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If politicians can’t agree on how to manage climate change, will we need more innovative business people to step in and fill the gap

Has sustainability and saving the planet degenerated into a ‘we’ and ‘they’ conversation?

‘We’ are the people who do good by composting, buying coffee in reusable cups and eating organic food. ‘They’ are the climate change deniers driving petrol-guzzlers and destroying our future.

The reality is that all of ‘us’ devour planetary resources – “even the people subsisting in the Amazon breathe out carbon dioxide”, says environmental engineer Katie Patrick, who founded Green Pages in Australia before moving to Silicon Valley with an ambition to save the planet.

But plenty of us are confused about what we can actually do. Heck, the politicians can’t agree either. Perhaps it’s up to business and entrepreneurs to affect some of the changes needed?

Patrick established Hello World Labs in the hope that technology can engage people to take action to mitigate climate change.

She has created apps that measure waste and help people ‘compete’ to lessen the load piled into their garbage bins. Her dream is to make a giant Fitbit for the planet.

“I want giant screens in every city on the side of all buildings showing numbers like the amount of energy we’re using in real time, the water being used and the current air quality,” she says, arguing that the real frontier to save the planet is “psychological” not educational.

“People already know what they need to do to save energy, but we actually need to inspire them to act,” Patrick says.

She’s just written a book called How To Save The World which uses behavioural psychology, data science and gaming techniques to inspire actions to reduce the impact of climate change and pollution.

It seems innovative entrepreneurs are quietly transforming old business models and upending the thinking that helped create the planetary mess in the first place.

Meet Ben Young, the businessman behind frank green, a brand which makes beautifully designed reusable bottles and keep cups that cost a fortune but make us feel oh-so-virtuous. If you’re like most people, you may have reusable bottles, bags and cups in your house, but not always remember to use them.

His mission to stop single-use packaging goes a little further than just crafting beautiful vessels

and extends to embedding payment chips in the cups, allowing customers to pay for their coffee using Visa Paywave, which actually encourages greater use of the reusable containers.

Young researched reusable products for four years before realising that people weren’t using them widely because it simply wasn’t convenient. Adding the payment chip to his containers was the key to ensuring people actually remembered to take the reusable product to the cafe.

Young - who has a background in mergers and acquisitions and finance - looked at the economics of waste management and decided the best way to solve the problem was to create a business that prevented waste in the first place.

“It’s up to us to create innovative, sustainable products that eliminate waste and set the tone for other companies and entrepreneurs to do the same - to create real trends and movements that are not a flash in the pan,” he says.

Homewares and furniture brand Koskela has been creating products and furniture for more than 19 years, insisting on manufacturing in Australia and creating a social enterprise which supports smaller suppliers including Indigenous designers.

Koskela CEO and cofounder Sasha Titchkosky says sustainability has always been core to the business, which designs handmade furniture to stand the test of time rather than being chucked out on council pick up days.

“We could have made more money if we manufactured offshore. In fact, people told us we’d never be able to manufacture in Australia, but we had fundamental reasons to want to do it, mostly because it reduces our environmental footprint,” she says.

Koskela is Australia’s first furniture business to gain B Corp certification, which is an ethical business certification system similar to fair trade certifications for coffee.

“The reasons we wanted to do it were that we needed to know what was going into the products and we wanted to be able to go to the factories to see what the working conditions were like,” she says.

The design-led business uses the principles of biophilic design, which visually mimics nature through organic shapes but also uses natural fabrics and timbers to make sure human health and productivity are maximised.

Koskela are about to launch a range of junior school furniture for Australian schools, and regularly supplies furniture to Australian universities, no doubt helped by educational institutions having ethical procurement policies.

“Businesses are about more than just profit. They need to do more,” she says.

Purposeful travel

Relaxing on a beach and sightseeing are no longer the only reasons to travel – there’s a new trend in town: purpose.

By Alex Brooks for Lavazza

The white saviour tourist visiting the third world to “save” the locals with their dollars is long gone. Travel that supports sustainable, long-term economic growth is in. 

