Everyone of us has at some time had an encounter with a bee. For some of us bees pose a fear based response either due to having been stung in some painful way, or as a potential life threatening issue based on hyper-sensitivity to the chemical makeup of the poison of the sting of the bee.
For many more of us the bee represents a happy little insect going about its life buzzing around the flowers and bushes in our gardens in a productive way and of little threat to anyone around it. In cinema and in children’s fantasy literature the bee is often a happy and positive archetype. Few people take the time to consider that the humble bee is an essential part of our global environmental ecosystem. The bee plays a critical role in nature that as far as we know could not be replicated or replaced by any other natural or artificial agent currently known.
The role of the bee in nature indirectly touches many sectors of business as we know it. Indeed both business as well as our idea of society has a survival issue built around the quaint goings on that the bee performs in its everyday life.
Where this discussion is going is into one of the important propositions of Conscious Business. Just a week ago Sir Richard Branson launched the Plan B global initiative and the “B Team” to pardon the pun.
A key tenet of the B Team is to reform business theory to bring it more or less into line with the Conscious Business theory you read in my articles. That is not surprising given my involvement in the creation of a Conscious Business Methodology which involved some B Team member input. A key idea of Conscious Business and the B Team is sustainability and environmental protection as being one of the core reasons businesses should identify with in their values and responsibilities as a core reason for being in business.
We can no longer on this planet live with the lie that we can sustainably practice “business as usual”. Sustainability and environmental repair/protection is not a concept found in traditional business theory which instead tends to compartmentalise business from the communities and environments in which it operates.
Economics has long been about the efficient use of resources rather than the sustainable preservation of those resources over time. The economic concept of sustainability has been shown in traditional business practice to really mean to slow down the unsustainability of our consumption footprint on this planet.
The dark side to all this type of consumption is that consumption is now becoming a debased form of expression of freedom and self-determination as we are more cut off from nature and deep relatedness to other fellow human beings. Unlike the bees we do not just forage for what we sustainably need but have instead involved into an addictive form of compulsive object possession and consumption.
Most of us do not stop to think about the impact our purchasing decisions are having on the planet in terms of negative impact and the longer term legacy of the consumption and use of the product concerned. We have all recently seen President Obama finally signal to the world that Global Warming is a fact and not a fiction.
There is a link between such environmental effects from the place of unsustainable use of our resources as well as being indifferent to the interdependent nature of resource consumption to impacts on all other environments and their inhabitants.
However as is being seen with the bees we are reaching a certain tipping point now where the unsustainable nature of our Old Economy ways of practicing business are starting to tear at the interconnected fabric of the primary ecosystems that support us and other forms of life. The B Team announcement comes amidst the increasing number of crisis points being reached where damage is being done but populations feeling victims and powerless to stop the damage. Look at Singapore and the ongoing severest level of smog alerts being generated over the last few weeks. Singapore residents are now faced with living indoors for weeks at a time whilst the economy struggles and basic services such as international flights are affected or halted. Why? The annual
burning and clearing of the last remnant vegetation and forests in the Indonesian Archipelago for the practice of creating new Palm Oil plantations.
In this systemic madness we find an indifferent nation(Indonesia) practicing an unsustainable farming culture that is not only ruining pristine ecosystems, affecting its tourism economy and its own eventual sustainable economic future, but it affects the entire region with smog from fires blanketing entire airspaces across countries in doing so.
Its business as usual with no amount of political complaint having succeeded in the past or is likely to succeed in the future. Why? The military and a few powerful rich crony families control the Palm oil production industry in Indonesia as well as the rights to both timber harvesting and then farming of the cleared land.
The B Team and Plan B realises that only business has the will and the resources to reform and change the way powerful interests do business. Politicians and the political process of power and influence renders this part of society unable or unwilling to act with fearlessness to vested interests who would threaten their ongoing continuation in power. Conscious Business is in part a philosophy of business that like the B Team seeks as one of its reasons to address the “slow unsustainability” of traditional business and to educate and transform business practice to a true sustainable footing within the communities and environments in which it practices. In the Conscious Business Methodology(CBM) this is addressed by the “ITS” quadrant as seen in the logo and our visual model.
