Sustainable Development (includes bio-mimicry)

It is interesting to note that the food and leisure industries, which have large shares of total household expenditure, are the largest contributors to economic degradation (Hens Runhaar et al, 2008).

The concept for sustainable development is based on how Nature works

"...Everything that is an output of a process is food for some other process..."

Karlson Hargroves et al, 2005

"...Earth's complex, self-regulating biosphere is, in essence, a brilliant operating system that has been operating without interruption for more than 3.5 billion years. By studying the interdependent principle.....for the planet's sustainability, managers can learn how to build ecologically friendly products that reduce manufacturing costs and prove highly attractive to customers......they can apply the biosphere's lessons to industrial technology today......the rules of the biosphere's operating systems are built upon biologic, which nature used to assemble life and structure eco-systems. In contrast to industrial-logic of human manufacturing, which assumes that largely synthetic materials should be assembled or moulded into design shapes, biologic builds things from the bottom-up, relying on sophisticated nanotechnology to assemble organisms molecule by molecule..."

Gregory Unruh, 2008

Need to understand the 4 states of natural and living systems: closed systems, steady-state systems, complex adaptive systems, and turbulence (chaos), ie

" human equivalents, the first three of the states all require that the system has material capital (materials), social capital (relationships, community customs and institutions), and spiritual capital (meaning, values, purpose)......closed systems just recycle their input and output and nothing really changes......the steady state has some movement, and some inward and outward flow, but it is the balance. Everything in the system is balanced and predictable......complex adaptive constantly adapting..."

Danah Zohar et al, 2004

The complex adaptive system, such as an organisation, is not in a steady state and is continually influenced by both internal and external factors, including turbulence. If turbulence becomes too much, the system disintegrates.

The important question around sustainable development for the private and public sector is

"...How best can we shift from a culture of performance, both for ourselves and for the biosphere that sustains us..."

Edward O. Wilson, 2002

There are 3 important biosphere rules, ie use a parsimonious palette, cycle up - virtuously, and exploit the power of platforms.

i) use a parsimonious palette

Despite the 100 plus elements on the periodic table, the basis for almost all living things is carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen; with a little sulphur and phosphorus. The main reason for this is it makes recycling easy.

ii) cycle up - virtuously

"...When an organism dies, the biosphere converts its material and reinserts it into its production processes. Nature reuses these materials in evolutionary growth and development, continuously cycling them up. Up-cycling maintains the value of materials between generations of recycled products without loss of quality or performance. Down-cycling, in contrast, destroys the original value, as when a plastic computer casing is melted into a speed bump......nature has used the same materials in a virtuous cycle of increasing complexity and value, allowing the biosphere to evolve toward an even more integrated and sustainable community of organisms..."

Gregory Unruh, 2008

Recycling up relies upon biological obsolescence as opposed to planned obsolescence in the manufacturing industry

iii) exploit the power of platforms

"...The design is a general-purpose-platform that has been leveraged over and over again to create the planet's astounding biodiversity. This strategy is so successful that life can adapt to exist anywhere on the planet..."

Gregory Unruh, 2008

Currently these platform strategies are used in industry. However, they mainly occur at the component level but need to go below this level.

To apply these 3 biosphere rules, that are several steps that need to occur, ie think fewer materials, rethink design, think scale economies, and rethink the buyer-supplier relationship

i) think fewer materials

Organisations need to

"...rethink their sourcing strategies and drastically simplify the number and types of materials used in the company's production.....a number of companies use toxic-material screens to weed out environmentally suspect components out of the supply chains...... though toxic-materials screens make sense, they work backwards negatively eliminating risky materials rather than positively selecting the best ones...... materials must be physically capable of being up-cycled...... recycling must also be cost-effective...... up to 75 percent of steel and more than 50 percent of aluminium are recycled, mostly because doing so uses a fraction of the energy needed to produce virgin metal..."

Gregory Unruh, 2008

ii) rethink design

Need to replace the question of "What is the best specialty material for this application ?" to "What design will make product specifications using existing materials?" or "How can we engineer a cool new product made from our limited materials?"

This involves planning at the beginning how to handle the products by cycling-up, etc and to minimize the number of materials in their products.

iii) think scale economies

"...A parsimonious palette and a virtuous recycling process can establish sustainable platforms from entire product lines...... following the biosphere rules can compound cost savings. First, simplifying the material palette for sustainable reasons reduces supply-chain complexity, shrinks the vendor count, generates volume discounts, and improves suppliers as more business is sent their way. Second, companies may discover that cost savings emerge from the virtuous recycling of materials......savings are not automatic or uniform across companies......the biosphere rules - a likely source of competitive differentiation in the future..."

