This blog is about our community mindset. Green Grow Club brings together eco-minded, progressive companies and customers to buy and sell products which help to build and support an economy that becomes less damaging and systematically more sustainable and regenerative over time, so that we can build the lifestyle that we want and the planet can afford, supports human society and the biosphere to regenerate, and enjoy the products that we want with a clear conscience.
To make better, more well-informed decisions about the impact of our lifestyle on the environment and society, and to support the Companies who are making the efforts to bring about this shift by supporting their products.
To make better, more well-informed decisions about how and what we produce, and the impact we create in the environment and on society, to eliminate any negative impacts associated with our products, and to bring these products to the customer.
Why a sustainability driven community?
To get answers to questions that we don’t have an easy or obvious answer
To access connections and knowledge that create a competitive edge or less friction in helping us to achieve our goals.
To work smarter and more ecologically as a result of hearing stories, experiences and ideas from people who are on the same path.
Find the people who are sitting on the fence
Who wants to hear some really good news about the battle to save the environment?
Actually, who doesn’t want to hear some? We all know there are some daft laddies and lassies who really have no interest or understanding about the scale and urgency of the challenge, but I have some advice about how to deal with them and it comes from reinterpreting one of the principles of permaculture. Don’t waste your time trying to convince people who have no interest or who hold deeply contradictory views to your own. Find the people who are sitting on the fence. They just need a gentle tug to bring them onto the side that’s trying to do something positive. The other lot need to be dragged over the fence, kicking and screaming about their rights to remain uninformed. Leave them to it. The grown ups have work to do.
Of course, there are plenty of good news stories amongst the unrelenting stream of bad news about glaciers melting, oceans acidification, biodiversity loss and the rest. Some species of whale have been re-classified as merely “at risk” rather than “endangered”. A baby panda was born behind bars somewhere. Salmon, albeit some random hybrid of wild and farmed species have returned to some river. 100 million trees have been planted. These are all, usually, welcome stories but I feel they miss the point.
The good news is that we don’t have to save the planet. We just have to stop breaking it. It’s a subtle but very important difference. It acknowledges a couple of things. The first is that not breaking something in the first place is a lot easier than fixing it once you’ve actually broken it. It’s much easier to not damage your kidneys than it is to recover from kidney damage. The second is that, in truth, the environment is really far too complex for us to “fix” and we’re just not smart enough to understand all the interactions. We can do some restoration work and hope that nature does the rest, but that’s about the limit of it.
So, how do we stop breaking the environment? Happily, this is a lot more straightforward than it sounds. And what’s more is that it makes for a very compelling business case. You just understand all the ways you can break something and don’t do them. You can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t do those things. This requires innovation, thought, imagination and determination. Which is a lot more entertaining and enjoyable than re-running old patterns, thoughtlessness, lack of imagination and apathy.
The Planetary Boundaries, Natural Step and The Future Fit Frameworks that we use to rate our eco-vendors at Green Grow Club show us how to run a business without breaking the environment. The material to learn about them is contained in the Plaza learning hub. It’s there for all to use. This is our agenda at Green Grow Club.
You can work your way through the open source material in the Plaza -make sure to sign up- at a pace that suits yourself. It helps you to identify options that you might want to take...when the time is right for you to do it. We understand the financial and time constraints that so many of us are under.
But there’s no other choice. A major study published by the World Meteorological Organisation says by 2025 there's a 40% chance of at least one year being 1.5C hotter than the pre-industrial level. That’s twice as likely as they thought just a few years ago.
So, we’re here to share what we know and support those companies who are trying to reframe their business to be part of the solution.
If you are one of those companies, join us. If you can be a customer of one of those companies, support them.
Iain Findlay. -Sustainability geek in work. Outside of work, I like to enjoy the Munros and play music in the company of others. Sometimes I manage both at the same time.-
Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet and put a limit on exponential growth and greed.
In other words, to ensure that nothing and no one falls short on life’s essentials - from nature ecosystem services to food and housing to healthcare and political voice -, while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer.
Social and planetary boundaries understanding are extremely needed to framing that challenge.
Only wide-spread understanding can act as a compass for human progress this century.
Thank you DAVID ATTENBOROUGH for this latest call to action “BREAKING BOUNDARIES” latest film on Netflix, where he focuses solely on the facts.
