Here's a question: if the need for a product has to be created by the manufacturer, if aggressive marketing is required to convince people to buy the product, can the product, no matter how renewable its materials, really be called sustainable?
Because isn't using resources to make things we don't even need the definition of waste?
I know I'm being an idealist here, but if we don't establish ideals, if we don't paint a target on the moon, we'll never even reach the treetops.
And I'm not wagging my finger at designers or business people, either. I'm just saying that turning business towards meeting real human needs will, almost by definition, make it less wasteful, even if the same resources are used.
That's what designers want to do anyway, right? Improve lives?
... Capitalism’s core virtue is that it marries altruism and self-interest. In producing goods and services that answer real consumer needs, it secures a profit for producers. Doing good for others turns out to entail doing well for yourself.
Capitalism’s success, however, has meant that core wants in the developed world are now mostly met and that too many goods are now chasing too few needs. Yet capitalism requires us to “need” all that it produces in order to survive. So it busies itself manufacturing needs for the wealthy while ignoring the wants of the truly needy...
... Can we redirect capitalism to its proper end: the satisfaction of real human needs? Well, why not? The world teems with elemental wants and is peopled by billions who are needy. They do not need iPods, but they do need potable water, not colas but inexpensive medicines, not MTV but their ABCs...
...Pharmaceutical companies ought to be thinking about how to sell inexpensive retro-virals to Africans with HIV instead of pushing Botox to the “forever young” customers they are trying to manufacture here...
Oh I know, I know. Talking like this is all pie in the sky.
But what if business saw its job as, not creating need for existing products, but creating products for existing need? Couldn't a real entrepreneur return to capitalism's altruistic roots and find a way to serve self interest while maybe filling a few empty bellies or moistening a few parched throats?
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.