Yesterday, Howard Brown spoke about dMASS at the NAEM Forum, "EHS & Sustainability Success in the New Economic Era."  Here are some are highlights* from his presentation:

  • We need to disconnect the production of stuff from the production of wealth.  At one time, "bigger is better" made sense.  Making money and generating wealth required using more and more resources.  Thicker walls and clothing kept us warmer, larger lighting fixtures lit our rooms brighter, and heavier cars kept us safer.  Companies making products that required more and more resources could grow larger and increase their profits.  Circumstances are different today.  There more pressures on resource supplies and prices, which threaten profits and the long-term viability of many businesses.  Wealth and resource use are no longer correlated as they once were.  In fact, increasing resource use now often diminishes wealth.  Fortunately, scientific and engineering advances are enabling us to do better with less each day.  It is now possible to generate more wealth with fewer resources.  In fact, it's imperative.
  • Customers don't really want your products, they want benefits.  The goods people and companies buy - everything from simple household items to major components of infrastructure - are essentially tools.  Tools for making wealth. What is wealth?  Wealth has to do with managing risk, with security, with our ability to survive under different conditions.  It is about health and nutrition, sanitation, recreation, and protection from the elements.  Wealth stems from the benefits generated by resource use.  That's what people are buying.  They're not buying products; they're buying benefits.  They don't want light bulbs, they want the benefits of light.  Benefits are what matter and that's where companies should focus.
  • If you don't use it, you can't spill it. Environmental management has been focused on the "back end" - waste management, compliance, pollution controls, and so on.  The best way to deal with environmental issues, while also reducing company costs and risks, is to not use the material in the first place.  The biggest shift companies need to make is from minimizing waste or pollution to minimizing resource use in the first place.
  • Your products are mostly waste.  For any organization, waste is everything that isn’t needed to deliver value to customers.  It is not just trash, pollution, wastewater, and scraps.  It is not the stuff that gets reused and recycled.  It is every ounce of material that goes into manufacturing, transporting, storing, and selling goods and services that isn't providing value.  It could be your product itself, or a major portion of it.  It is everything that does not increase wealth or provide benefits to your customer.
  • Competitive advantage today is about resource performance. Right now, someone is trying to figure out how to deliver the benefits your company delivers, but deliver it using much less resource mass.  Most likely it's not someone you consider a competitor.  It's someone who isn't trapped thinking about how to make a product more efficient or "greener."  It's someone who sees an opportunity to create wealth in a new way.  Sustainability, corporate social responsibility, green business - it's really about improving resource performance.  The key is improving the relationship between the wealth a company creates and the mass of resources it uses.  This is how companies can align business and environmental goals and metrics and how they can set themselves apart from today's and tomorrow's competition.

*To learn more about a topic, click on a link for a related dMASS article.  For examples of new business models and technologies that are changing the relationship between wealth and resources, explore the website and sign up for the dMASS newsletter.