Let's Make Sustainability Less of a Luxury Good
It's easy to villainize people who make different choices than we do. But does that mean they are anti-sustainability, or do they just have different priorities that we do?
For many people, including me, the holidays are a time to return to where they grew up. I fly into DFW and drive an hour to a world that feels light-years away.
I grew up in a small town of about 2,000 that today has grown to about 10,000. It's full of people working the jobs that make our economy run while trying to make ends meet.
I've always viewed this as a competitive advantage in my professional career. When I led product at Choose Energy, I deeply understood the customer because I saw and knew so many of them. I wasn't surprised when a survey of small business owners listed energy as their 13th priority on average, with sustainability nowhere to be found.
This week, the Threads algorithm surfaced a thread and subsequent replies that drove this point home. The original poster chastised Amazon for thinking he'd ever want packages in "fewer boxes." Instead, he wanted everything as quickly as possible.
Predictably, the responses came in varying flavors of "It's better for the planet" or "You clearly don't care about your footprint." Here's the thing: he doesn't, he's not alone, and that's okay.
Many Jeff Bezos-isms stick with me, but one applies particularly well here:
You can build a business on what doesn't change, and what doesn't change is customer demand for high-quality items sold for cheap and delivered quickly.
You'll notice he doesn't mention sustainability despite being one of the most prominent philanthropists in climate.
Returning to the original poster, his desire to get his items faster doesn't make him evil. We often jump to this conclusion for those less passionate about sustainability than we are. It just means his priorities are different from ours.
In fact, those replying they used the sustainable option often did so for other incentives like free credits to use on Kindle books or security (living in neighborhoods where theft was common).
Customers' priorities indirectly impact B2B businesses, too.
Airlines buy carbon offsets but can't do so at the expense of making flights more expensive. As a result, any business selling them offsets needs to achieve a combination of quality and price.
Maersk is committed to using alternative fuels and tracking sustainability within its logistics operation. They also have to ensure their clients get the cheapest shipping rates, so the solutions they buy must be cost-competitive.
While the above examples are always true, they're even more impactful as we stare down a permanently higher interest rate environment and an election year where global policies could become less favorable to sustainability.
That movement has already started. The hydrogen tax credits announced last month were much less favorable than anticipated. Just this week, congress announced more scrutiny of the loan program led by the Department of Energy.
If that's the case, technologies and businesses in our space must prepare to win on the fundamentals - better, cheaper, and faster - because the customer will be the ultimate judge, and those qualities drive the scorecard..
The opportunity to make sustainability less of a luxury good through investing in great founders and companies excites me. It’s our opportunity to eliminate the choice of climate versus other priorities and ensure that the best products are good for everyone and the planet.
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