At Aurora Sustainability Group, we always based all our educational resources, circular and sustainability strategy advisory on the rock-solid science of the Planetary Boundaries and the Natural Step Framework. The "Planetary Boundaries" is a concept which attempts to identify global-scale sustainability indicators and their tipping points. In a nutshell, Planet Earth has 9 safety limits and we’ve already exceeded 4 of them... probably more but we don't have enough data yet.
Within the nine boundaries, humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Science shows that these aspects regulate the integrity, or health, of the biosphere, considering the interactions of the land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide the conditions upon which our society depends. Violating these boundaries could generate sudden and irreversible environmental changes. Respecting these boundaries reduces the risks to human society of crossing these thresholds. The "planetary boundaries" are also the foundations for the Doughnut Economics and the Wellbeing Economy.
Whoever has been part of our workshops, over the last 10 years, know well how much we press for a comprehensive and scientific shared understanding of the interconnected and complex global sustainability issues, before going into strategising a plan for becoming sustainable. Like a surgeon, when you are given the tools and the means to understand the problems, then you know how to operate… otherwise, you can just worsen the situation. You can find all this material open source here in the GGC journey on the Plaza.
Breaking Boundaries is unusual among David Attenborough considerable output... for featuring little of "Attenborough", and even of animals. Instead, its focus is squarely on the science of our planetary decline, setting out in unflinching detail the extent of Earth’s degradation – and the catastrophic consequences of anything but drastic action. Attenborough cedes the floor to Johan Rockström, the mild-mannered director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former director oof Stockholm Resilience Centre. In 2009, Rockström identified nine natural processes upon which all life on Earth depends, and the limits within each that cannot be exceeded without endangering humanity.
The film is very well done, and I wish the main connection between the breaking of the planetary boundaries and tipping points was made more apparent: we are breaching the tipping points because of greed.
I’m not condemning wealth here, I’m talking about moving our mindset into demands not for climate action, but for climate and environmental justice. A novel biosphere justice with an integrated far greater equity – within and between countries – in the use of natural resources, which ultimately puts limits on exploitation, and far greater efficiency in transforming those resources to meet human needs, which brings planetary boundaries together with social boundaries, creating a safe and just space between the two, in which humanity can thrive.
Today, the richest 1 % of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 40% of global population, 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during the last 25-year critical period of unprecedented “carbon emissions” growth.
Extreme inequality is out of control. Hundreds of millions of people are living in extreme poverty while huge rewards go to those at the very top. There are more billionaires than ever before, and their fortunes have grown to record levels. Meanwhile, the world’s poorest got even poorer.
Many governments are fueling this inequality crisis. They are massively under-taxing big corporations and wealthy individuals, yet underfunding vital public services like healthcare and education.
These policies hit everyone, including the wealthy ones, because we all are paying the effect of the aftermath. Covid19 is just one example, like climate and the loss of our precious environmental support systems. The human costs are devastating, with women and girls suffering the most. Despite their huge contribution to our societies through unpaid care work, they are among those who benefit the least from today's economic system.
This has to change – and change is possible. First action for change is to understand and connect the dots: the "tipping points" breach presents perhaps the most profound challenge ever to have confronted human social, political, and economic systems. The stakes are massive, the risks and uncertainties severe, the economics controversial, the science besieged, the politics bitter and complicated, the psychology puzzling, the impacts devastating, the interactions with other environmental and non-environmental issues running in many directions.
Please to demand world leaders to change the root causes of climate, environmental and social injustice. A fairer world is possible. The growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and tearing our societies apart.
Yet inequality is not inevitable – it is a political choice. Governments around the world must act now to build a new, human economy that values what truly matters to society, rather than fueling an endless pursuit of profit. An economy that values the care work of women and girls instead of some billionaires' wealth. An economy that works for everyone, not just a greedy and irresponsible few.
Dr Isabella Guerrini de Claire -Strategic lead & practice for Circular Economy, Climate Innovation, at startups, public & corps-
Photo: Daniel Mingook Kim
COVID19 and sustainability?
How did the pandemic change our view on Sustainability?
A coronavirus pandemic was a major concern, but it has not made people less concerned about climate change, suggests a new study conducted in the UK.
Experts spoke of the worst pandemics the world has seen in centuries, and many people took a positive view of the global tragedy. Indeed, the event acted as a major natural experiment to simulate what will happen in the future when governments make the far-reaching policy changes we need to avert dangerous climate change.
