Can Capitalism be tweaked to adjust to our finite planet?

“We need to understand that consumers buy the benefit, not the product – they want a hole, not a drill” Peck explains. “If we accept this, then we realize, for example, that a car is about connection, not metal. This significantly expands the brief for the automotive industry or their competitors.”

He cites the popularity of services like Zipcar, Whipcar and tele-conferencing as examples of how we can fulfill our human need to connect, and drive business – all without depleting resources building new automobiles.

Beyond-growth economics is a radical concept that requires buy-in from both shareholders and the CEO. “It’s a new paradigm, and could be misconstrued as slowing corporate prosperity. This in itself could make shareholders jittery” says Peck.

However, visionary companies like Unilever are dipping their toes in the water, and working with Peck on his Flourishing Enterprise strategic innovation process. Using this process, Peck helps them maximise the well-being they produce per unit planet input.

Peck says “its about a shift from seeing products as benefits to seeing production as a cost of maintenance of delivery to real societal well-being needs.” In this Peck makes a distinction between ‘real well-being needs’ and ‘marketing created wants’.

He believes moving beyond growth is a inevitable reality, indeed that we may already have reached the end of growth.

It’s incumbent on corporations to find a better way forward, and to progressively lobby for an updated market. “Major companies are on this journey now but many others are slow to connect the dots. It’s a matter of creating the movement, as opposed to being run over by the movement.”

Learnings

The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. And shifting from a resource-draining economic model to one based on creating well-being through innovation seems equally inevitable. That said, daily news about resource scarcity, drought, and overconsumption will certainly hasten the process.

For companies to embrace beyond growth economics, they can’t treat less product production as an obstacle, but rather a design imperative. BMW’s new iProject shifted the brief from ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ to ‘Mobility’. And they’re driving full-speed to become the company that owns an easier, more exciting way to get around and connect in the future.

In order to incorporate stakeholder well-being as an imperative for your company, you need three things: a brave CEO, shareholders who understand the big picture…and outside the jar thinkers who can help determine the potential for current brands to create consumer well-being. People who have gotten used to selling drills may not see the holes that consumers are looking for – you need fresh eyes on the problem.
__________________________________________________

Marc Stoiber is a creative director, writer, innovator and green brand specialist.   He consults with clients across North America. He also speaks and blogs extensively on trends that will influence the destiny of today’s brands.  He can be reached at marc@marcstoiber.com