Gregory Unruh, 2008

iv) rethink the buyer-supplier relationship

Organisations have to manage the transition from a product with 100% virgin material to nearly 100% virtuous recycled materials. This involves recovering products from customers' facilities (homes, offices, etc ) and putting them back into the production process. This changes the traditional buyer-supplier relationship as the customer plays a dual role, ie buyer of the organisation's products and supplier of its input materials from re-cycled product. This will require managers to rethink sourcing, marketing, sales and service.

There is a misconception that sustainability will work against economic growth. On the other hand, some factors that will allow for higher than expected economic growth from sustainable development are

"...First,......great opportunities from increased resource productivity, and large radical resource productivity gains often cost less than smaller resource productivity gains. Second, obviously many of the direct and indirect costs of large-scale environmental damage and resource depletion will be avoided at significantly less cost and the economy will be protected from environmentally induced destabilization. Third, during the transition to a fully operational, ecologically sustainable economy, which would be a period of several decades at least, the economy would have a strong structural tendency to higher levels of employment. The structural tendency to favor high employment is caused by three things: (i) the recycling of revenues from eco-taxes to reduce payroll taxes or other costs of employing labour; (ii) the greater labour intensity of new ways of doing things when the technology and the manufacturing and operational techniques are not yet highly refined; and (iii) the pump-priming effect of investments brought forward to replace scrapped capital.

Fourth, the strongly green economy will enhance the dynamics of the economy to favour the greatest source of productivity improvement in the modern economy - the information sector. To create economic wealth with significantly lower physical resource inputs and environmental impact is going to require clever development; and clever development depends on a strong information economy. Skilled labour, sophisticated machinery and technology, and lots of top-quality information will be needed. Fifth, contrary to the intuition of many economists and the ideology of many politicians, wise social spending has contributed to, rather than impeded, economic growth. This is one of the conclusions of a recently published respected historical study by Peter Lindert called Growing Public: social spending and economic growth since the 18th century. This extensive study on whether social policies that redistribute income impose constraints on economic growth concluded that, contrary to traditional beliefs, the net national cost of government social programmes are virtually zero. Sixth, corruption around the world is widely regarded as one of the biggest impediments to sustainable development. Removing corruption will not just help to create a more just and sustainable world but would also assist economic growth. The World Bank development report summed it up well in 1997 when it discussed how corruption also harmed economic growth especially in the long-term as it leads to sub-optimal decision-making by governments. Seventh, properly designed eco-taxes can be used to increase level of productivity and economic growth. Many papers including OECD reports have shown how revenues raised by eco-taxes are expected to create virtually fully offsetting output and productivity gains in other parts of the economy provided that they channel back into the economy in the most effective way......Eighth, newly designed sustainability ideas on how to build the built environment will be summarised into books such as Green Development: integrating ecology and real estate, can have remarkably positive effects on a nation's GNP, because construction and the built environment make up a very large fraction of GNP - for instance 9% in the U.S. and 18% in Japan. Therefore, even small improvements in construction techniques can have effects on the national income that are large compared with more exciting basic science discoveries. The lesson from the remarkable growth rates of Japan over a significant part of the last 40 years is clear: seemingly mundane forms of applied research, such as design work or product and process engineering, can have large cumulative benefits for the firm that undertakes them and even larger benefits for society as a whole..."

Karlson Hargroves et al, 2005

Businesses can be both competitive and achieve sustainable development (environmental and social). The assumption that business will have to relocate to the lowest environmentally regulatory cost havens is being disputed. Furthermore, there is evidence that organisations and nations who pursue best practice in sustainable development improved their productivity and competitive advantage. Stringent product standards and tough environmental rules and regulations are not a hindrance but provide an opportunity to innovate to improve products and services.

"... detailed case studies of hundreds of industries, based on dozens of countries, reveal that internationally competitive companies are not those with the cheapest inputs or the large-scale, but those with the capacity to improve and innovate continually. Competitive advantage, then, rests not on steady efficiency or on optimizing within fixed constraints, but on the capacity for innovation and improvement that shift the constraints..."

Karlson Hargroves et al, 2005

Organisations need to see beyond the short-term cost of dealing with tough standards and see the long-term benefits in terms of innovation. For example, the imposition of higher environmental standards by Germany resulted in more than 700,000 jobs in the economy and increased exports to other countries (in particular to countries that do not have such stringent controls). Furthermore, it creates more up-market jobs such as in the knowledge industry and adds value so that a premium can be charged on the goods and services

One of the fastest-growing markets is the area of sustainable solutions

"...firms can achieve further competitive advantage through greater resource productivity, the eco-design of products (reducing processing costs) and production of 'clean and green' goods and services (product differentiation)......For example, BP has exploited its marketing and technology management capabilities, developed through the fossil fuel businesses, to build a marketing leading position in renewable energy technologies, particularly solar cells..."

