Monday, August 18, 2008

Starck’s mea culpa

Once you’re convinced that the role of business is to make the world a better place (and the way governments and politicians are headed, who else is there: what was wrong with those negotiators at WTO’s Doha Round?), never has a sustainability response from business been so desperately needed. So hats off to one of my favorite designers, Philippe Starck. He has declared sustainability in typical French fashion; with maximum effect and emotion. “Design is dead,” he told the world. “Everything I have designed was unnecessary...and I am ashamed.” Well, you can put most of that cork back in the bottle, Philippe, although we hear what you’re saying.

The best result of Starck’s apology comes in Starck doing what he does best in support of sustainability. He has designed the most beautiful, small wind turbine you have ever seen. Its name? Democratic Ecology. The purpose of this turbine is as irresistible as its design. To allow every household to have its own supplementary power generator. A crucial function in a superb form aimed in the most inclusive way possible at everyone.

At another point on the design spectrum, IKEA is continuing to address sustainability in their stores and products in smart and serious ways. In recent news, two of their ideas caught my attention. The first was worthy although incremental. Over the next five years IKEA will add items like solar panels to its store inventory. The second has the potential to be world-changing. IKEA intends to put $77 million into clean technology start-ups. What an invitation for fantastic independent ideas to get scale and traction fast. I can see the ideas of hundreds of entrepreneurs grow and spread with the support of a global connector like IKEA.

Around the globe, businesses are starting to work harder with their own communities, to interrogate their own processes and to back innovative ideas. Of the many advantages business has over government, I particularly value the ability to make quick decisions responding to current, local and relevant information. When you add commitment, optimism and courage you have something truly inspiring. Go tell that to the Dohas.