The COVID 19 pandemic was initially good for the environment: wildlife recovered a little while mankind stayed at home (see sources below: 1, 3, 9, 14)
But perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic could have become a model for what is going on behind the scenes in the post-war period - pandemics of the future, not just climate change. Forget more insights from the New McKinsey blog about why sustainability must be at the heart of post-pandemic recovery and more about the role of sustainability in climate policy. (see sources below: 5, 11)
Yerby Fellow Dr. Renee Salas discusses the health challenges of climate change and the challenges of responding to disasters in the midst of a pandemic. Climate change and health and how they are damaging our health today: a review of the scientific evidence for and against the role of sustainability in climate policy. (see sources below:15)
Socially, the pandemic in the 1960s caused a major labor-market shock, which, if it continues, will increase. Zenker and Kock (2020) mention the people, social, economic and ecological contexts affected by COVID-19 and pandemics. (see sources below: 10, 23)
Amid all these distortions, it is easy to forget that the debate on the socio-economic impact of climate change, which has led to calls for a global moratorium on fossil fuels and an end to fossil fuel subsidies, only gained momentum a few months ago. Many sustainability experts believe that ending the business of doing business on the global front is an opportunity to rethink our commitment to climate change. (see sources below: 2, 22)
As leaders, it is also our responsibility to assess how pandemics and their global recovery will affect future sustainable development. As we work to respond and recover from the shock of a pandemic, the SDGs must be embedded in the DNA of global recovery, "UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner explains why they are more important than ever in the era of COVID-19. Looking to the future, global food systems must become more local, sustainable and equitable. We are learning profound lessons from the coronavirus pandemic, which will help businesses to move forward in a more sustainable way. (see sources below: 6, 7, 20, 21)
While many companies will certainly focus on saving themselves, the pandemic has taught us many things about how to deal with practices that are bad for the environment. One of the most important lessons of the coronavirus pandemics of recent years has been the need to better understand and accept our relationship with nature. (see sources below: 13, 20)
On the one hand, the fact that concerns about climate change cannot be suppressed is good news for climate protection. One day we can look back on the 2020 pandemic as a terrible and tragic crisis that triggered a movement for a sustainable and resilient future. While reviving government action against pandemics offers a way forward in the fight against climate change, we can only hope that good leaders will bring the best of these leaders to us. (see sources below: 9, 12, 19)
Although scientists have been warning of the dangers of pandemics for years, we were surprised by COVID-19 - on our guard. Indeed, it could be argued that a pandemic is part of climate change, and that response to a pandemic should not be limited to containing the spread of the virus. It is simple, but we must start to address it now: if we call for a response like the one to the COVID 19 pandemic, it should be as effective as the one to climate change. (see sources below: 4, 8)
One important lesson we can learn from pandemics is to think more strategically about future predictable crises. This could make the possibility of a catastrophic future seem less remote and make measures to prevent it more likely. It is useful to consider why a COVID-19 pandemic can change people's sense of place so fundamentally. (see sources below: 12, 17, 18)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises to change the world for the better, and after a pandemic, we are in a unique position to advance digitalization. We have experienced global change first-hand, and we have adapted to the reality of a global pandemic that means "staying at home." Can we imagine a world in which we want to acknowledge the scientific evidence that prevents the worst effects of disease and climate change? Pandemics have given us an insight into the upheavals that will come if we do not address climate change. (see sources below: 0, 20, 24)
Although air pollution has fallen dramatically in some countries, there are still mountains of medical waste and chemicals going down the drain that will affect the entire environment. The environmental improvements observed by researchers will not last if the world returns to its pre-pandemic path.
Why the Natural Step?
Why the Natural Step is different than other sustainability frameworks?
