© Earthly Gains, Ltd 2016-2019
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This page contains recent blog articles written by members of the Earthly Gains team or its associates.

Power to the people

by Martin Gibson

(Also published on LinkedIn)

Election results across the western world suggest widespread discontent with the status

quo. It seems many people feel overlooked and ignored. People want to have greater

control over various aspects of their lives – they want to feel empowered.

Many people appear to hark back to a past when they had more power. So what power are

they missing?

Well, these days, we have complex systems delivering everyday essentials. Take the UK

power supply system for example. Electricity generating companies put power into a

distribution system with national coverage and multiple regional companies. The customer

rarely knows about these because they buy their electricity from one of many possible

suppliers. The choice of which company to buy from has been the subject of much

discussion and many customers are confused and pay more than they need. Despite many statements that the

consumer has choice, few would feel they have much control.

Contrast the complexity of today with the simplicity of pre-industrial times. People would have collected wood or

purchased oil or coal. Supply chains were short and could easily be traced back to source.

Energy supply worldwide looks to be getting more complex as new forms of renewable energy are developed and

added to distribution grids. Despite this, the increase in renewable energy may give power back to the people.

Individuals or small groups can have their own solar panels or wind turbines. They can also produce power for their

own electric cars and, perhaps, gain from utilising electricity storage capacity when the car is idle.

Where does this leave the existing energy suppliers? Well, for some of them, it provides opportunities to develop

services to help customers in new ways. For others, it may mean that their products become obsolete. The speed of

obsolescence can be fast: Amory Lovins provides an excellent illustration of how quickly cars took over from horses

in the early 1900s in his talk on disruptive futures.

Changing energy systems mean that some power is available to the people.

Wasteful purchasing

by Martin Gibson

(first published Sep 22, 2016 on LinkedIn)

As you probably know, there is a lot of support for transforming our economy into one in which resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible, in other words, a circular economy. In such an economy, production and service systems are designed to maintain the value of resources through many product life cycles. At the moment most of our systems assume that we extract resources from the Earth, make something with them and then discard the thing we have made once we are finished with it. This approach is depleting resources and we are starting to be constrained by the limits of our planet. If everybody lived the way people in developed countries do, we would need about three planets in order to have a long-term, sustainable economy. So we need to change, and the sooner the change comes, the less disruptive and cheaper it will be. To move to the circular economy we need new systems and business models. These need to nurture resources rather than just treat them as a disposable and reducing asset. Most of us interact with the economy when we buy things. A resource efficient economy would need to ensure that consumers were able to minimise the resources associated with their purchases. Purchasing should encourage the choice of longevity of a product. One aspect of this is how easily consumables can be replenished. After all you wouldn’t want to throw away your printer every time the ink ran out, would you? Our current systems are very poor at nurturing resources, particularly for inexpensive items. I was struck by this when I went to buy two simple things yesterday: a roll of sticky tape and a refill for a ball point pen. I wanted more sticky tape for my tape dispenser. While many shops were happy to sell me a new dispenser with extra rolls of tape, I went into five shops before I found one that just sold the tape. The odd thing was that the tape alone cost about the same amount as the dispenser with spare tape. So apparently the value of the dispenser was negligible. The materials and energy that went into producing it gave no extra cost compared to just producing a roll of sticky tape. Also, if you buy the new dispenser and tape, your existing tape dispenser becomes effectively valueless and is probably thrown away. There is a cost of waste disposal but this is not factored into the purchase decision. How can our economic system put no value on a product that takes resources and energy to produce and dispose of? I had a similar issue with a pen. I have a nice ball point pen that takes a simple refill. None of the five shops that I tried sold a simple refill. I could buy a new pen with lots more material, making my nice pen a waste item, but I could not buy just a refill. Refills were available for many pens but these were all more complex and expensive rather than the simple one that I needed. So apparently we can only make a business case for the replenishment of consumables for something expensive. If we want something simple and inexpensive, we have to add unnecessary material with lots of components rather that minimising the use of resources. This also leads to more waste. Is it just me or does this seem madness to you too? Get in touch if you would like help stopping such madness in your business.
© Martin Gibson, trading as Earthly Gains, 2016
This page contains recent blog articles written by members of the Earthly Gains team or its associates.

