Janek Hermann Friede, Senior Partner at seecon, has adopted a multidisciplinary approach in his work on sustainable development that embraces society, the environment, and the economy. He describes the responsibility business has on caring about resources and our daily lives.
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Highlights of the conversation:
- Both words of “public value” comprise a lot of meaning. Public refers to society and the environment I’m leaving in, and value is about what matters. What matters to people are, first and foremost, their living conditions that are heavily influenced by their environmental conditions. Public value is therefore everything relevant to the positive development of the environment I live in from a societal, environmental, and political viewpoint.
- There is a growing interest in living up to the expectation that companies are more than money-making machines, are developing to a direction of true value for customers beyond consumption. These are companies that do not look at maximising their profits, but are trying to position themselves strategically with the development of sustainable approaches.
- Profit can no longer be the only driver. There is a new powerful driver that is “solving problems”. Ideally, companies can, not only cover costs, but also make profit out of their solution. This approach goes beyond generating profits, and also helps scaling up businesses.
- Working wish scarce resources, such as water, it is important to make sure that these resources are being used efficiently and that they remain available for future production. There are obviously competing interests for scarce resources. It is crucial to balance solutions for this scarce resource and make sure that over-competition does not negatively impact on local populations (reducing drinking water volumes). Companies have a responsibility towards taking a part in the negotiations over the allocation of any scarce resource. They have to make sure that the conditions around what is managed have to be shared with all stakeholders. Companies have the mandate to do so, particularly in the context where capacities are weak and where governance systems don’t work effectively.
- Circular economy and re-use of resources is a key approach to address the challenge of scarce resources as it allows for new business opportunities and for transforming waste into a resource of a new type. With sand becoming an extremely scarce resource and impacting on the construction industry, innovation and the use of other materials can be another solution. This can also help companies positioning themselves as responsible businesses.
- There are two leverages to speed up sustainable business: public demand (consumers’ choices and behaviour) and regulation. The most positive approach is to recognise the existing challenges and to work on finding solutions to tackle them. There is a huge potential for transformation of the companies as we know them today if they bring solutions to the problems that impact each of us in our daily lives.