The Natural Step framework is a way to organise our thinking and information in such a way that we discuss and plan clearly and strategically how we are moving towards sustainability. We need to understand how our systems work. This relates to having a margin for manoeuvre in the system we are dealing with. In the case of a football or football match, the system is the pitch, the players, the ball and its components. In terms of sustainability, it is the entire biosphere, including ourselves. [Sources: 5]
The 5-Level Framework (5LF) is a comprehensive model for planning and decision-making in complex systems based on holistic thinking. It comprises 5 levels of system success (strategic action) and 5 tools. It is used to analyze complex systems of all kinds and scales. It can be applied to socio-ecological systems, societies and biospheres and is known as the Natural Step Framework (FSSD). [Sources: 0]
The Natural Step Framework consists of four systems of conditions: (a) backcasting, (b) C-ideological, (c) TNS and (d) funnel. The first three conditions relate to how man interacts with the planet. The last condition is how to achieve a sustainable global society. These four systems have been developed by scientists from all over the world. They define the basic conditions that must be met in order to achieve and sustain sustainability. [Sources: 4]
As in 1987 in our Joint Future Report (a.k.a. The Natural Step Framework differs from the basic human needs because they satisfy real needs created by desire (Manfred Max NEEF). It attempts to satisfy real or created human needs are the root cause of many social (incl. Natural Step believes that the root causes of unsustainability should be taken into account when developing sustainable solutions to meet basic needs. These causes stem from a scientific understanding of our socio-ecological systems and the interaction between humans, society, humans and their organisations and ecosystems. [Sources: 0]
The Natural Step is one of the best frameworks for creating and implementing sustainability plans for companies and organizations. It is based on scientific knowledge and uses best practices and methodologies. The natural step works as a general overarching system of goals and specific tactics and measures to achieve sustainability. [Sources: 2]
The ABCD planning method, a framework for strategic sustainable development and other uses of the Natural Step are based on backward-looking sustainability principles. The ABCD consists of four steps that are repeated as the organization moves toward sustainability. The first step is to align the organization with a common understanding of sustainability, identify the entire system and context of the organization, develop a common language for sustainability, and develop a vision of what the organization looks like in a sustainable future. [Sources: 5]
The Natural Step is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to sustainable development. It acts as a catalyst for society to bring about systemic change by providing decision-makers with a common science-based understanding of sustainability and a framework for sustainable decision-making, be it social, environmental or economic. [Sources: 8]
Connecticut, USA, integrated the TNS framework with the definition of sustainability into a 1999 law, the Act on Good Environmental Management Systems. The law foresees the benefits of such systems on both sides of the permit, from expedited permits and the waving of certain fees to organizations certified to ISO 14001 to demonstrate that they have adopted TNS frameworks and recognized sustainability principles. [Sources: 4]
One can imagine the 4 principles as rules of the game - like chess, football, football, etc. It is easy to get to the part where you do not understand the principles, you go through them step by step and skip them while we are developing a strategy for achieving sustainability. By creating a common framework based on the trunk and the branches, we are all on one side, understand the rules and move on to the branches, and the details are left to a common mental model. A real dialogue can begin and remove the usual confusion. Details need to be clarified over time in order to act within the framework, but the measures are coherent and moving towards a common goal. [Sources: 7]
This model focuses on the entire system of the Earth and aims to create a common mental model of sustainability and a framework for decision-making and communication. Other design methods and approaches to sustainability, such as permaculture, build on this basis to determine what a sustainable design function looks like in different situations. [Sources: 6]
To do this, we need an understanding of how our systems work. The funnel metaphor is the core concept that levels the notion that we are operating in a system in which natural resources and ecosystem services are declining due to demand for them, owing to increased population growth and consumption patterns. This leads to increased economic, social and environmental pressure, which is represented by our metaphor of closing the funnel wall over time. [Sources: 1]
The phrase "enhanced system conditions" deserves clarification. Natural system complexity is built to maintain a biosphere that maintains systemic equilibrium within a given range. If we recognize that man contributes to the accumulation of CO 2 in the atmosphere, which brings the climate into a new equilibrium, we can adapt. [Sources: 3]
The net increase in the material quality of the earth derived from solar energy has existed since ancient times. The Earth is a closed system in relation to matter, but it is an open system in relation to energy. There is no need for external energy input to establish order. [Sources: 3]
This cyclical system is at the heart of the TNS framework. The earth receives light from the sun and emits heat into space. The difference between these two forms of energy creates the physical conditions for the biosphere to have a thin surface layer along which energy and the necessary components for life as we know it mix along the path of the sun. [Sources: 3]
We combine our experience in management consulting, our entrepreneurial knowledge, our market intelligence and our capable network of senior professionals. We offer various types of solutions based on the application of FSSD to help you understand the value, make it more concrete and help you reach your full potential. [Sources: 8]
Greenwashing is more than losing credibility and lack of integrity… it’s about losing precious time!
