Take, Make,….. Re-create

Take, Make, Waste, Re-create!

Our traditional, linear economy of Taking resources, Making products, then Wasting them after use is getting us into trouble. Too much waste is filling landfill and causing environmental problems. It’s an incredible waste of resources and a short-sighted approach that will be superceeded, eventually, by a circular system. Smarter companies are already investing in new products or developing strategies to understand how they can maximse their benefit in the circular economy. This is why we are seeing some manufacturers experimenting with the services economy; selling the service, not the product.

I will soon be leading an introductory session on the circular economy for people who have not heard of the concept before. I have been thinking about using a video to help them understand the importance of re-designing products and eliminating the concept of waste.

There are many videos on the internet to choose from and a good starting point is here. I have chosen two; one as an introduction and a second to focus on one aspect of the circular economy.

This short video, from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, provides a basic overview of the circular economy. It describes our circular natural system and compares it to our linear industrial system. This helps me introduce the concept of industrial ecology, and for that reason, I will start with this video.

This second video from the World Economic Forum targets what to do with end of life resources – upcycling. Upcycling, remanufacturing and recycling are a major focus of my project, so it’s very appropriate.

A focus on diverting products away from landfill is an essential part of the transition to the circular economy. Eliminating the concept of waste involves us shifting from a linear take, make waste economy to a take, make re-create process. This is all possible with a dash of passion, creativity and boldness to do things differently.


Australia’s 1st Social Network Analysis Conference

As a PhD Student expecting to use SNA (Social Network Analysis) to analyse my data, it was a no brainer for me to attend this conference. Also, my supervisor, Associate Professor Dean Lusher organised it, so…… Dean leads the SNA team within the Centre fosnaconferencer Transformative Innovation within the Business & Law School at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. Over the previous few year, Dean’s group has grown in number and I am proud to say I am part of this team by virtue of undertaking my PhD research under Dean’s guidance and with the fantastic comradary of my research colleagues.

I have to say that this conference was most excellent. This was due to a number of factors.

Firstly, the comparatively low registration fee, $90 for a PhD student. This significantly reduced the barrier for entry, both encouraging and facilitating engagement by the many researchers using SNA in Australia, with a few international registrations also. The fee covered all food (tea,coffee, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea) and a cocktail evening during the poster session. The food was excellent and I count a paltry $90 for two days a bargain. I have organised conferences before and that’s an unbeatable price. This means no wasteful, unnecessary, conference paraphernalia. Just good people, great food and excellent presentations. Research stripped to its bare essentials.

We were fortunate to have the worlds most highly acclaimed SNA researcher deliver a keynote – Professor Garry Robins. The joy of hearing Garry present is his ability to break concepts down into understandable and elegant presentations. It was a joy to listen to his talk exploring the origins of WWI using SNA techniques. A treat really. That there were only 50 key individual decision makers who had a role in the commencement of WWI. Just 50. And that despite individual efforts to prevent the war from happening, Garry showed how key geopolitical ties embedded within a global network structure overwhelmed the desire of individuals. It was a clear case of structure and peoples position within a network working to influence their actions.Garry is an esteemed researcher and his sound research coupled with an elegant presentation technique is highly enviable. If you haven’t yet read Garry’s book, Doing Social Network Research – I suggest you check it out.

A key feature many people mentioned as their favourite was a single stream. No jumping between rooms with constant interruptions. No hand wringing while you tried to figure out how you could be in two places at once. Just one, single, session. This approach was perfectly suited to this conference. SNA is a methodology, an analysis technique. It didn’t matter that I don’t have a background in health, education, big data or music. Everyone attending had SNA in common, so we could understand the research questions and results presented as we each hail from the common platform of SNA. I got to hear fascinating presentations on addressing anorexia online, its application in criminal networks, my PhD colleagues speaking about the role of successful transfer of tacit information in open innovation and the spread of a CSIRO platform technology throughout the world. A single stream was a genius idea. Dean modestly claimed it resulted from laziness but it was a brilliant design/stroke of fortune that the agenda was kept this way. I hope for Australia’s SNA conference #2, they stick to the same formula.

I left feeling energised by being part of this community of like-minded people. I made some useful contacts. Each of us understands that the world is connected and SNA can help us unpack the links between individuals and their place within the structure of their network and how this influences action. The application of SNA will only continue to grow over time and I feel like I am part of an exciting era of Social Network Science that once mastered, can be applied to so many different domains; business, corporate learning and development, environmental studies, politics, social policy and innovation to name a few. Now all I need to to is collect my darn data!

