Tag Archives: uber

How Uber, Airbnb and Amazon Can Help Combat Climate Change

Can we use the disruptive model pioneered by Amazon, Uber and Airbnb in the struggle against climate change?

Uber is the world’s biggest taxi company, but doesn’t own a single taxi cab. Airbnb and Booking.com are the world’s largest hoteliers, but don’t possess any hotels. 

And after being in business for a quarter of a century, Amazon – the world’s biggest bookseller – is only now experimenting with physical bookshops.

There are many lessons to be learnt from such examples. Chief among them, perhaps, is that being disruptive does work. 

These days, businesses and consumers are far more receptive to ‘early-stage’ disruptive ideas. They have seen for themselves how easy it is to be overtaken and left behind by clever ideas whose time has come.

I’ve been thinking a lot about disruptive ideas in recent weeks. And in particular, I’ve been thinking about disruptive ideas in the context of sustainability.

And the conclusion I’ve come to? 

We may need some fresh disruptive ideas and business models if the sustainability agenda is to make much more progress.

Report card

That may sound mad. Since – say – the 1970s and 1980s, the world’s environmental protection initiatives have made huge progress.

Sustainability is high on both corporate and government agendas. Cars are far more fuel-efficient. Houses, offices and factories are far more energy-efficient.

Skies are clearer, water cleaner – especially in the developed world, although progress is being made elsewhere, too.

And yet, and yet. Waters are clearer, yes. But visible pollution has been replaced with microplastic fibres.

Smoke from coal-burning has gone from our skies. Yet CO2 emissions are at record levels. The Amazon’s rainforests are vanishing. Sea levels are rising. And average temperatures are increasing.

Is it any wonder that groups such as Extinction Rebellion are protesting so vociferously? Or that the activism of teenage protesters is so widely applauded?

Lip service

For me, personally, one of the most persuasive signs that current approaches to sustainability aren’t delivering fast enough has come from the Harvard Business Review

Late last year, influential management thinker John Elkington took to its pages to officially ‘recall’ – that is, take back – a concept he first launched 25 years ago: the Triple Bottom Line.

Simply put, he argued, the Triple Bottom Line was no longer enough. Something else was needed. Something bolder.

The idea behind the Triple Bottom Line was simple. Instead of focusing on just profit, the Triple Bottom Line sought to get businesses to view their performance in a broader context.

They should examine their social, environmental and economic impact.

The idea has had a powerful effect. Twenty-five years on, it’s made a big difference. 

But it isn’t enough, acknowledged Elkington. Too many businesses see it as a trade-off mechanism, rather than as an absolute test.

Something else is required if we are to really ‘shift the needle’.

As he eloquently put it: ‘We have a hard‑wired cultural problem in business, finance and markets. Whereas CEOs, CFOs and other corporate leaders move heaven and earth to ensure that they hit their profit targets, the same is very rarely true of their people and planet targets.’

The ugly side of fashion

Which is why I’ve been thinking about disruptive ideas, and alternative business models.

Could they do enough to ‘shift the needle’?

I’m excited about their potential, to be sure.

Take the fashion industry. It’s been described as the second-most polluting industry in the world.

In water-scarce countries, water goes to produce cotton, not food. Microplastics from synthetic textiles fill our rivers and oceans.

According to the United Nations, the fashion industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined. It is responsible for up to 20% of global wastewater, and 10% of global carbon emissions. 

Container ships full of cheap clothes ply the world’s shipping lanes. They belch out vast amounts of the sulphur-laden black smoke that comes from burning bunker oil, the world’s dirtiest fuel.

And yet, at the end of it all, a lot of ‘fast fashion’ simply gets thrown away. The UK sent around 300,000 tons of clothing to landfill in 2016, for instance.

What can be done? 

Instinctively, most people think about some form of clothes recycling. But they are forced to conclude that the technology to cost-effectively turn unwanted clothing into useable yarn doesn’t yet exist.

But there’s another form of clothes recycling that doesn’t need technology. Or rather, the technology that it needs is already developed and with us.

The sharing economy

I’m talking about clothing rental, which is catching on fast.

Names such as Girl Meets Dress, My Wardrobe HQ, By Rotation, Rent the Runway.

These and others are offering affordable clothing rental services, either on their own account (they own the clothes), or as intermediaries (other people own the clothes).

At the moment, a lot of the activity is at the high end, in designerwear. Fast fashion it isn’t – yet.

That said, there are experiments underway. H&M, for instance, is trialling a rental scheme at its flagship store in Stockholm. In the United States, Banana Republic has recently launched a rental service.

Even so, it’s clear that what’s going on has the potential to evolve and grow.

As a business model, it’s different and disruptive. And it addresses many of the sustainability issues of the traditional ownership model. 

Instead of being hung up in a wardrobe, clothes are worn again and again – just by different people.

So could such a model ‘shift the needle’ in terms of fashion’s impact on the environment?

