Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blue Economy Echoes

It's wonderful to unexpectedly stumble upon a kindred spirit – or at least a person who holds a worldview eerily similar to your own. It can happen as easily at a barbecue as a board meeting – or in a book – when a person expresses an opinion or articulates a perspective that sounds like it was cut and pasted from your own thoughts.

This happened recently when I came across the work and writings of Gunter Pauli, who is about to release the English language version of his book, The Blue Economy.

That title will ring bells around the Saatchi & Saatchi universe and among readers of this blog. I have been talking up a "blue" vision for a sustainable and prosperous planet for many years. It came from the belief that we needed to move on from the old Green versus Brown paradigm, and pursue a future of ecological and economic excellence. Gunter Pauli, an academic and adventurous entrepreneur describes his motivation this way:

"The Green Economy proposes investors to accept a lower ROI and asks consumers to pay more. While this may work when economy is booming, this does not work at a time of crisis. The Blue Economy proposes to inspire entrepreneurs with hundreds of innovations in all sectors of the economy that will change the rules of the game of the market, cascading nutrients and energy, eliminating blatantly unsustainable product and process designs."

Pauli is overseeing numerous fascinating projects across several continents, involving self-sustaining new industries in developing countries, delivering an economic future without the ecological damage that usually comes along with it. He is doing it on a large scale - and with strong government backing – in Bhutan, helping the small nation build industries that draw on its cultural and economic assets while preserving the local ecology. This is a far cry from the burn and pillage approach to developing countries in past decades.

I have it on good authority that Pauli, a German professor, has not read anything of Saatchi & Saatchi's True Blue philosophy (he also approves of the term, Green Economy 2.0 but I am not so convinced). However he arrived at the same conclusion through many years of trying to bridge the gap between environmental and economic ambition. In other words, he sees clean technology and alternative energy as fantastic – and largely untouched – profit centers, not as political posturing or charity cases or acts of philanthropy. This is about business and environment, profits and planet. Ultimately, Gunter Paul and I clearly agree – although having not met in person – that this approach is the best bet to protect and prosper.