Natural capitalism

I’ve just finished the book Natural Capitalism. It’s pretty rare for me to make it to the end of any business book; 9 times out of 10 the second halves are just a reheated version of the first chapters. Not this time.

The book is great, packed with fascinating examples and is both alarming in its exposition of the threat of climate change and resource depletion yet profoundly optimistic in outlook, citing countless innovations that could turn things round.

Central to the book is the idea of putting some value on the earth’s natural resources, something conventional economics is terrible at doing. Hardly unreasonable, you might think.

Likewise, there’s an attractive logic to its advocacy of resource efficiency and the aim of elminating waste. In nature, it argues, there is no waste, because everything output in one place is used up someplace else. Yet the last hundred years or so of human progress, for all the benefits they have brought, seem to have violated this principle with far reaching consequences.

The exposition of the vast amounts of material and energy consumed to keep one American (and I daresay anyone else in the developed world) in clothes, food and transport was shocking. I was fascinated by the detailed story of the effort involved in delivering a few mouthfuls of carbonated, sugary water to me in a can (AKA Coca Cola). This certainly made me feel like not buying another one.

I’m left reflecting on how marketing could step up to the plate and support radical resource efficiency. It certainly isn’t very efficient in its use of most people’s limited amount of attention.

And am I alone is asking myself: shouldn’t I be increasingly picky about the sorts of products and services I want to put my own time and effort into promoting…

3 thoughts on “Natural capitalism

  1. Robert

    One of my favourite books Johnnie. I use it as a text book for one of my courses.

    My students like ti for the same reasons that you and I do – great context and then great ideas of what to do


    “More picky about products and services you promote…”

    I think the question that Jobs asked Scully many years ago gets to the heart of this for us all…

    “Do you want to sell sugar water to kids or change the world.”

    Not that it ended well for either, but the question is something we can all ask ourselves.

    I’ve got X number of projects left before I die or retire, how do I want to invest them?

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Many thanks Robert(s) and Jeremy.

    This is such a meaty subject, I think I need more time to find a way to respond to match the effort you’ve put into your comments. I think the issues are incredibly important, and not easy to wrestle to the ground.


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