The Resource Revolution Trainer

Coupling Sustainability with Excellence. An online self-training guide for business.

SESSION 6: The Challenge of Time and Scale


Session 6 explores the issues of time and scale that you face in taking radically more resource productive products and services to the mainstream market. It includes the dilemmas encountered in applying appropriate investment decision-making time frames, as well as upfront design questions related to the ultimate product lifetime. Finding solutions will require, among others, creative leadership inside your company and soft technology innovations in the form of alternative business models. Mindful of the scale of the global resource challenge, it can be argued that radical productivity improvements need to be introduced at massive scale. At the same time, you will need to take care in considering the role of intermediary technologies and avoid the pitfalls identified by E.F. Schumacher in his 1970s book Small is Beautiful.


Support Materials:

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An example of a business leader being the committed champion comes from the Korean conglomerate Samsung. Its founder Lee Byung-Chull started the company in 1938 as an exporter of dried fish, fruit and vegetables. Later the company moved into food processing, textiles and retail. By the 1960s and 1970s the company moved into electronics, construction and shipbuilding. His son Lee Kun-Hee took over in the 1980s.  He examined quality performance standards abroad – notably in Europe, USA and Japan – and inspired his management to become a vertically integrated, globally networked manufacturer. One strategy of the company is to spot technology transition points and catch up with incumbents quickly.  It is also taking a leadership position on many fronts. In 2010 Samsung pledged US$ 20.6 billion investment in five high-growth businesses including solar cells, rechargeable batteries for automotives and LED technologies. It is also heavily investing in water filtration and offshore wind energy.
Reflect on the following questions and discuss with colleagues in your company:

  1. Does the design of your products and services effectively promote Reduce – Re-use – Recycling of waste? Are your approaches delivering at the scale required for the Resource Revolution?
  2. Mindful of consumer interest in quantity and quality, how would you make the case to your providers of financial capital to support your radical resource productivity innovation to pass the threshold of major market take-up?
  3. What is an appropriate economy of scale for your products and services to have optimal impact in terms of sustainable resource use? What supply and distribution network design will be most effective to pursue in the coning five years?
  4. In as far as you make use of outsourcing and external supplies, do your supplier agreements effectively make provision for resource use innovations? Can you convene a regular suppliers convention to assess collaborative possibilities for achieving Factor 5-10 productivity improvements?
  5. Who would be key champions in your business to lead a Resource Revolution programme? Would it be a certain department, such as operations, IT, marketing, finance? Would it be certain key individuals, including the CEO? What about Board level commitment? Map a plan for starting the initiative.