If you, like me, believe the science and those who have spent their lives building a deep understanding of the sustainability crises we face, you’ll agree that modern civilisation has almost no time left to utterly transform our socio-economic systems if we are to prevent a catastrophe that goes well beyond the climate issue on its own. Every day we allow ourselves to be distracted by single issues such as carbon emissions, or recycling or whatever floats (or sinks) your boat, the harder it gets to solve these wicked, intertwined issues. That’s why Greenwashing is far worse than just being dishonest in your marketing in order to make some extra cash from eco-conscious consumers. It actually distracts us from the reality of the situation we are in and makes it more likely that the disasters we are facing will end up coming to pass.
One of the key tenets of the Eco-aware Consumer Agenda is that consumers should be empowered, assisted and encouraged to make sustainable purchasing choices.
For the market for ‘green’ or environmentally-friendly products and services to function properly, business needs to ensure that environmental claims are clear, accurate and reliable. Only in these circumstances will consumers be able to make a truly informed choice and get what they think they are paying for. And only then will business be able to fully embrace the many opportunities for innovation that are needed to save the future from our short sightedness and downright stupidity.
Misleading and unsubstantiated environmental claims are increasing. A report from the European Commission ,“Consumer market study on environmental claims for non-food products” found that in 42% of cases, the national control authorities found that the statements printed on packaging were false, misleading or potentially misleading for consumers, therefore to be considered as an unfair practice under European Union law.
These false claims undermine consumers’ ability to contribute to green business by means of their purchasing choices, and ultimately do not provide what consumers are actually paying good money for. Some claims focus on just carbon, or recycling because they think that’s the biggest problem. This is a simplistic approach which, even if well intentioned, is as dangerous as it is misleading.
Let’s consider an example that most of us are familiar with. The information that consumers can find on a bottle of detergent will often say that this is a “Recyclable Product.”
There is no doubt that it is a correct statement. An HDPE bottle made with virgin polymer is recyclable, but it is misleading, if also combined with acronyms or drawings that make you imagine that nature and care of the ecosystem are at the heart of the business model.
In fact, in order to respect the scientific rules which define Sustainability and the Circular Economy, the bottle must be made of recycled plastic (or a truly biodegradable material) and, on the label, there must be a sentence similar to “bottle made with recycled material that can be recycled again after multiple re-uses”. And the facilities to recycle it must actually exist. There are also issues with the material that the bottle is made from, and there is also a social side to the equation which must be considered. We are of the opinion that this social aspect to sustainability is actually the most important of the lot, because in the end, people will do whatever they need to do to survive. And that includes eating the last fish, draining the aquifer, cutting down the forest, or blaming “those other people” for the problem. An we know where that particular tactic can lead to all too well.
But with only 11% of recycled materials globally actually recycled anyway, which isn't always the Company's fault or responsibility, is this just an excuse for greenwashing? We think so.
Our 20+years of experience as sustainability professionals has led Aurora Sustainability Group (don’t be misled by our online imitators), an award winning Scottish consultancy firm based in Moray, to develop an online marketplace which will use the most highly developed, comprehensive sustainability assessment tool available and which is designed to act as a guide to help companies identify where they stand in relation to being truly sustainable. It also provides guidance on how to close the gap to get to where they want to be. The marketplace will also act as a guide for consumers who want more clarity about who they are buying from.
There’s little doubt that both Companies and consumers are keen on eco-friendly products and Green Grow Club marketplace has been developed to help both ends of the transaction get what they want. Our online marketplace has a scientifically robust set of criteria for producers to judge their performance by, and with a robust framework behind it to help them improve their overall environmental performance, and show how they are doing in a transparent way. And because of that, we are also the only online marketplace where consumers can have a clear picture of what the full impact of their choices are.
We go way beyond just counting carbon, because that’s what sustainability requires. Just counting carbon alone is totally misunderstanding the complexity of the issue and is misleading to people who want to do the right thing. Consumers and producers alike.
We have 4 (non-scientific) initial criteria that our vendors must comply with to even get on the system. After that, we invite them to begin the journey to being truly sustainable using this scientific framework that has been developed to do that exact thing. And as they move along that path, they can help others to do the same by sharing their experience, and maybe even finding cooperative opportunities to develop solutions. We’ve found that Circular Economy business models nearly always need cross-sectoral cooperation. We support that journey with all the experience we have behind us.
No greenwashing. No simplistic solutions focussed on single issues. A full spectrum, robust, tried and tested sustainable business framework that has been developed for this very job.
Nothing else will do. There’s no time left for “single-issue mentality”.
Iain Findlay (Aurora Sustainability Group CEO)
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