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Start Up 101

October 8, 2015

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The Shift: 5 Hacks to Shift Your Footprint Within the Earth’s Capacity

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There is a shift, a big shift. With more people living on this planet than ever before, the world is under tremendous pressure. And Asia has a serious waste problem.

We are a 7 billion-strong community consuming resources beyond our Earth’s capacity. If we live within sustainable means, the Earth would be able to support a population of 10 billion. However, at the rate we are going, we will be 9.6 billion by 2050, and our footprint 3 times of what Earth can sustain.

With so little time, and such critical and immense consequences looming, we have no choice but to act now. The sheer scale could be overwhelming. We have 35 years to reduce our consumption and energy patterns drastically to minimise our environmental impact. In some ways, guarding our environmental footprints is a lot like impact investing--it may take a while before you see changes, but paying attention is worth it.

Today in Singapore, we consume resources 6 times of what the Earth can sustain. Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, inventor and author, once said, “I look for what needs to be done. After all, that’s how the universe designs itself.” Keeping this in mind, if we are to shift the odds in favour of humanity, we need to act, and we need to act fast. Allow me help you with what can be done:

5 hacks to shift your footprint within the earth’s capacity

  1. Move countries and cities to places which are more self-sustaining with resources such as water, food and electricity. An option could be moving to a country like Angola since it is one of the few countries with low consumption.
  2. Fly less - Airplanes are big emitters of CO2 in the atmosphere, as much as 600 grams per mile per passenger. While we see campaigns to bring our own bag which has a relatively small impact, they are never applied to flights because of its huge economic value.
  3. Drive less - While many believe that Tesla (cars) will solve the energy crisis in the world, we miss the primary point. Tesla will solve the oil crisis, and not really the energy crisis, unless we start to drive, less or make the cars more efficient.
  4. Cool (hot) less - Buildings are major contributors to green house emissions, and the largest of them can be attributed to keeping us cool, our water cool or anything that regulates temperature.
  5. Consume less - This goes for both industrial and agricultural produce. The more we consume and eat, the more emissions there are. Instead of burning our calories in the gym, we should start by reducing what we eat. Be mindful about everything you consume and use.

I am sure each of the five hacks above is a possibility to achieve. And I did not choose them because they are the most difficult, but because they are the largest contributors to our environmental problems. It is only when we can significantly act on these can we even think of measurably reducing our consumption, and having a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Since we know business as usual will not help, let us see how our businesses stack up against these five hacks. Out of the world’s largest 25 companies, 11 are financial institutions, 6 are consumer goods companies, 5 are oil and gas companies, 2 are telecommunication companies and 1 is a diversified conglomerate. All these companies have little or no incentive to help us become a sustainable world. General Electric is the only company which categorically mentions its commitment towards minimising their environmental impact, thus advancing social development.  

There is a need for giant businesses to shift, and contribute big and fast. At the same time, there is also an opportunity for small and new innovative businesses to have sustainability in their DNA, and shift the big brothers out. Can we? Are you game?