Talking about creating net-zero businesses reminds me of the time when I wrote about zero-based thinking about the education system. Only by reconstructing what we want to achieve from scratch, can we try to uncover new innovations and ideas that we have been missing out to think about problems we have.
The agrifood industry supposedly produces about one-third of all the carbon emissions that humans are responsible for these days. We can try to think about where to cut emissions or we can consider how to overhaul things. One of the chief challenge of the world today is that we have been taking the theory of comparative advantage and trade too far, forgetting in part the risk of concentration, and the issues around carbon emissions of the logistics and supply chain. Once we start factoring in carbon costs, we can start considering more about growing and consuming local more because it might actually be worth the while.
So a net-zero agrifood business quite likely will have start from considering crop cycles, relevant crops to be growing for the local taste and preferences, and the techniques for cultivation, processing, and marketing these products. It will have to reduce distribution or tap on synergies with other nearby industries for distribution. It should concern itself with strong focus on quality and selection of robust crops.
Of course, it will also concern itself with minimizing packaging, pioneering newer retail approaches; once again leveraging more on synergies with surrounding industries. Of course, there is still room for trade and exporting but it might be harder especially if the produce is perishable. Nevertheless, the idea is no longer to use economies of scale and efficiency to sell to the mass market and allow the whole capitalist-industrial complex to be built upon heaps of waste and trash.
What are you telling yourself when you consume something? Or when you withhold a consumption? The difficulty with saving the world is that we actually need to consume less and not more. Yet we need to get the markets to continue doing the work of delivering what we need. How can we know that the economic system already delivered what it needs to and perhaps a different machinery will be needed.
When you try to consume less, you retain the purchasing power to be tempted again and again towards consumption. And that is why it has been difficult to encourage people to save if they can maintain access to their savings – you need to force people to lock up their money for long times.
And maybe better to work on the path of culture; to develop the right storylines to consume less. It can be about degradation of the environment; or it can be about products that does less to the environment (ie. Consuming 1 instead of 3 alternatives). Or it can be about an identity that people should be aspiring towards.
In my career-coaching, I often encounter cases of communication challenges from employees or staff especially in conveying messages or ideas to the bosses. Part of the problem is probably culture and the strange imbalance of power with bosses, particularly in larger organisations. There is a lot more filtering of information with complex intentions:
Staff might be trying to simplify things for bosses in order to get information across fast but end up obscuring some information
Staff may also be trying to manage their bosses’ perception of them and hence try to be focused on delivering more good news than bad
Information might be mixed with remarks incorporated for bootlicking purposes
All of these we learnt through a combination of poor workplace culture, bad upbringing with parents hiding lots of different things here and there. There are much better ways to be able to bring truth to the table without having to flinch at the expected responses.
Highlight the context and the objectives of the company or project, and gain affirmation first
Bring up how the objectives are not being met
Define the problem clearly and how it connects to the objectives not being met
Provide some options; each of which justified either by expert or external opinions, past experience from the team and other parties
Request for a decision to be made
If the boss sits on the decision and don’t make it; you may need to be more persistent in highlighting the issue. Then you can start bringing the consequences and laying alongside the costs of the options so that doing nothing would clearly be more costly.
This approach is also useful for sales but perhaps that’s for another day.
Trapped on our little island of Singapore, we hardly wonder what our handphones are capable of; here in Singapore we typically use it to text, call, surf, as a phone book to retrieve contact details of people, a personal organizer and even a camera. Singaporeans makes extensive use of their phones and our preferences are varied, a reflection of our melting pot of diversity. And as the briefing in the latest issue of The Economist shows, mobile phones are indeed a great reflection of the culture of the people using them.
The article mentioned a couple of interesting quirks about people using mobile phones around the world:
Japanese use their phones to text and surf intensively because using phones to make or receive calls on board trains and some other public places are thought to be extremely rude.
Spaniards reject voicemail because they think it’s rude not to receive calls from others when they call, even when the receiver is busy with matters.
Chinese will interrupt conversations to receive calls because they are afraid to that they’d miss a business deal; at the same time they use knock-offs handphones that often have extensive functions, even capable of using two SIM cards.
Americans are willing to endure limited cellular coverage; perhaps fearing the hassle involved in changing operators.
Italians, Greeks and Finns would switch operators if they find their coverage limited and yet are fearful of the effects of electro-magnetic radiation, which probably is more ubiquitous than in America.
Indians use mobile phones as torchlights.
Africans usually use ‘beeping’ (ie. give the person a ring) to contact people and signal them to call back when they’re low on pre-paid credits.
Indeed, mobile phones are changing everyone’s lives everywhere; one just needs to know the name given to these devices in different societies and cultures to understand their importance. In fact, Iraqis thought more highly of the proliferation of mobile phones as a result of the American invasion than their supposed liberation.
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