If by definition we are to be sustainable then we cannot be in a slow rate of decline which is the truth of many of our existing ecosystems and environments, as well as with the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual state of the inhabitants of our communities. A Conscious Business understands both the risks posed by the declining state of these affairs as well as the fact that any such decline will come back to directly haunt such businesses over time. A good example is the bee. One might say we could take a lend of Shakespeare and we might quote him as “To bee or not to be, that is the question”. What do we mean by this? In the Old Economy world of business we see the compartmentalism of the business from its external environments. There is a lack of concern to how my business might impact the environment and trigger a crisis for others and the environment, not understanding that any such effect will rebound on me.
Sometimes we see action just in the nick of time but again from powerful interests who understand how another powerful interest group would affect them if they got their way. It is a classic battle of wills of two dominant power groups within society which has little to do with concern for humanity and perhaps a lot of concern of what you might do to my version of “business as usual”. The EU based European Commission has just announced it will impose a continent wide ban on three pesticides that research has shown is killing the bees who pollinate Europe’s food and flower crops. This landmark decision was taken after the alarm had been raised that bee population levels in Europe had suffered serious decline over the last 20 years.
EU based biologists were warning about a collapse of food, flower and agricultural markets and ecosystems across Europe as a result of any further decline in regional bee populations. The impact of urbanisation on bee habitats had already created a threat to their livelihood but the impending introduction of these additional herbicides was seen as being the potential death knell of bee populations across that continent.
Europe has traditionally been a strong agrarian based set of regional economies whose ability to be self sufficient as a food bowl for its members as never been in question and while its export nature is now measured in hundreds of billions of annual business income. Any threat to agricultural production would be significant, immediate and widespread in those societies.
“Bee income”, which is an economic term to describe the economic value added to the economy by bees pollinating flowers and crops as well as direct income from honey products, has been quantified as being 22 billion euros per annum. This is no small lick of honey in anyone’s terms!! At the end of the day it was the risk to this 22 billion dollar figure and the risk to hundreds of billions of indirect business income which saved the bees. There was no B Team here to save the bees but instead a strong powerful farming lobby who got a bee in their bonnet over what the chemical industry was up to in their backyard.
Enough science existed and enough potentially affected business sectors took up the protest to ensure that 15 European governments voted to prevent two global multi-national chemical companies, Bayer of Germany, and Syngenta of Switzerland, from selling or using 3 core pesticides in Europe. These multi-nationals tried to argue that their products did not affect the bees and attacked the studies that created these findings as flawed, despite the fact the findings were peer reviewed and reproducible. Both these chemical giants stood to lose significant income from the ban and this was their main concern.
The EU Health Commissioner noted that the loss of bees could decimate EU economies, place environments at the risk of collapse, and send Europe from being a net exporter to a net importer of food products if bees became extinct or existed below critical numbers which could successfully pollenate flowers and food crops. Such is the critical role of bees in the agricultural ecosystems worldwide.
What Bayer and Syngenta need to understand is if their pesticides kill the bees then the rebound effect is the likely loss of many of their key agricultural markets for many more of their products. This would cause the loss of significant net income per head by consumers and potentially the entire economic system they compete in. Any such collapse across Europe which sustains theses chemical companies economically, could create a total collapse at the currency level, the political and social level, such that it could undermine them and their target markets viability and functionality.
In Conscious Business we say that if you remain unconscious of, and indifferent to what happens outside the boundaries of your business, and outside of shareholder needs and demands, you are part of what is creating the unsustainable nature of business in our era. Business models have traditionally been, but now critically cannot afford to be, silent about what the interconnectedness of all things to all stakeholders on this planet means when we create business activity. As the bees teach us it may not be “business as usual” if we keep making self serving decisions that are unconscious of the implications and consequences of those choices.
The ripple does indeed reach all edges of the pond even if we are blind or uncaring about what effects we create in the footprint of our business. The “B” Team will as part of its rallying cry promote this level of integral consciousness thinking in business. The shift in human consciousness away from “me” towards a higher level of “we” consciousness means even if I live in denial, indifference and in self interest, others will now call me into account. If we can create a paradigm shift in business ethos then consumers will have a clear choice in the future between those who practice consciously and those who choose to remain beholden to self serving behaviours.
