First, I hope everyone interested in good Investor Relations will look at the article in this week’s Economist.
Second, I want to pay homage to one of the great branding geniuses of the last century, Saul Bass. Mr. Bass commented in a lecture “My basic bedrock belief is the human beings will continue to screw everything up, but by ingenuity and good luck will manage to stay one step ahead of utter doom.” He wasn’t speaking specifically of environmental affairs (the quote was 1971, possibly originated earlier), but it certainly resonates now!
Next, I’d like to add to the robust climate change discussion, the diagram above “How Market Momentum is Driving Sustainable Policies”. We made this diagram in 2005, when standards programs like LEED and SRI were just getting traction, and programs like ISO 14001 were beginning to be reviewed and taken to heart. There are now dozens of initiatives that could go in the center of the innovation diagram. The point of it—truer today than ever—is by leveraging these emerging standards corporations can lower their overall cost of capital. It’s that simple.
Not all sustainable policy ideas are sound business; many may ‘cost’ more than they ‘benefit,’ even with tertiary benefits factored in. Other ideas look like amazingly good business. The way the dynamics are changing now, though, there are benefits to putting sustainable thinking at the core of business. The benefits play out in many areas, from HR (attracting more motivated and original talent) to brand recognition (innovation + hope= media coverage), and ultimately margins.
Regardless of the outcome of the COP21 talks, the rather nebulous agenda of “Sustainability” is now focused into something everyone can understand: 2 degrees Centigrade = Catastrophe. Getting there will take government leadership, most certainly. But mark my words, the heavy lifting will have to be done by innovators in the private sector. We can’t negotiate our way to renewables being cheaper than fossil fuels. And I seriously doubt the “Rich World” can donate its way to a stable environment. But we can innovate our way to a sustainable world—especially if it becomes clear that new business models can be built make a profit at it! If the numbers work, the change will happen!
For more selected wit and wisdom from Saul Bass, see my book Dialogues with Creative Legends, or if you really want the mother lode, see the knockout catalogue raisonné of his work Saul Bass, a Life in Film and Design.
Graphic by David Laufer
David Laufer is Managing Partner of BrandBook LLC, an Atlanta based design firm specializing in branding for expertise-based enterprises. He is the author of Dialogues with Creative Legends, Aha Moments in a Designer’s Career (New Riders, 2012). He is a founding trustee of the Atlanta Chapter of AIGA, the professional association for Design, and is active in Little Free Libraries, a global literacy action movement. @Dav1dLaufer – www.brandbook.us