For more information, check out: http://www.asnac2016.org.au

International Women’s Day 2016

I was fortunate to be selected to be profiled at the Swinburne International Women’s’ Day event this year. I was one of 20 staff and students being celebrated. I felt humbled, and to be honest, a little like I perhaps wasn’t worthy of being celebrated. Had I done enough? Was I really that special? (queue, imposter syndrome…)

The Swinburne Event occurred the day prior to the actual IWD on 8 March and it was held in the Hawthorn Town Hall. It was a gorgeous location where the old hall had been expertly lit for the occasion, highlighting some of the granfullsizerenderd feature of the hall. The event commenced with the exhibition of 20 photographs and ‘bios’ for the profiled women. This was followed by the formal event and a panel of five speakers, each of them reflecting on their career and roles in relation to what had contributed to their success. What they all held in common was the influence of family. Each of the four women presenting suggested that they hadn’t actually perceived being a women was ever a barrier in their careers. They were highly motivated and goal-orientated. Often this is a similar reflection held by other successful women – the Australian Foreign Minister among them.

Attending this event, I had an issue that was vexing me. When I asked a panel at at the launch of a Geelong women in manufacturing event last week – how do we get more women into leadership roles?, the answers were…mentoring. This stuck me as unsatisfactory because is is a micro action, often led at an individual level. While I think mentoring is excellent, I don’t believe that it will address this systemic problem of a lack of female participation and representation at senior levels. I just don’t believe that the problem is a result of a lack of talent. It is an institutional problem that can’t be solved by mentoring alone.

Professor Robert Wood provided an engaging presentation which provided insights to his early family life and the influence of his mother, through to his work on unconscious (gender) bias. Robert provided me with a more satisfactory answer to my concern of getting women into leadership roles. He is a firm believer of quotas. To paraphrase Robert, he said, “there is absolutely no evidence that gender quotas result in sub-standard appointments. Rather, it is a lack of creative strategy”. The quota policy needs to be strongly supported by senior leadership. I say strongly as I often hear the arguments why quotas should not be implemented. A senior leader needs to weather these arguments and hold firm to this kind of policy. Strategic policies such as quotas will have a much bigger and immediate impact on leveling the ‘playing field’ (to use a common sporting parlance) for women’s participation in senior management roles. Individual and institutional wide mentoring programmes complement this policy, working at a grassroots level. Robert provided me with the answer I was looking for and more importantly, he had the scientific evidence to back up the statement on the success of quotas. Hurrah for his work on unconscious bias! I think quotas along with ‘male champions for change’ can have a huge impact on rectifying our unequal representation in organisations.

I was greatly moved by the singing of Maroochy Barambah, who is the songwoman and Law-woman of the Turrbal People. As she sang her first song, the young children from a local Aboriginal school, sitting at the back, stood, respectfully. The remainder of the audience, perhaps not noticing this act or protocol befitting a senior elder, remained seated. This left me feeling slightly uncomfortable that perhaps I was neglecting an act of respect, but given my lack of knowledge on Aboriginal culture, I remained seated and simply enjoyed Maroochy’s singing. Her contribution to the event made it truly special.

At the conclusion of the presentations, I wandered out to the exhibition and forced myself to view my own profile and photograph. I realised that every


The Women of Swinburne photographic exhibition

one has a story, including myself. These stories are powerful and often it is events or influences outside the workplace that have a big role in how we perform in our careers. I was absolutely humbled to have been selected to participate in the Swinburne event, and be recognised as one of the women of Swinburne. It was a fantastic event celebrating women and I will be certain to attend it in the future. It is going to be a great week.

The Art of Critical Thinking

I know I haven’t mastered this yet and this was reinforced during some recent feedback from my PhD supervisor after he reviewed an early draft of my writing – “you need more critical thinking”. Which got me thinking – what is critical thinking and what exactly do I need to work on?

I think the biggest thing wrong with the term critical thinking is that it has the word “critical” in it. This holds negative connotations for me, for example, being critical of something or another. Personally I have always preferred the term constructive criticism. However as we know, critical thinking is much more than “being critical”, so I took to doing some quick googling to cross check my understanding versus more formal definitions, and this is what I found.

First up is an extended collection of Critical Thinking definitions from Harvard University which can be found here. Interestingly, they commence their summary by confirming my suspicion that critical thinking is an often used and seldom defined term.

One online dictionary defines critical thinking as:

“disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence”

The oxford online dictionary goes a little further:

“The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement”

OK, so far we have disciplined, objective, evidence-based thinking to inform a judgement. That sounds about right.

My supervisor described critical thinking using a movie review analogy. A reviewer doesn’t just state what happened in the movie, they comment on (for example) the director’s success in delivering a top quality movie, relevance of the main themes to society and maybe the quality of the acting. It’s a neat analogy that perfectly captures the difference between a literature summary and literature review (critique).