Those who choose to practice business with indifference to others may soon find consumers making purchasing decisions with competitors who have reformed their business models to accept and acknowledge the need for sustainable practice as “business as usual”. In this way capitalistic markets will weed out winners and losers with winners being those who change, accept and adopt more enlightened business practices like those mentioned here. The success of the vote by the 15 member states of the EU came about in no small way by Green Peace rallying communities to the threat posed by the ongoing use of such pesticides. Informed consumers became concerned community members and took to the internet and social media to research the claims of both camps, to understand how it affects them and how it affects the wider state of community and planet.
The consumers voted with their mouses and with their feet. The level of public awareness coupled with sound scientific evidence saw the issue become conscious in the community. The introduction of the “B” Team will amplify these sort of messages and give further credibility to their causes over time and so the “B” Team represents a sort of turning point in the debate around the need for change in business globally.
In the bee incidence we saw the threat and risk to most businesses operating in the EU, even when they were not directly operating in agrarian based industries, resulted in a powerful lobby of influence come to bear on the political process. As the “B” Team initiative creates a groundswell we are likely to see more effective models of lobbying form around values and the concepts of sustainability and environmental concern.
The Conscious Business paradigm also seeks to effect environmental repair and sustainability as a core reason for being in business. One way this can occur is to identify the threats to our continued existence with intractable issues that exist in our exploited environments, innovate to find a solution, and commercialise it in an ethical way based on the values of the business.
For example the knowledge of the dire state of bee populations has been a known crisis in biology for some time. The effect of globalisation has meant that bee populations internationally have been decimated by introduced pests that once existed in only some countries. For example the European Foulbrood, the Small Hive Beetle, and the Varroa Mite, are pests that affect many bee populations worldwide. As such customs agencies in many countries restrict the importation of many potential bee populations due to the risk of the introduction of a pest via those introduced bees.
The problem has meant that the demand for bee importation from disease and pest free countries far outstrips supply. Whilst this is an economic problem it is also a societal problem as the collapse of any bee population in any country could devastate not just economies but also ecosystems in a way that might not lend itself to easy repair and recovery. Australia is one of the few countries where some disease and pest free bees exist. Some Australian states like Queensland and NSW do suffer from the contamination of their bee populations from problems such as the introduction of the Asian Honey Bee. Western Australia is lucky through the tyranny of distance and a strong bee biosecurity program to have a pest and disease free bee population. Western Australian bees are sought after worldwide as a result and represent a fragile link in the fight to preserve our world ecosystem through the guaranteed survival of the bee in ecosystems across the world.
The innovation around what has now become a great commercial success and a great environmental sustainability case study had a couple of obstacles to solve before it became an export proposition. The first issue was how to determine the number of bees that one could harvest without causing a collapse or crisis in the ecosystem of the hive that the harvested bees came from. Bees are a collective which is based on some advanced social and volume dynamics which assist in regulation of their own hive ecosystem. Intensive studies determined the safe extraction rate from bee hive populations and this knowledge was taught to apiarists and honey producers in W.A. The bee extraction and export process was an innovation first developed here in W.A. by Dr Robert Manning from the Department of Agriculture. He was the architect of the process which is now recognised as a world class innovation. The next step was to determine how to harvest and store captured bees for the long journeys to places like Canada and Europe. Canada is an active importer of our bees after it faced a crisis with the near loss of bee populations in the last decade to pollinate their critically important Canola and Blueberry industry plants.
Research showed that bees could be chilled without killing them and which sedated them for safe packaging and export by air cargo. This process was researched and refined by Dr Manning based on related CSIRO work and previously done attempts overseas. The net result is an innovative export industry that represents a real sustainable solution to repairing the damage done to key environments, bee populations and their related ecosystems. The innovation provides the basis for environmental repair from previous unsustainable practices such as clearing habitats used by bees, pesticide use which killed bees, and pests which affected bee populations.
TO BE THE BEE – JOIN THE “B” TEAM!!
It’s not just a bee that has a sting in its tail!! In the New Economy we find that the dynamics of individuals are not that much different from bees in their behaviours. In fact the New Economy proposition of Conscious Business is not unlike that of a bee and its hive. Bees are highly social and highly collective little buzzes of consciousness. They act not just for their individual benefit but for the common good of the hive or collective. This mirrors a Conscious Business idea proposes that we act to be profitable in order to be able to guarantee the wellbeing of our staff and their families, as well as the community ecosystem and environments in which they live.