The United Nations declared that sustainable tourism could advance economic, social, environmental and cultural development in 2017, prompting travel brands to start repositioning their brands to create a better world, rather than exploit it. 

It’s now about Purpose, with a capital ‘P’. But what does purpose-driven travel really mean?

Travel companies embracing purpose 

Purpose is the latest business buzzword, one of those hot new trends which could go the way of Y2K or the selfie stick, but it does seem to be driving genuine change in travel and tourism.

Outdoor clothing group Patagonia, favoured by adventure travellers, is the purpose-driven poster child, famously taking Donald Trump’s corporate tax cut and dedicating the money to fight climate change.

Patagonia has also taken out ads asking people not to buy its clothes but instead repair or recycle them and has estimated annual revenues of $US700 million.

Small group travel group Intrepid have also embraced the change-making potential of purpose, appointing its first Chief Purpose Officer Leigh Barnes last year.

“Intrepid’s purpose is to make better places to live and visit. That makes our product great, so you have that link between purpose and profit,” he says.

And money might just be the best proof point that purpose works.

Intrepid announced overall revenue growth of 17 per cent to $397million this year, which Barnes says is a direct result of embracing purpose in an authentic, meaningful way.

“Staff are engaged and we sell great trips that make a profit to help drive all the projects we sponsor,” he says, explaining the Intrepid Foundation works with NGOs to develop programs such as helping train locals in hospitality and tourism.

“Our growth in the last three years has been driven by people - our staff are passionate about what we do so they perform well and that drives the business.”

Travellers with a different goal

When Mike Davies travelled to Bhutan, it wasn’t food or adventure he was seeking. 

The Purposeful director wanted to check out how Bhutan prioritised spirituality over economics to create its Gross National Happiness measure and become the first carbon negative country in the world.

“It inspired my thinking and practices, particularly how to work at helping businesses realign to prioritise doing social good first,” says the podcaster behind Humans of Purpose.

“Where we choose to work and spend our income are some of the biggest decisions we make in life.”

Davies says global research shows purposeful business models generally outperform the market and create better social outcomes than typical companies.

“They have more loyal customers, staff, brand strength and reputation. They are also uniquely positioned to benefit from the strong generational preference of Gen-Z and millennials towards spending and working with companies that prioritise a strong purpose and social impact,” he says.

Travelling potentially raises big questions about your own purpose - are you behaving ethically and supporting the right businesses in your host country? Or are you stomping all over the earth by failing to offset your carbon emissions and leaving behind a trail of meaningless consumption?

Davies suggests travellers keen to support economic and environmental development should:

We all know plane travel emits serious carbon, but Davies says steer clear of airline offset programs that you buy with your plane ticket, and do your own offsetting by donating to an evidence-based charity like Cool Earth.


“Most countries have cafes, restaurants or tourist opportunities to contribute meaningfully and directly to local social causes,” he says. Spend your money at these venues and outlets rather than the mainstream places recommended by the hotel or guide book.


Plan to make friends with the locals and put your tourist dollar to work supporting the community. Locals can help you find a good guide to show you the sights and you can help them by paying them a decent wage and then taking them and their family out for a meal to thank them.

Authentic purpose isn’t always easy

“The problem is that purpose seems too philosophical and unfathomable and people think they need to go and sit on a mountain in Tibet to find it,” says The Purpose Project author Carolyn Tate.

“Purpose is intrinsic - it’s about prosperity rather than profit so all stakeholders can win.”

Tate says only businesses prepared to walk the walk and change their practices should embrace purpose.

Barnes concurs that running a purpose-led business isn’t always smooth sailing. Sure, Intrepid has been carbon neutral since 2010 and committed to the Modern Slavery Bill but as Australia’s largest B Corp - an ethical business certification - they often find ‘surprises’ that need to be fixed.

Their B Corp certifiers uncovered that Intrepid’s group homestays in Egypt had contracts held by men, even though women ran the homestays and dealt with the visitors. 

“Our business tries to do the right thing, using travel as a force for good. So whether it’s banning elephant rides or making positive changes for contractors and suppliers, that’s what we do,” Barnes says.

 “Purpose is not something you find. It’s something you work at to build,” explains Tate.  

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