Simon Nurse – How to Innovate Our Way out of a Looming Ecological Crisis
Rare is the platform where you are genuinely among friends. Particularly when that platform debates thorny issues such as eco-design, industrial ecology, waste, the circular economy and sharing. But let there be no doubt, Cynnal Cymru’s ‘Show and tell’ event was precisely that; an opportunity to share ideas and push, pull, knead and shape new thinking in the perfect environment. I was delighted to be sharing this particular platform with Creative Director Chris Carpenter of Stills branding – a true advocate of the need for change – and the passionate and knowledgeable Dr Frank O’Connor. Our presentations were the same yet different; how to innovate our way out of a looming ecological crisis, how to conceptualise our use of resources with greater wisdom and foresight, how to spread a message so crucial to our shared futures.
It is this latter theme that I’d like to pick up on. As the General Manager of an industrial company, I regularly rub shoulders with professionals who know or care little about sustainability. The word is somehow tainted with negative connotations. For ‘sustainability’ read ‘cost’, ‘burden’, ‘workload’ or ‘idealistic’. This attitude represents a failure to understand the nature and importance of sustainability and the predicament that our current economic model leaves us in. It is also perhaps representative of endless exposure to – and the rather cynical curse of – ‘greenwash’ by larger or rival corporations. But to consign organisational approaches to sustainability to the (recycling) bin, is a failure to identify a rich seam of creativity and innovation that could radically change an organisation, its place in the market and its future legacy. Take eco-design and Life Cycle Assessment for instance. Using ED and LCA at Odoni-Elwell has led to several major benefits. We’ve put our processes under the microscope, eliminating areas of waste (saving money), redesigned our larger buildings and established a model for recovery of product at end of life (a recovery process that should both dispose/reuse waste appropriately and result in an ongoing relationship with our customer). But arguably the biggest thing that we’ve achieved is the knowledge that we at least are trying to do things right, even when there are times when we get things wrong.
‘Show and tell’ is a wonderful concept. Ideas. Honesty. Dialogue. I’d encourage more (all?) manufacturing organisations to get involved. There is vast potential alongside the issues. And after all; a problem shared is a problem halved.
Simon Nurse (Systems Designer and Manager at Odoni-Elwell
‘Show & Tell’ Design, Manufacture, Innovate is a mini event series created by Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales, bringing together inspirational speakers with different perspectives around a common theme. The events are designed to share learning and create the potential for collaborative projects and ideas.