Bees also are nurturing their environment and performing community service by the act of buzzing around plants and flowers. They perform an act of cross pollination that is essential for the survival of whole environments and ecosystems as well as for the related welfare of insect, animal and human inhabitants.
This is exactly the mindset of the Conscious Business operator who has a mindset that thinks about both the inside as well as what is outside the walls of the business. We define it as the “ITS” quadrant of the world in which we live. Bees live to the maxim of “do no harm” and are behaviourally understood to operate to a form of rules as well as individual endeavour and initiative that again is tantamount to the Conscious Business mindset. The “B” Team ethos is just that as well and so they are aptly named if one considers the archetype of the bee.
Lastly bees also exist within their hive or community for the common good and do not live a separate life or an individual instinctual life. Being in service to the hive, the queen and other bees helps the bee to find its role, meaning and purpose in the collective. The hive is both a highly organised, highly energetic and paradoxically a chaotic looking hub of activity. Bees sting only in self defence of the individual and of the collective hive but are not aggressive in nature. The whole ecosystem of bee life is very parallel to that of a Conscious Business.
In truth by letting the bees be we all get to be as well. Our survival is dictated on nurturing and sustaining the replenishment and slow growth of that which supports us. Bees are so critical to the sustainability of the agricultural system globally to keep feeding our human population that the proposition that if we kill the bees that we kill ourselves is not such a farfetched proposition. This is in contrast of living in denial by thinking that the slow decline of environments that we see happening through notions of conventional sustainability is anything but a form of a frog in the water going from cold to boiling over time. I am still astounded by the degree to which many people just adjust and normalise what is happening around them without thinking about what is actually happening.
The longer term truth is perhaps we need to learn to live like the bees and be in service to nature and a positive change agent for ourselves, our business, our communities and our environments. We need to learn how the interconnectedness of all is real biological fact and not just a nice spiritual concept. The humble bee is our teacher.
We need to drive key holistic decisions from the higher state of consciousness that recognises what is the right thing to do rather than just the right thing to do for me. The “B” Team is a timely and critical focal point for this reform.
The bee reprieve in the EU came about as a bullet we collectively dodged not because we “got it” in the proper sense of unity consciousness, but from the rallying of many powerful self interests that stood to face economic and personal crisis in that instance if the bees future was compromised. The individuals and groups that recognise unity consciousness also mobilised but the reality is they are still in the minority when it comes to the power to effect change in all the critical decisions that must be made. However the “buzz” of their message is becoming louder each year and is amplified through social media like never before.
We cannot rely anymore in these critical times for just the traditional intervention of the powerful holders of power and self interest to show up and effect change through lobbying and the political process. It is risky to rely on the sanity of those who are threatened by the rebound effects of some decision are possibly are stemming from that same group that created the problem in the first place. For this reason I support the “B” Team and are a member and a humble drone who will carry out what needs to be done within my zone of influence. Everyone should consider going online to LinkedIn and connecting up to the “B Team” and the Plan B for business.
The humble bee perhaps offers us a way forward that is in balance with nature and works with nature rather than against it. William Shakespeare wrote “To be or not to be, that is the question I ask of me”. In our age the question may need to be reworked into “to bee is the be I ask of me” as the answer to that question!! The “B” Team could become a big hive of activity centred around the must needed reform of business and the vehicle for the introduction of Conscious Business. We hope to see you part of the solution.
Now buzz off and back to work!!
Conscious Business Australia is uniquely positioned to assist you in your business journey towards the new economy. We transcend traditional old economy business and leadership coaching and consulting models by bringing to bear our innovative and leading edge Conscious Business Methodology. Our unique combination of skills, insight, experience and methodologies enable us to stand apart from the tired old coaching and consulting “experiences” that still dominate the business world using old economy constructs and principles.
Come across and try the Conscious Business Australia “experience” which is built on the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, design, project management, marketing, channel design, and digital and physical product design/innovation/imitation philosophies. Have a look at our website www.cbau.com.au for more information, for a much more detailed version of newsletter articles, and for further articles and notifications of other courses and events that we run on a regular basis.
Richard Boyd is CEO and Founder of Conscious Business Australia which offers an innovative and thought leading consulting service for new entrepreneurs, existing business in decline or those who are seeking to update, re-engineer or deal with systemic problems within systems, processes, people or products.