Sustainability: personal, professional and environmental
Sustainability and climate change typically refer to the outside world – things like the weather and the need to use materials that are ethically sourced. But sustainability is about more than that. In today’s business world, it is more important than ever for organisations to develop sustainable business models with unique value propositions to stay competitive and relevant in the future.
While change can be hard, the opportunities and benefits are significant. Futurist and academic, Ramez Naam, recently said in a presentation on “The Future of Energy”, the cost of producing renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar, have come down so quickly that they are now cheaper than fossil fuels. While this has resulted in significant market disruption for coal miners and traditional electricity generators, it also means we are heading towards a world where energy production won’t be constrained by how we pollute the world.
In the recently published book, The Passion Paradox, Steve Magness looks into being identified by what you do rather than what you are. In a world where the jobs of today could be automated out of existence, he looks into understanding and identifying with today’s version of you, not one that’s tied to a specific role you once filled. We need to find a way to tap into our own talents and creativity to constantly evolve our businesses and ourselves.
Neil Jacobstein, co-chair of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at Singularity University, said at a recent panel discussion discussing the future of work that “You have to spend some time educating people about how they can do self-development”. That personal sustainability – the ability to keep doing work that is valued by society when traditional tasks are automated – is critical for personal and business growth.
One way for people and businesses to continually grow and learn is by surrounding themselves with diverse perspectives and different skills. This can happen through shared spaces (such as Work Club Global) where different companies work alongside each other and organically share what they are working on.
For most of the last 300 years, the western world has enjoyed an abundance of resources, albeit at the expense of the environment. But as the impacts of climate change are being better understood, it’s the developing world that is leading the way towards a more sustainable future.
About a third of the Earth’s population either lacks access to electricity or suffers from unreliable energy supply. Countries, like India, that were expected to remain significant importers of coal for energy production are reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and embracing solar power and other renewable sources. This shift has happened quickly.
Right across the developing world, we are seeing renewable energy supplanting traditional sources. Kenya meets 90% of its energy use through renewables and Nicaragua fulfils half of its electricity needs through renewables, with plans to hit 90% by 2020. The Philippines, which is already powering a third of its population with renewables, has announced the seventh largest solar project in the world
In his recent presentation, Naam noted that Peabody Coal, the largest coal mining company in the world went from being worth billions of dollars to bankruptcy in just a few short years.
And while it’s easy to say that it’s hard for a large company with decades of legacy experience and systems to change, the same can apply to people who hang on to existing jobs even though learning new skills can offer better long-term outcomes.
This shift, in just one area of environmental sustainability, will have substantial social consequences. In a world where energy is almost limitless and inexpensive to produce, markets will undergo seismic shifts. And the current generation’s view of the disposability of items will also be questioned.
When we consider the environmental footprint of Work Club Global, we look at everything from where furnishings are sourced through to the scent, music, layout, background music and services that are delivered.
Each piece of furniture at Work Club Global is untreated and solid, handmade by artisan manufacturers made to last a lifetime. Even when a piece of furniture is marked or stained through its life, it’s seen as adding to its character and is a marker of its history – not a sign that it’s been tainted. Each piece in our spaces is brought in to complement the others.
What if the job you’re doing today doesn’t exist in the future? What does this mean for things we take for granted such as earning an income and contributing to society?
Already today, one of the most cited reasons for people leaving their current job is a lack of satisfaction. The beauty of workplace automation is that the mundane tasks that take up a lot of time but don’t feel valuable will be done by machines and computer programs. Chatbots already deal with routine inquiries, robotic process automation helps businesses integrate different processes and remove the need for repetitive manual work. Industrial robots have been improving factory safety for decades.
This automation hasn’t resulted in mass unemployment. On the contrary, it has created new opportunities for people to work on more complex problems and do work they find more challenging and rewarding.
When energy is plentiful and sustainable, society can focus on ensuring there is adequate food supply, clean water and safe housing.
Social changes, such as the ongoing discussion around a Universal Basic Income (UBI), that provide sufficient funds so people can focus on the jobs they find most rewarding rather than constantly striving for an income level, are appearing in some parts of the world. The Australian parliament prepared a research paper into the provision of a UBI and Finland launched a trial in 2018.
We are moving towards a future where practices such as the use of renewable energy, a focus on environmental sustainability and the desire to do more rewarding work are leading us away from old ways of doing things
Forums, such as Work Club Global’s upcoming New Sustainability discussion presents an opportunity to explore what this new world might look like and prepare for the inevitable change.