Following my definition searching I came across this fantastic summary by Deakin University. They go one step further than a definition by presenting an overview of critical thinking stages;

  1. observe,
  2. analyse,
  3. evaluate,
  4. question,
  5. contextualise and
  6. reflect.

The definitions I found are useful but it’s the clear presentation of the process that helps me most in reflecting on how to improve my own critical analysis. I also understand that being at the earlier stage of my PhD, I am rather focused on the initial stages of observe, analyse and evaluate for my literature review. Sure, I question and reflect, but I am prioritising knowledge gathering at this stage. That said, it’s great to have this Deakin framework to support my own research and understanding of the critical thinking process.

The Geelong Cleantech Forum launch

I attended the Geelong cleantech forum launch on Friday. The event was held at the Geelong Pier; a stunning room with floor to ceiling windows, overlooking the sparkling water and gently bobbing boats that were moored in the bay. The event was over subscribed, and attended by a fabulous range of people from industry, local and state government, academic, and education sectors. Attendees were provided a place at one of around ten round tables and I was seated at the Manufacturing/engineering table.

It is tough times for traditional Geelong industry. Ford has announced it will close in 2016, Shell is for sale, big industry that has been here for so long, is struggling to compete globally based on cost. The Geelong City Council recognises that they must act to support a stable, thriving economy and there is another route. By launching the forum, the Geelong council supports Cleantech as part of their strategy to ‘future proof’ Geelong, transition from old industry to new and support continued growth and jobs in Victoria’s second largest city.

The Keynote presentation was provided by Prof Goran Roos. I really enjoy presentations by Goran. He unashamedly pokes light-hearted fun at Australian culture. I think Australia needs more of this type of external perspective. It’s true that the parallels between Sweden and Australia provide stark contrast. By Goran’s reckoning, if he were to write a book about Australia, it would be titled (something along the lines of…) – Australia, the unlucky country – the curse of having it too good for too long.

Following Goran’s presentation my table of newly found colleagues discussed some of the key points of his presentation. They were:

  • The importance of R&D in developing a cleantech business
  • The long lead times before a cleantech business turns a profit
  • The importance of lead customers
  • The value of investment in staff training and education
  • Australia must compete on adding value to products, develop niche, superior products and aim for 60% of the global market.
  • Australia can not compete on cost (we are the most expensive country in the world to do business)
  • Australia is not reaping the rewards from its investment in cleantech.

To expand on this last point, Goran presented a slide on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index. Denmark is world number 1. Their indexed input figure was 3.5 and ouput 6.0 – meaning the get out almost twice as much as they invest in the cleantech sector. Denmark have a globally well recognised and highly successful cleantech cluster and there is a fantastic You Tube feature I would encourage you to check out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWS3jGGPdkw).

By comparison, Australia’s input was 3.4. Sounds great, right? That’s close to Denmark. However, our output was 2.0. Yikes! In short, we are not translating our investment in cleantech into industry output. There are a range of contributing factors here such as productivity, policy, culture, lack of investment and the complexity in commercialising cleantech R&D.

One idea I found fascinating is that public procurement can incubate and support cleantech investment, by placing a tender for products that don’t yet exist. On first hearing this from Goran, I was skeptical. It wasn’t until Tina Perfrement took the stage again that this policy idea started to make sense. Tina described a successful UK example of a prison placing a tender for a zero waste mattress with a three year lead time to develop it. I googled this example and found that not only were the HMPS (Her Majesty’s Prison Service) successful in stimulating the market to develop a zero waste market, the also ran a supply chain workshop. This gathered respondants to from across the supply chain to further develop a solution. This public sector policy also has an acryonm – FPC or Forward Procurement Committment.

I watch with interest this fantastic cleantech initiative in Geelong and look forward to being involved in the transition to a cleantech market.

Australia’s cleantech investment

I am attending a workshop on Monday to discuss what needs to happen to encourage more cleantech investment? This is an interesting question and it got me thinking…

Currently, Australia’s cleantech industry employs almost 300,000 employees. That is around the same size as the automotive manufacturing sector. That isn’t too bad, is it?

After some more research, I found a general trend that Australia’s investment in cleantech hasn’t been anything to crow about. A February 2012 report on cleantech startup’s ranked Australia as 16th out of 38 countries. The report was compiled by the Cleantech Group and WWF. That rank doesn’t sound good, ahead of Australia are USA (5), India (12) and China (13). Not only that, but the ranking is based on countries relative potential to produce cleantech start ups over the next 10 years. The same report stated supportive policy and access to finance as the key barriers to growing the cleantech sector and battling resource scarcity and climate change.

