What’s the great new business idea that will turn out a future winner? Will it be the branded second hand clothes shop? Or the Rent-a-bike-for-shopping? Or maybe a peer2peer network or the virtual farmers market?

Every CEO would like their business to be seen as the blueprint for successfully pulling through the recession, and would love to show the world how to plan for and manage a healthy business in hard times, and good.

We don’t exactly know which business ideas will be winners in the long term, or which ones will fare the best through the recession. But by combining our knowledge in sustainable business strategies, sustainable consumption and sustainable capitalism we’ve come up with a tool to help add some structure into the process of picking out the great new ideas.

The world is not likely to look the same coming out of the recession as it did falling into it. The strategies and business models that have been delivering success and wealth over the past decades won’t stack up. We’re facing global changes in how markets are regulated and governed. At the same time we’re also facing social and environmental challenges at an unprecedented scale. Whatever the next generation of the market economy looks like, it's pretty certain that new business issues like climate change will have to be high on the list of issues which determine business success.

All this makes it increasingly difficult to spot future winners. But we do know that they will have to be more sustainable and support sustainable consumption if they are to succeed in the long term. In the short term, getting more value from less makes sense in recession. In the long term, sustainability issues will frame the context business must succeed in.

So, with support from Sainsbury’s, we did some thinking on the various factors that help determine the future success of a business, and came up with a tool that can help businesses evaluate ideas and build a deep understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

It’s still early days, but we do have the start of a Sustainable Business Model Tool that identifies potential impacts (positive and negative) associated with a new business idea in the supply chain and in the end-user stage. It is designed to help our partners focus on ideas with high potential for both sustainability and profitability, and it is supported by a large and growing database of existing ideas.

What is sustainable consumption?

As a minimum, sustainable consumption must:

  • Avoid approaching critical levels for local and global capitals on which we rely
  • Play many different roles in consumers’ lives, from meeting needs to creating identity
  • Develop a better choice of choice
  • Build coalition with government for “We have, so you can", enabling consumer-citizen to make the sustainable choice
  • Consider potential negative effects of going to scale
  • Contribute to smart growth that reduces the total environmental and social burden.
What is smart growth?
  • Growth on a sustainable trajectory, increasing welfare and environmental quality whilst decreasing material and energy use
  • Where choosing product or service (and so rejecting others) puts economy on the sustainable trajectory

To download report go to left hand side.

Read an interview with the Street Car founder Andrew Valentine in Green Futures (old website link)

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