Michael Porter et al as quoted by Karlson Hargrove et al, 2005

On the other hand, competitors to BP in the fossil fuel industry have stayed with fossil fuels and actively resisted the adoption of effective climate change policies

The next wave of innovations is expected to be around sustainability development that involves radical resource productivity, eco-design, whole system design, bio-mimicry, spatial information, lean thinking, green chemistry, industrial ecology, renewable energy and green nanotechnology.

Bio-mimicry (study of natural forms and systems in design and engineering)

· It has been called the 3rd generation in biology (after genetic engineering and genomic sequencing that involves the convergence of biology, chemistry, physics and engineering)

"...We will be using nearly 4 billion years of biology to develop systems, receptors, machines and materials..."

Chris Elvin as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

"...There are at least 3 million species on Earth and all of those species are made up of hundreds of thousands of solutions to all of the problems that are facing humanity. There is really nothing that we face as a species that hasn't already been addressed by nature in countless ways......Nature's algorithms are so perfect, a single 15-centimetre PAX water impeller can mix a water storage reservoir the size of a football field and 12 m deep..."

Jay Harman as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

"...Animals, plants and microbes are the consummate engineers. Biological knowledge is doubling every five years..."

Janine Benyus as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

"...The inventive work is already being done for you when you start with by bio-mimicry. This means, as a business, you can focus on replication rather than discovery..."

Richard Caldwell as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

"...The two great ironies of bio-mimicry are that humans have been busy destroying species that could carry essential clues to our progress..."

Stephen Trowell as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

"... Instead of seeing nature as a source of raw materials, we would see nature as a source of ideas, as a mentor. This would change everything, ushering in a new era based not on what we can extract from nature, but what we can learn from nature..."

Janine Benyus as quoted by Andrew Bock, 2014

· In the past decade, 3,000+ companies have successfully adapted bio-mimicry solutions. Some examples of bio-mimicry

- the silent nose of Japan's Shonkansen (fast train) is based on a kingfisher's beak

- gecko paws used to develop chemical-free adhesive and self-cleaning medical bandages

- less painful syringe needles using the serrated edges that mimic the irregular edge of mosquito proboscises (the reason we don't feel their sting until it's too late)

- use of lotus flowers (with dirt repellent qualities on their leaf surfaces) to develop more durable and grime-resistant paints

- the rough pattern of denticles on shark fins to develop drag-resistant paint for aircraft and ships

- a new generation of super-elastic materials by studying resilin (proteins found in the joints of bees and other insects); it is the substance that enables fleas to jump so far

- studying seashells and frozen whirlpools to develop designs for fans, impellers & water mixes that look more like lilies than traditional propellants

- using third-generation photo-voltaic technology that imitates the natural process of photosynthesis, ie captures solar energy like leads do, in chemical dyes. This will be used so that windows, building envelopes, roofs, car chassis become energy generators

- using grapheme (derived from graphite) as a new atomic, thin material

- studying the elegant efficiency of tailfin propulsion in sharks and tuna, and the way seaweed bends before waves has resulted in developing machines and harness the energy of the ocean

- the DNA sequence of the nematode worm's olfactory organs led to development of a sniffing machine for use in security checks, food industry (including beer brewing), etc

- using the way the giraffes compress their blood vessels in their next to stop blood flowing into their head when they are drinking has been used to develop a flying suits that allows pilots withstand forces of 9G; normally pilots blackout around 4G

- the hydroponic structure on butterfly wings is used to waterproof products like mobile phones, clothes, etc

(sources: Andrew Bock, 2014: Richard Hammond, 2015)

The Internet can be a way to increase sustainability. For example, the music industry's traditional way of producing CDs and selling them in shops is very wasteful in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. It is claimed (John Davidson, 2009) that the traditional process can use 53 megajoules of energy and 3.2 kg of carbon dioxide to get from the recording studio to your home. This amount of energy is equivalent to around 78,000 cans of Coke. In contrast, online/digital distribution where a song is recorded, transmitted online and downloaded as a digital file is very efficient when compared to the traditional process, ie it uses around 7 megajoules of energy.

A challenge!!!!!

Get very small, very specialized and very expensive

"...I would actually count this as innovation, and of the highest caliber: you're taking a large operation and finding ways to scale it down, retarget it and remarket it, all while adding pocket loads of value to justify the higher price..."

Richard Branson, 2008


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