the polluted communities of Nigeria. And if we really looked closely, we would see the impacts that climate change is having on almost every citizen on the planet.

In our professional lives, we often become more specialist, reducing our ability to figure out how the world around us relates to what we do as experts. We can become less aware of the unintended consequences of what we are doing.

Also, it’s likely that we miss out on the potential to collaborate or to learn from other fields which at first sight may appear irrelevant, yet may be essential in finding the new insight that is needed for transformational problem-solving.

By taking time to step back and understand our roles and actions, by reflecting how they relate to the wider system, we are able to think and design out potential problems that ultimately affect us and our future generations.

We can engage and respond to the actors that it relates to and we can utilise far more knowledge and information that exists within the system. It may initially feel like we are adding complexity by adding more information, and yes it may feel overwhelming at first, yet the learning we gather become the references we need for accelerating the development of superior, more complete and inclusive solutions.

We better design out problems that would emerge later on and by being aware of new knowledge and how this can challenge our assumptions and improve the outcomes.

Business can do this too by mapping out its activities, relationships, knowledge flows and so on. A business leading in sustainability integration, Interface, applies this systemic view in most of its work and this can be illustrated through new products including the use of ecologically damaging abandoned fishing nets from the Pacific Islands and recycling this into yarn for its carpet tiles (called Net Works).

We can do this where we live, by looking at how our communities function and our roles within them so we can create the groups that give us meaning and purpose and support our desire to thrive.

Transition Towns has been pioneering this in the UK, creating intelligent communities, collaborating to design and deliver effective solutions to many of the sustainability challenges local areas face. Where we really need this type of thinking are the many levels of government that could use it to effectively tackle many of our biggest challenges, though these are still places where systemic, collaborative and long-term leadership for sustainability remains weak.

If we are able to see the system we live in, be that on a local, national or global level, we begin to look at what it takes to make the area function and to identify what it needs to thrive within the sustainability constraints. From this, we can then understand the systems and sub-systems, the actors, impacts and positive outcomes we seek.

We understand our roles within the system, we begin to learn how our impacts affect people directly around us and also beyond us. We begin to empathise and realise it’s in our own interests to protect the environment of another on the other side of the planet and it’s in the interest of the person living there to contribute to my quality of life as well as everyone else’s on Earth.

Only when we are thinking at this level will we have fully recognised, accepted and celebrated our role truly being part of nature on this wonderful, beautiful planet.

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. 

Further reading:

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

The business case for sustainability – an exceptional Forum for the Future event

Business rife with short-termism; just 7% feel pressure to deliver long-term returns

The Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He also explores ways to engage people to connect authentically and passionately to become the sustainability leaders and heroes the future needs.

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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