Net Positive is a new approach to business sustainability, with a focus on growth that could mean a world of difference.
As with all new ideas, the exact definition is being hammered out in forums like the Guardian Sustainable Business event yesterday, hosted by executive editor Jo Confino, and in companies like Kingfisher, Carillion, BT, Coke and IKEA, to name but a few cheerleaders.
I think that in essence and as a start point, it means reshaping corporate environmental and business practices to ensure long-term growth and measurable benefits for the planet.
Net positive growth means giving more back than is being consumed in any business process. Here, you can see where it gets tricky – where to focus, how to measure like-for-like and the broader social impacts, how to create conditions for net positive success, where to start…
These tactical pressure points are rightly complex but the vision of net positive has so many advantages that the difficulty should be embraced and welcomed. It takes a big step away from the reductionist environments that have framed strategy and process, allowing us to focus our efforts and energies through a new series of lenses.
And these bring into sharp relief the economic, financial, cultural and social benefits of what we currently call sustainable business development.
I think it has become increasingly clear over the past year that sustainability, as a business-changing concept, has begun to run out of steam for a number of reasons around gaps between leadership vision and active progress on the ground. It could well be that the accepted focus on reducing impact, trimming or hacking back, leads to less enthusiasm. Maybe we have been thinking negatively without realising it.
Reframing our “business + environment” planning around net positive goals that should ensure effective growth while at the same time having a restorative effect on the planet seems a significantly better approach.
Net Positive will need strong, visionary champions like Kingfisher, as Futerra‘s strategy director Laurie Bennett amplified at the Guardian event yesterday. Kingfisher CEO Ian Cheshire is a net positive convert and evangelist with a potentially game-changing business footprint including brands such as B&Q in the UK and China,
Castorama in France and Poland, Brico Depot in France and Spain and Koctas in Turkey.
Kingfisher’s publicly shared net positive goal is not only to ensure continued reforestation, planting more than is consumed (net reforestation) but also on helping to create homes that go beyond zero carbon to become net energy generators.
Education forms another social net positive strand, working in communities to equip people with practical “skills of making and mending” – another, different, but welcome form of growth.
We are at the start of the wide and long Net Positive Road. There is much to discuss, plan and do but it looks like an effective stimulus to sustainability that we all need now.
As the Forum for the Future says: “Critically, Net Positive is a long-term vision, and will require business transformation if it is to become reality. For sustainability to succeed in business, there needs to be a clear articulation of what the end goal looks like, and an explicit recognition that business as usual won’t cut it.”
The team here will be continuing to engage with the net positive community and develop further SaveMoneyCutCarbon’s positive business advice for every client and partner we work with. At the same time, we’re working towards net positive activity in our business structures.
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