It sounds like Australia is catching up to the rest of the world. There is certainly divisive debate on the upcoming carbon tax. I think it helps if you remove the politics of carbon and climate change – as it can sometimes evoke religious like fervor as to whether people believe or don’t believe. Simply put, resource efficient companies and reducing waste makes good business sense.

There is some help for Australia’s cleantech world ranking in the form of the clean energy future that provides both policy and access to finance. There is a great deal of support for manufacturing, $1.2 billion, to become more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. The clean energy future also allocates a whopping $13 billion to support clean energy projects. These initiatives should drive cleantech innovation and investment in Australia.

I look forward to our discussion on what is needed to encourage greater cleantech investment in Australia.


Location, Location, Location

You can tell a great deal about an organisation by the location of their senior sustainability role in the organisation structure. Such as, their emphasis on sustainability projects and how far they have come implementing sustainability throughout the company.

An organisation that ranks sustainability as strategically important and fundamental to their continuing innovation and development will have a corporate sustainability role reporting to the CEO, or positioned at the senior levels of their corporate hierarchy.

Integrating sustainability throughout an organisation covers a variety of areas, from improving the operational performance of a facility by reducing energy or carbon emissions, or designing and manufacturing sustainable products, to exploring and implementing disruptive business models that extend the boundary of traditional business and improve growth opportunities. In short, from reducing cost and risk management, to adding value to the business.

Corporate sustainability covers a broad area, the role focus reflects the progress of a company in implementing sustainability. It’s not surprising that organisations tend to select one area to focus on, especially when they are just starting out. If the focus os operational improvements then the sustainability role will likely be placed in facility management structure or even health and safety. If the focus is marketing green products, then, you guessed it, the sustainability role will be located in Sales & Marketing.

Take Nike as an example. Hannah Jones is the Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation. Hannah is part of the senior team, a couple of levels from the CEO. In an organisation as large as Nike, with 38,000 employees, this is evidence of the importance of the role, and sustainability, in Nike’s future development. Now for the focus area. In the past, Nike has experienced reputation problems with its treatment of factory workers in developing countries. Unsurprisingly, they have selected someone with a strong background in social issues and advocacy to navigate them out of stormy waters in this department. This has resulted in developing their social responsibility agenda by engaging in positive relationships using disruptive, social business models. This will drive business growth in developing markets, while doing good for the people living in developing countries. The role’s link with business innovation has increased the development of sustainable products, such as reusing waste materials in shoes. Nike’s senior level responsibility for integrating sustainability into the business, coupled with the resources allocated to this area make Nike a leading company in corporate sustainability.

If you want to know the sustainability focus of a company, and how advanced they are in applying sustainability to their business – ask which department their sustainability role is located.


Paul Hawken speaks in Melbourne

Paul Hawken’s book, ‘The ecology of commerce’ was published in 1993. It was credited with sparking the epiphany of the late Ray Anderson in re-orientating his carpet making business, to become a leading model of sustainable business. Even today, it is still ranked as one of the leading books of corporate sustainability.

Paul’s more recent book, ‘Blessed Unrest‘ is having a similar impact. Written after his experience at the Seattle world trade protests, it is an exploration of the community grassroots movement of our time. Vast numbers of community led foundations and not for profits are stepping into the gaps left by governments. They are self organised and have a growing voice in our world. Assisted by the age of the internet, these entities are growing in number and countering the inability of governments and business to address social issues. The timing of Paul’s visit ironically coincided with Occupy Melbourne demonstrations, and the violent expulsion of protestors from the centre of Melbourne.

Yesterday, I attended Paul’s talk at The Wheeler Centre. His natural, quiet confidence is founded on decades of experience writing and speaking about issues relating to the environment and corporate sustainability. In what was a easy, flowing discussion of Paul’s ideas, he went on to explain that corruption (in its many forms) was everywhere and it was misguided to believe that governments would make the right decisions – those that benefit broader society and the environment over and above that of business.

Paul’s other insights were; describing the ‘noise’ from the anti climate campaigners, those not in step with the leading science of our day, as similar to the last flash of brilliance one sees during a sunset. It is bright and almost ready to fade away. He lamented the lack of de novo (clean sheet) energy technologies. as renewables are based upon old ideas. however, Paul was optimistic about future energy sources and hinted of new technologies near to commercialisation. Paul also explained we were moving from a capital based world to an operating expenditure dominated world – noting that the most efficient way to reduce emissions was to improve energy efficiency, e.g. retrofit older buildings rather than build new ones.

Paul’s view of the future was positive. One might note this as remarkable for someone who believes humanity is having the equivilent of a liquadation sale of the earths assets. His work is definately worth checking out.