I just finished reading Stuart Hart’s Capitalism at the Crossroads.
I took from it a few pointers about what the business opportunities might be for bigger corporations. His argument is that the 4 billion people at the “bottom of the pyramid” (“BOP”) is an amazing new market. Of the six billion on the planet, these are the poorer people mainly of the developing world.
It’s a market that can’t be addressed in the same way as the developed world markets we are used to. And the best bit of the book for me was how businesses need to change the ways they work with and understand people in order to create relevant, insipiring and above all sustainable products and services.
Another book along these lines is Natural Capitalism (by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins). Again the authors show how capitalism can be adjusted to become part of the solution.
But what about small and medium-sized businesses? It seems to me that the opportunities fall into several obvious categories.
- SMEs can create B2B products and services for large and small companies who are both “greening” themselves and also addressing the BOP market.
- SMEs can create products and services for government and other agencies that are influencing the market.
- And SMEs can create B2C products and services for non-BOP consumers who are greening themselves. Most SMEs don’t have the reach to address the BOP market, without partnering with bigger corporations.
Creating B2C products can be done on a global, national or importantly on a local scale. Another important shift at the moment is relocalisation (or relocalization depending on where you live), driven by the twin needs of reducing carbon emissions and reducing our dependence on non-renewable forms of energy, such as oil.
What does this mean in terms of business ambition, I wonder? Will our definitions of growth and life-style businesses have to change in this new world? How do we match a business owner’s ambitions to grow their business to this new landscape? It’s a challenge.