SIGNALS OF CHANGE
Catching social and environmental trends early
Newsletter September 2013 Vol. 1 Issue 1
About this newsletter:
We monitor the news flow from a wide variety of sources from the last 30 – 60 days for developments that could inform your organization’s social and environmental strategy which in turn could affect your overall business strategy. Signals of Change Newsletter is produced in cooperation between the Open World Foundation, the Institute of Swedish Safety and Security and Stephen Hinton Consulting.
BANKS AS INSTITUTIONS COME INTO QUESTION- ALTERNATIVES START TO GROW
SIGNALS: Surveys are reporting a decline in trust in banks, whilst new organizations are appearing that question the current monetary system. The connected world is going from having a plethora of online solutions looking for people to use them to totally new ways of living and doing business becoming financially solid.
COMMENT: Banks have had an advantage in that they have been close to the customer through their network of offices. As the connected world grows – and this is digital and emotional connections combined – new opportunities open up.
SUPPORTING LINKS: As the Harvard Business review points out, people’s trust in banks is in decline. This is provoking an outflow of deposits to entities outside the conventional banks and even some outside the regulated system in different crowd-finance platforms, peer-to-peer lending systems and cooperative lending entities.
Added to this, the generally accepted method of money creation, fractional reserve banking its itself being lucidly questioned by the likes of the UK’s positive money.
CLOSING IN ON THE END OF DRIVING AND THE END OF CONSUMPTION AS WE KNOW IT
SIGNALS: Several articles point to the decline of driving.
COMMENT: These are important signals because where people are physically informs buying patterns. Analysis of the underlying causes could be of interest for strategies including retail outlet planning, car industry investment, even car design.
SUPPORTING LINKS: In the article from Think Progress we read statistics showing Americans in very state are driving less. This may have to do with the underlying price of energy or could signal we have reached how much we physically want to sit in a vehicle during the day.
Not only are we driving less, we are buying fewer cars. The Swedish Svenska Dagbladet reports this is the worst year for car sales in the EU for a long time.
And that car manufacturing is declining can be seen in this recent article from the Wall Street journal about workers being sent home
ATTITUDES TO CONSUMPTION ARE CHANGING.
SIGNALS: The idea that green consumption is possible is fading. The answer to the question “Can we consume ourselves to sustainability?”is “not at all” if we are to believe a recent report from the Nordic Council of Ministers. The idea that you consume is also losing traction. This is being replaced with the idea of the circular economy. Noting gets consumed, it just cycles around.
SUPPORTING LINKS: Research shows that consuming less is the answer. This has significant bearing on product design.
Can we consume in a way that recycles minerals and biomass – the circular economy? The answer there is “we are going to give it a try”
The British Technology Strategy Board are putting up an investment of up to £5m for collaborative research and development to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and to extend their use.
COMMENTS: How do you see your customers? If you see them as consumers you may be missing something.
THE MONEY INVESTED IN FOSSIL ENERGY MAY BE A BUBBLE
SIGNALS: Calculations are appearing that compare the potential release to the atmosphere of carbon with the stated value of fossil reserves on the books of energy companies. The fossil bubble is the bubble caused by the fossil fuel conundrum: if we burn all we have we will make money but the planet will be totally changed. If we leave it in the ground, our investment will be reduced in value.
SUPPORTING LINKS: The Telegraph from the UK among many newspapers has been reporting on this thread.
The money invested in fracking, too, could prove to bring poor returns if the latest doubts about how much fuel can be gained from the technique
COMMENT: An energy vulnerability analysis should be carried out by all organisations.
ARE WE HITTING LIMITS? TWO FACTORS LIMITING ECONOMIC GROWTH: STABLE WEATHER AND ENERGY SECURITY
SIGNALS: Reports are coming in that connect changes in climate are seriously undermining prosperity in many parts of the world. Similar signals are coming in about the importance of energy availability to the economy.
As pointed out by reporting on think progress, the growing drought in regions is fueling unrest when people see governments are not responding. Lack of water holds prosperity back which in turn shrinks the market for many goods and services.
At least one commentator is raising the idea that energy prices, of oil, specifically, can hit a point where buyers are not willing to pay what producers need. This will stifle business as we know it. And it could happen sooner than we think.
We see a positive trend in the realization that fulfilling human needs, rather than fulfilling growth targets, is taking root in public and private sectors alike. Cooperating across the board, developing the circular, sharing and caring economy, may be ways forward to handle the situation where industrial development is hitting against hard limits imposed by finite materials.
Companies can look for opportunities to be part of these new opportunities from connection. But they too, need to have done a climate and energy vulnerability analysis that feeds into their risk management programs.
JOINING THE DIALOGUE: Stephen Hinton Consulting, together with the Swedish risk management organization, ISSS and the Open World Foundation offers strategists and business leaders support in framing strategies for the new, resource constrained but connected world. Building awareness is one of the first steps we recommend. Contact us through our websites for more information.
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