This entry sent to us by Bob Willard who is a leading expert on the business value of corporate sustainability strategies.

How would you know an unsustainable business model if you saw one? Unfortunately, it would look like today’s take-make-waste norm, as portrayed in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Unsustainable, Linear, Take-Make-Waste Business Model

This model is not working.  It leads to our poisoning ourselves with waste, destroying Nature’s ability to regenerate resources we need for survival, and aggravating unacceptable social injustices. Unsustainable capitalism is a fun game for some, but it causes too much collateral damage in the environmental and social spheres. We need a more responsible game plan.

A sustainable economic model differs significantly from today’s model. Figure 2 shows how it honors Natural Capitalism’s four strategies for an authentically sustainable society: radical resource productivity; closed-loop ecological redesign; a service-based economy instead of a product-based, resource-eating economy; and investment in natural capital. It reduces consumption while improving quality of life.

Figure 2: Sustainable, Circular, Borrow-Use-Return Business Model

The take-make-waste business model is unsustainable. The new borrow-use-return business model is more environmentally and socially responsible and is better for business. Isn’t it time we tried it?

Bob Willard has authored three books, The Sustainability Advantage and The Next Sustainability Wave, The Business Case for Sustainability, and The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook.

Bob Willard is author of “How to Lead a Transformation to a Sustainable Enterprise… From the Middle” forthcoming in Science, Wisdom, and the  Future: Humanity’s Quest for a Flourishing Earth, published by the Collins Foundation Press (Early Summer 2010).