Power to the people

by Martin Gibson

(Also published on LinkedIn)

Election results across

the western world

suggest widespread

discontent with the

status quo. It seems

many people feel

overlooked and

ignored. People want to

have greater control

over various aspects of

their lives – they want

to feel empowered.

Many people appear to hark back to a past when they had more

power. So what power are they missing?

Well, these days, we have complex systems delivering everyday

essentials. Take the UK power supply system for example.

Electricity generating companies put power into a distribution

system with national coverage and multiple regional companies.

The customer rarely knows about these because they buy their

electricity from one of many possible suppliers. The choice of

which company to buy from has been the subject of much

discussion and many customers are confused and pay more than

they need. Despite many statements that the consumer has

choice, few would feel they have much control.

Contrast the complexity of today with the simplicity of pre-

industrial times. People would have collected wood or purchased

oil or coal. Supply chains were short and could easily be traced

back to source.

Energy supply worldwide looks to be getting more complex as

new forms of renewable energy are developed and added to

distribution grids. Despite this, the increase in renewable energy

may give power back to the people. Individuals or small groups

can have their own solar panels or wind turbines. They can also

produce power for their own electric cars and, perhaps, gain from

utilising electricity storage capacity when the car is idle.

Where does this leave the existing energy suppliers? Well, for

some of them, it provides opportunities to develop services to

help customers in new ways. For others, it may mean that their

products become obsolete. The speed of obsolescence can be fast:

Amory Lovins provides an excellent illustration of how quickly

cars took over from horses in the early 1900s in his talk on

disruptive futures.

Changing energy systems mean that some power is available to

the people.

Wasteful purchasing

by Martin Gibson

(first published Sep 22, 2016 on LinkedIn)

As you probably know, there is a lot of support for transforming our economy into one in which resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible, in other words, a circular economy. In such an economy, production and service systems are designed to maintain the value of resources through many product life cycles. At the moment most of our systems assume that we extract resources from the Earth, make something with them and then discard the thing we have made once we are finished with it. This approach is depleting resources and we are starting to be constrained by the limits of our planet. If everybody lived the way people in developed countries do, we would need about three planets in order to have a long-term, sustainable economy. So we need to change, and the sooner the change comes, the less disruptive and cheaper it will be. To move to the circular economy we need new systems and business models. These need to nurture resources rather than just treat them as a disposable and reducing asset. Most of us interact with the economy when we buy things. A resource efficient economy would need to ensure that consumers were able to minimise the resources associated with their purchases. Purchasing should encourage the choice of longevity of a product. One aspect of this is how easily consumables can be replenished. After all you wouldn’t want to throw away your printer every time the ink ran out, would you? Our current systems are very poor at nurturing resources, particularly for inexpensive items. I was struck by this when I went to buy two simple things yesterday: a roll of sticky tape and a refill for a ball point pen. I wanted more sticky tape for my tape dispenser. While many shops were happy to sell me a new dispenser with extra rolls of tape, I went into five shops before I found one that just sold the tape. The odd thing was that the tape alone cost about the same amount as the dispenser with spare tape. So apparently the value of the dispenser was negligible. The materials and energy that went into producing it gave no extra cost compared to just producing a roll of sticky tape. Also, if you buy the new dispenser and tape, your existing tape dispenser becomes effectively valueless and is probably thrown away. There is a cost of waste disposal but this is not factored into the purchase decision. How can our economic system put no value on a product that takes resources and energy to produce and dispose of? I had a similar issue with a pen. I have a nice ball point pen that takes a simple refill. None of the five shops that I tried sold a simple refill. I could buy a new pen with lots more material, making my nice pen a waste item, but I could not buy just a refill. Refills were available for many pens but these were all more complex and expensive rather than the simple one that I needed. So apparently we can only make a business case for the replenishment of consumables for something expensive. If we want something simple and inexpensive, we have to add unnecessary material with lots of components rather that minimising the use of resources. This also leads to more waste. Is it just me or does this seem madness to you too? Get in touch if you would like help stopping such madness in your business.