Posts Tagged :

Sustainable Development Goals

The Musk Paradox 620 450 Dave Knight

The Musk Paradox

There is a massive paradox smack in the middle of the business models of arguably the world’s most innovative man. It provides many lessons for businesses looking to innovate.

Musk has done more than most to disrupt the auto industry, to a point where total cost of ownership of electric vehicles is near price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles and Tesla’s market capitalisation is greater than GM and of Ford. Solar City, another Musk co- owned venture, is part of the renewables revolution that provides at least 5 times as many jobs in the US than the fossil fuel industry. He dabbles with brain-computer interfaces through Neuralink which he is backing. Musk open-sourced his teams design for Hyperloop Alpha, a concept to revolutionise intercity transportation. He decides his commute is frustrating, so sets up a company to tunnel under a freeway and within months has started building his time-saving tunnel – it’s just boring. The list goes on…

But it is his SpaceX venture that provides the big paradox. While most of his enterprises support efficiencies, clean energy and transformation to more sustainable economies, his quest for space travel and ultimately to set up a colony on Mars is doing the opposite. Granted he has disrupted the space industry and I take my hat off to the amazing advances that enable rockets to be reusable, landing back on earth, like a coordinated dance sequence.

However, his childhood ambitions of going to Mars are obscuring some obvious truths. The first is that Earth is beautiful, it is our single home, evolving continually, providing the ecosystem that enables humanity to survive – it is a fine place to live. Mars is beautiful in its own way, but not a great or easy place to live. If we want to continue to thrive as a species, we need to be focused on maintaining our life support systems on our single planet.

It is true that we seem to be doing our best to ruin them, but is the answer to create a back-door escape to another planet that at best, a handful of people could ever use? Our spirit of adventure will always push us to explore new frontiers, but creating a nice place to live on Mars will take millennia. Nine billion people will soon live on Planet Earth, there is no chance they can all go to Mars. After all, it has taken Planet Earth 4.7 billion years to reach the point we are at today. We humans have taken approximately 0.0000015% of this time – since 1950 – to bring our Planet to a point of crisis. It is time to put that right.

The lessons for strategic business innovation are that we need to point innovation in a direction that supports humanity thriving, not undermining it. We don’t need to ‘Save the Planet’ – it will be fine for a few billion years yet, we need to ‘Save Humanity’. Innovation should support business operations to work within our ecosystems ‘safe operating zone’. Strategic decision making can be informed by available tools, like: Ecological Footprinting; the Natural Capital Protocol; the Future-Fit Benchmark; or by simply aligning to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

This is not wishful thinking – many leading business’ get this, and are adopting 100% renewable strategies (RE100), 100 businesses now have approved Science Based Targets and many more are developing truly clean products and services. Unilever is an example of a business, which is aligning its brands towards the SDG’s. Every brand must have a clear purpose that contributes to a social or environmental concern. Each product must contribute to at least one of its Sustainable Living Plan targets. If this threshold is not met, it will not pursue the product opportunity. This kind of thinking will help ensure that every business is enhancing our ability to survive, creating business opportunities for the future.

Musk is a man on a mission. While there is a paradox in his business strategies, we can learn from his immense abilities and ‘can do’ approach to innovate for sustainability and resilience. It is time to speed and scale up this process, to disrupt our fossil-fuelled ways of living and transform to the new green economy.


photo credit: By Tony Gray and Robert Murray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (

Why Trump is the right man to lead us to a better world 750 499 Dave Knight

Why Trump is the right man to lead us to a better world

Every time I look at Twitter, I’ve found myself being drawn in, like a water circling towards a plughole, to comment on the many and varied decisions and policy statements of the world’s most powerful man. I’ve tried to keep a professional distance from politics and to focus my Tweets on a thread with a business sustainability relevance (which are many), but maybe I’m straying across the line, like a kayaker franticly paddling to avoid going down the plughole.

[vc_single_image source=”featured_image” img_size=”full” alignment=”center”]

As with many people, I’ve found myself in disbelief about the nature, tone and approach of someone who is supposed to be the leader of the free world, taking us to a brighter future. While we can debate about the people who voted him in knowing what he stood for, we are where we are, and it is what it is.

So why am I now thinking he’s the right man to show us a path to a better future? I’ve long been concerned that business and their customers and global citizens have not been vocal enough – not standing up for what they believe in – what they feel is right deep down. By stripping the façade of respectability away from the narrow, neocon agenda, Trump is showing us what right-wing, exclusive, business at any cost, policies look like. He is showing us, as clear as day, what ‘winner takes all’, vested interest driven, capitalism looks like and we don’t like it.

Now, more than any other time in my life time, I feel we have to stand up, articulate and shout about our vision and plans for an inclusive, fairer, cleaner world. Stephen Hawking, in a recent BBC documentary, estimated that Humanity has 100 years left[1], Elon Musk’s obsession with finding an alternative home for humanity on Mars[2] (or another planet) shares Professor Hawking’s gloomy analysis. Without going too deep into the energy need and broader scientific challenges of trying to save humanity by enabling a handful of people to set up a new colony elsewhere, I would rather we focused much more attention on trying to maintain a reasonable lifestyle for 7+ billion and the coming generations on our single planet we already have, that we call home.

There are some strong signs that business realises that the Sustainable Development Goal’s and all they represent, are not just for window-dressing and greenwashing, but represent the real drivers of business success over the next 20 years. For example, the swift growth of the Renewable Energy 100 (RE100) companies[3], the development of microloans and other financial services for women and the steady march of the sharing economy are showing us there are newer, better ways to do business. The recent collapse of Trump’s business committees also demonstrates the rejection of inequality and hate.

Thanks to Trump, and some of the other despots like him, there is a new spirit emerging, a rejuvenated group of citizens, organisations and businesses who are prepared to stand up and shout about the future we want. They are prepared to challenge the rhetoric with sound science, humanity and care.

If the consequence of Mr Trump being in power is that he prompts the growth of a global movement with a clarion call for social justice, equality and a clean and productive planet, then perhaps it’s not so bad after all. System change needs a prompt – sometimes you need to shake the tree. So while Trump is trying to cut it down, its time for everyone else to plant the forest.

[1] BBC documentary, Expedition New Earth, shown June 15 2017



photo credit: Gage Skidmore <a href=”″>Donald Trump</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

Send this to a friend