How can business prepare for the new economy?

by Jane Farago

On Wednesday 20 March, Net Balance Foundation, in partnership with 3 Pillars Network, hosted an event to explore the question ‘How can business prepare for the new economy?’ Natalie Nicholles presented the work of the New Economics Foundation (nef) a UK based think tank that has been challenging traditional economic models since 1986. Natalie provided an overview of nef’s work, which attempts to provide a more holistic understanding of value, encompassing social, economic and environmental dimensions.

While business has a strong track record of creating material wealth, that wealth has not benefitted all members of society, and has also thrown up a range of systemic problems. Nef’s work highlights these issues, and posits alternative frameworks.

Natalie acknowledged that nef does not have all the answers, but stressed that the economy is not a given, static entity; businesses and individuals can play a role in designing and creating the economy we want. We can work together to design business not as usual.

To apply the relevance of nef’s thinking to a local business context, we talked to Mike Murray, Victorian General Manager of GoGet, a start-up that has grown rapidly since 2002 to become Australia’s largest car sharing business. Mike responded to a point Natalie raised about the importance of getting incentives right: while GoGet take-up has social and environmental benefits, that is incidental to their business model, which focuses on convenience and cost. Natalie also suggested that we move from a focus on labour productivity to a focus on resource productivity. Car sharing provides an example of how resource productivity can present a business opportunity: one share car can replace 23 privately owned vehicles. GoGet has also identified flow-on benefits to other business stakeholders such as carparks and retail strips; their initial resistance to the scheme shifted when businesses recognised unexpected benefits.

This event acted as a taster of the full day conference on The New Economy that Net Balance and 3 Pillars Network are planning for August this year. Keep an eye on our website for further details.

Jane Farago is the General Manager of the Net Balance Foundation (jane@netbalance.com), 
providing services to organisations and companies unable to pay the usual cost of sustainability advisory services.
Jane is based in Melbourne.

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