What Is Sustainable Entrepreneurship, and Why Does it Matter?

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A few years ago, in a time before the pandemic when gathering with throngs of shaking hands of professionals wasn’t a reckless risk, I sat in the audience at a Collision Conference session in New Orleans. I listened as Anna Kasparian interviewed panelists and tech analysts of the dotcom era, Naveen Jain and Robert Scoble. Casparian’s series of thought-provoking questions can be summed up this way: What is the moral responsibility of a tech entrepreneur to answer the fallout from his technology? Naveen and Scoble’s responses to the session, whose title aptly referred to Silicon Valley’s superhero complex, portrayed a romantic view of entrepreneurship. How do they feel? It is up to the next generation of entrepreneurs to fix the mistakes of the past.

In the years that followed, the myopic spirit of Silicon Valley conveyed by the infamous Facebook movement was quickly challenged and broke things. Last year, WeWork collapsed under the weight of its unfounded brand promises. CEO Adam Newman failed to realize his vision in a dramatic calculating of market demand and data. Companies like Uber started out with ideals, only to succumb to the pressures of the bottom line and scrap workers’ rights off the company’s list of priorities. Google’s arguably straying away from their original ethos of “don’t be evil” kept a move as Facebook evolved into an obscure political medium. There have even been cases of outright fraud in Silicon Valley such as Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes’ multi-billion dollar biotech startup that lied about its technology capabilities.

The fall of the superhero complex

Tech startups weren’t the superheroes we’d hoped. In response, industry insiders such as former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris formed the Center for Human Technology. The organization works to raise public awareness, change legislation, and encourage technology leaders toward a new, more human design. Their website reads “Tech culture needs an upgrade.” “To enter a world where all technologies are human, we need to replace old assumptions with a deeper understanding of how to add value to people’s lives.” First of all, they urge entrepreneurs to consider that technology is never neutral.

It is poetic and important that since Covid, people are migrating away from the Gulf region. Professionals prefer working remotely from less expensive cities, as they cannot enjoy the best of the Gulf anyway. Population moved, like the public’s trust.

An old business model that culminated in the glory days of Silicon Valley promised to reward great ideas with billions of dollars. But the global health crisis has exacerbated economic disparities. It’s time to take a closer look at the direction our investments are headed as an entrepreneurial community, and to deliberately build the future we all want to inhabit. We have a role to play.

This unrelenting year also shows us how dependent we are on non-profit systems, such as the Postal Service. And some of them should not be, such as intensive care units and health care services in general. It shows us the cracks in our system, the massive cracks in racial equality. Entrepreneurship will never be the same.

Related Topics: Success Is Good, But Don’t Forget To Embrace Sustainability

What is a sustainable entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs today face a complex dilemma. How can we help create a post-pandemic reality, where access to care is equitable, where black lives matter, and where the climate is in balance?

Entrepreneurs have a responsibility to consider the future ramifications of technology and business practices, and to practice strategies that prioritize the long-term health of society.

Nielsen predicts that by 2021, sustainable products will occupy a quarter of retail shelf space and generate $150 billion in consumer spending. But some experts say green capitalism is not enough.

“For things to really change, we must abandon the logic of expansion,” Stefano Ponti says. Ponte is Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the Center for Business and Development Studies at Copenhagen Business School, and author of Business, Power and Sustainability in the World of Global Value Chains. In other words, while green capital accumulation strategies that optimize resource consumption help lower the relative energy and material intensity of production, they do not address the overall environmental limits of growth because they are based on a logic of continuous expansion.

This view of capitalism is based on our current system that prioritizes short-term profits over long-term social, cultural and environmental health. But capitalism is not a one-size-fits-all economic system. Capitalism was not created outside of us – we invented it and we can shape its future. We can decide how to implement this system by continuing to press the engines of capitalism to evolve and focus more on the future.

Related: 4 tips to take your company’s sustainability to the next level

Taking into account future generations before shareholders

The task of the sustainable entrepreneur is not to find new ways to build short-term profit machines. Profit must come while providing sustainable value, and consumers are increasingly demanding change. The sustainable entrepreneur must find ways to solve social and environmental problems using business systems and technology. And with a deep understanding of the impact of their industry on society as a whole. For the successful entrepreneurs of the future, the bottom line will be intertwined with social and environmental responsibility.

I would like to answer Kasparian’s question this way: Technology entrepreneurs have a moral responsibility to serve future generations before shareholders. Humanistic and environmentally oriented technology that puts profits second at most will define the new class of entrepreneurs. The world does not need more billionaires. But now we need solutions more than ever. And this is where the best entrepreneurs always step up to answer the call.

Related: What you can learn from the rise of sustainability-focused entrepreneurship


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