Welcome to the Rethink: Circular blog and community. I look forward to building a highly engaged community of thought, business, and political leaders engaged in this important work.
We begin with the following 5 assertions:
- Income Inequality is Institutionalized. A combination of factors has led to the evisceration of productivity in the US in recent decades, and with it real wage growth and the middle class. We contend that primary drivers include (a) the prioritization of shareholder value over stakeholder value, short-term stock price over long-term enterprise value, (b) a few critically flawed economic assumptions made in traditional, laissez-faire economics and exacerbated by policy over the past 3 decades, (c) cheap credit markets that have fueled irresponsible over-consumption behaviors, and (d) a financial market system in which 85% of capital remains perpetually in the financial market itself, rather invested in the real economy.
- The Environment is Trashed, Literally. Coincident with the human tolls, the systems described above have imposed far reaching negative externalities on our physical world under the growth at all costs prevailing scenario. The ramifications of dirty energy are better understood, but the impact of our linear, take/make/waste production and consumption models that gouge our planet of its resources, with the inherent objective to use/ exhaust/ replace them as quickly as possible is less discussed and addressed by many. Recycling - albeit insufficient still - needs to be the last resort, not our best answer.
- Challenges are Significant, but Definitely Surmountable. Fundamental, structural business model changes can provide a path forward for both challenges. A circular economy values processes that measure value in lifetime extension, durability, serviceability, use, and performance, rather than top line unit growth. New models that reward product extension versus planned obsolescence, facilitate creation of new markets for reuse, followed by refurbishing and remanufacture, and only then recycling, are working already. These models align corporate, consumer and social goals. These models leverage technology to facilitate the 'future of work' versus undermine it, to enable the combination of technology and people to do things previously impossible.
- Public Collaboration with the Private Sector Leaders is Essential. Not only must business leaders and models adapt as above, but new metrics, valuation methods, investor rationale and an expanded view of returns will become paramount. And policy must be implemented to facilitate the evolution of flawed incentive schemes to reward short-term investment as a path to long-term, stakeholder value, as the transformation occurs.
- And personally, I believe... The Possibility Exists to Bake Social Justice Goals into Solutions Early. Beyond the wage share and income inequality discussion above, any quick look at unemployment data by sector reveals endemic higher rates in certain communities. The same communities that are all too often also held back by the persistent disadvantage - even racism - that we cannot ignore in the US. I believe that we can, as we develop new models, as we create businesses that facilitate local recapture of goods or in new 'as-a-service' models facilitated by technology, selectively include these communities, especially youth, and contribute incrementally along this increasingly visible and important aspect of advancing true social prosperity.
This blog will investigate both the problem statements posed here, as well as dive deeply into the potential solution hypotheses. We will also use case studies and interviews to highlight the existing, emerging and exciting leadership happening already in the field. And my commitment is to make this productive, forward thinking, tangible, and inspiring - the challenges are significant and deeply entrenched, but the opportunity and its implications are massive and beg for engagement, execution and passionate pursuit.