No one, including me, yet knows: it’s far too soon. Right now, fashion rental is far from becoming mainstream.

But don’t forget: so too, once, were Uber, Amazon and Airbnb.

Disrupting accepted business models in fashion – and other areas – could really help in the struggle to combat climate change.

This article was written by London Roundtable attendee, Omera Khan. If you are also interested in attending our next Roundtable in London, you can contact [email protected]

Could Uber’s business model tackle procurement’s next challenges?

In a week that saw the CIPS Conference juggernaut roll into town, and Tesco (still) reeling from overstated first-half profits [more on that here] – you might have missed the following nuggets of news:

Copy Uber’s model to tackle procurement’s next big challenges

  • According to CIPS economist John Glen, speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference in London last week, Uber is not actually in the business of taxis.
  • “Uber is in the business of looking out into the world where there is excess capacity and resources that are not being fully utilised and matching the resource with customers who want to use it,” Glen told delegates.
  • “How do you look at capacity that exists within your own business that is not being currently fully utilised, that you could rent out to someone else or use in imaginative ways?”
  • He continued: “We now have to start to be very clever about how we form alliances with our supply chain, how we understand what it is our customer wants, how we use technologies that are out there cleverly with assets and customers in different geographies, and that is going to be our world in the next 12 months and beyond.”

Read more at Supply Management

Rating agencies’ demands pose threat to commodity supply chain

  • Commodity-price spikes could become more common if credit rating agencies drive up the cost of capital for leading trading houses, forcing them to hold less inventory, a leading consultancy has warned.
  • In a new report on the commodity trading industry, co-authored by Graham Sharp, one of the founders of Trafigura, the consultancy says that by including debts associated with trading in its calculation, the agencies could drive up the cost of traders’ capital. As a result, these companies would have “significantly less incentive” to hold high volumes of inventory and resolve potential supply disruptions.

  • The big commodity traders are drawing greater attention from investors as they issue more bonds and financial instruments to help finance the acquisition of assets that range from coal mines to storage terminals and petrol retailers.

Read more at the FT.com

California launches high-speed train procurement

  • The Californian high speed rail programme envisages provision of a ‘one seat ride’ between Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2028 within a budget of $68bn.
  • Expressions of interest are to be submitted to the California High Speed Rail Authority by October 22 from potential suppliers of high speed trainsets for the planned 836 km network that would link the San Francisco Bay Area with the Los Angeles basin by 2028.
  • ‘We are going to have the first true high-speed rail system in America and industry leaders from around the world are eager to talk to us about why their trains should be running on our tracks’, commented CHSRA Chief Executive Jeff Morales. ‘This is a big moment for our programme.’

Read more at the Railway Gazette

H&M’s environmental sustainability coordinator on sustainable materials

  • The Guardian spoke to Erik Karlsson, H&M’s environmental sustainability coordinator, about the environmental credentials of the new line and the H&M partnership with Jeanologia.
  • He revealed: H&M has been working with more sustainable materials for many years now. Currently, we are the largest user of organic cotton. Our ambition now is to be able to close the loop on textiles, ie produce new fibres from old clothes. In this collection we have two products with recycled cotton from our garment collecting program.
  • To create Conscious denim, washes have been scored red, yellow or green (where green indicates the toughest criteria) for water consumption and energy consumption. To meet Conscious denim standards at H&M, garments must be made with organic, recycled or climate smart cellulose materials and the washing process should score ‘green’.

Read more at The Guardian

Hermes on equality in the supply chain

  • Retail Week has published an article that highlights the success Hermes has had in bringing about equality across the business.
  • The writer – Carole Woodhead, is CEO of Hermes.
  • Women hold a third of the main board positions at Hermes UK. In addition, 25 per cent of all senior management positions are females, as are more than 60 per cent of our field team leaders. In terms of the supply chain sector, women are extremely well represented at Hermes and the company is above the industry norm.
  • We have also recently welcomed Clare Bottle to Hermes who has taken up the position of head of courier service. Clare brings more than 20 years of industry experience to the team, previously working as national logistics manager at Lafarge Tarmac. Clare is also vice-chair of Women in Logistics UK and a trustee of Transaid.

Read more at Retail Week

Coca-Cola green branding devalues the colour’s ethical heritage

  • The cola wars are back on again with the launches of Coke Life and Pepsi True but their use of green branding leaves a sour taste in the mouth, says Chris Arnold, creative director, Creative Orchestra and author of Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer.
  • It’s packaged in a green container which implies it’s some kind of natural, ethical, environmentally-friendly product. What’s more, Coke has spent over 100 years associating the brand with the colour red, so this seems a betrayal of the brand to suddenly go green.
  • With two brands, that aren’t exactly seen as ethical brands, their use of green just devalues the use of the colour green and it’s association with natural and environmental products. Coke claims the green is inspired by the green leaf of the Stevia plant. Seriously?

Read more at Marketing Magazine