4 ways your company can build systems-based solutions for a sustainable future

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
4 ways your company can build systems-based solutions for a sustainable future

It is easy to feel overwhelmed these days with the countless number of issues that plague our planet; from climate change to poverty to a devastating loss of biodiversity. However, we can’t overcome these problems without effective, system-wide solutions.


Founder & CEO of Metabolic, Eva Gladek, recommends a few ways your business can use a systems approach to build solutions for a sustainable future:







1. Set science-based targets

It is no question that corporations will play a major role in driving down global greenhouse gas emissions. The movement of “Science-Based Targets” is relatively new, providing companies with a clear path to sustaining our planetary boundaries by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Targets are considered to be “science-based” if they are in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement: to limit global warming to below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

The UN aims to make science-based target setting standard business practice — and it’s not bad for business either. According to the Science-Based Targets movement, 63% of company execs say science-based targets drive innovation, while 35% have increased regulatory resilience thanks to these targets.

Keiko Shiga from Sony’s Quality & Environmental Department says, “Having a science-based target helps keep us on track. It means we know what we need to do in the short and medium-term to meet the longer-term vision. By being part of the global initiative we know we are part of a bigger movement.”

2. Apply design interventions

For Eva, moving towards a sustainable future is “not about forcing organizations to use specific solutions or technologies. It’s about having a structured approach to coming up with innovations that deliver the best performance in the context you’re working in.”

One way to do this is by using design interventions, combining technological solutions with user-centric design. Design interventions are being used heavily in the area of eliminating food waste. Food labels, for example, can be confusing, leading to unnecessary food waste. Insignia Technologies’ “Fresh Meter” label aims to alleviate this with a label that changes color based on how much time it’s been since opening the package and the temperature in which the package is stored. Another company, StixFresh, developed stickers that have a combination of plants’ natural defense mechanisms, creating a protective shield. Applying this sticker prolongs a piece of fruit’s shelf life by up to 50%.

Producing simple yet sophisticated design solutions is a great way to make sustainability more accessible for the everyday consumer. Eva says, “Use the facts as a trigger for innovation. We’ve created exponential problems; now we need to develop exponential solutions.”

In a world where we can become paralyzed by fear, something as simple as a smart food label can help us make a difference.

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3. Find key influencers and decision-makers

We “don’t have time to change everyone’s behavior,” Eva explains. “There are too many individuals that we would need to connect with on a personal level to create the fundamental societal changes that have to take place.” Identifying the key decision-makers or influencers will help make your solution more effective, from implementing the solution itself to spreading the message.

4. Create a nimble organization

Eva is constantly thinking about the structure and governance of her company. With 50 employees today, Metabolic was initially set up as a cooperative, run jointly by its members who share the profits and benefits. Due to the lack of reward structure, however, the company moved away from this model and is now a B.V. with an employee share pool. Eva describes Metabolic as a “mandate-based organization with decentralized decision-making, and a minimal level of hierarchy.”

She also emphasizes the importance of being able to think holistically and act nimbly in order to develop effective sustainable solutions. A nimble organization is able to quickly and effectively respond to change while continually delivering high performance. Mobilizing this kind of organization requires a strong commitment from leadership, as they are in charge of building the structures and processes needed to foster a nimble environment.

Now that you have these four methods under your belt, show us the way toward a sustainable future!

To learn how you can build systems-based solutions for a sustainable future, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.