When discussing transforming business, it’s tempting to think we need grand, sweeping changes. But often, the most straightforward shifts make the most significant difference.
As the design director for a Purpose Led Design Studio, I have been empowered to work on some of the most compelling projects of my 20-year business career during the past two years, from reimagining our shared futures through climate initiatives that reduce emissions and aligning to social or environmental impact. Business feels different now.
Simple projects like designing a future where every coffee cup is part of a closed loop, never seeing a landfill or visualising cars that are essentially computers on wheels, designed for efficiency and integration into a smart city grid. What denim jeans are you wearing? Born from the plastic that once littered our oceans. This isn’t just wishful thinking; this is the work that drives us forward daily, powered by forward-thinking leaders managing our futures. As a human-centred design agency, we see firsthand the power of designing to reshape our planet, the things we use, and how we use them. This future, driven by ESG, is where we’re headed, and it’s being shaped by the choices we make in our businesses today. I am not talking about my business; I am talking about yours! Or ours!
Long-term plans in business are often little more than educated guesses. They offer a sense of control, but they’re not set in stone. It’s better to consider the hypotheses to be tested, not scripts to be followed. This mindset frees us to be nimble, to make decisions when they need to be made, not months in advance based on outdated assumptions. But in real-time, based on needs rather than wants.
At RENY®, we like to operate in the space of possibility. In 2020, my wife and agency partner, Nicola Rennie, wrote the Good Company Policy for RENY®Studio, creating a direct alignment with our status as a Certified B Corp and aligning our choices with our SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). We’re not just talking about change; we’re investing in it. Off the back of the Good Company Policy, we created RENY IMPACT®Projects. This led us to reimage futures through design with an investment of $360K in social and climate initiatives, showing that creating tangible, positive change without sacrificing business success is possible. IMPACT® is simply about carving out time and resources to address the real challenges we face as a society and a planet and partnering with Foundations and Charities to lead the change. In our case, these came in the shape of the Chumpy Pullin Foundation, Balu Blue, Surfrider, Heart Foundation, Skin Check Champions, Beard Season, In Pieces & Indigenous Marathon Foundation. Life-altering connections for me, our team and the people impacted by these foundations. It turns out impact is a choice, too.
Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash
How do we re-design our environments, our products, and our cities? Simple, through creativity and pause. The control for our future comes down to us — to the individuals who see creativity and design not just as a profession but as a tool for building a better tomorrow.
At home, I have a little space called VERT, my home-based innovation lab. It’s a throwback to the days of tinkering in the shed, a place where I can create and make and test where market demands don’t confine creativity. It’s where I transformed my old DVD collection into a new pair of sunglasses — a physical manifestation of potential, products that what was once destined for obsolescence can find new life in a needed and relevant form. These glasses, tucked away in my Bellroy backpack, are a testament to the philosophy that everything old can be reimagined into something new, something necessary.
Every day, we reimagine our businesses’ future and impact on the world. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it is often as simple as a choice. A choice to lean in or not, to help or not. Every business, every entrepreneur, and every individual has the power to redefine their impact to use their creativity for good.
Think about your business, your daily grind, your industry. The ‘net-zero’ goal is like a starter kit — a necessary one, but it’s the businesses looking beyond the horizon setting the pace. They’re asking the juicier questions, like “What new ventures can sprout from the seeds of old ideas?” or “How do we turn our industry on its head for the better?”
The aerospace industry’s push towards developing electric propulsion systems represents a leap towards reducing carbon emissions, experimenting with hybrid-electric propulsion technologies that could pave the way for cleaner, quieter flights. Investment in alternative fuels, such as biofuels derived from sustainable sources, the potential of hydrogen as a clean-burning fuel, and breakthrough material science to create lighter and stronger composite materials, reduce drag and boost efficiency.
Car manufacturing doesn’t end with electrification. We can shift cars to the circular economy with vehicle production, design cars with recycled & renewable materials, and ensure that end-of-life vehicles don’t become environmental burdens. Using recycled plastics and materials sourced from sustainable processes is beginning to take hold, with companies like BMW incorporating recycled materials into their i3 model.
But it’s not a solo act. Collaboration is the new competition. Industries are joining hands, sharing insights, and finding that together, they can tackle Scope 3 emissions — the trickiest part of the carbon footprint puzzle, each learning from the other.
This is like the early days of the digital revolution. Remember that buzz? The feeling that anything was possible? That’s us right now, with the climate challenge. Whether you’re a techie, a policy worker, or a venture capitalist, there’s a piece of this puzzle with your name on it.
If you’re a tinkerer like me, playing with designs and dreaming up sustainable materials in a lab (or a backyard), this is your golden age. We’re on the cusp of a design renaissance, where our everyday stuff — from the threads we wear to the tech we can’t live without — requires a sustainable makeover.
Our cities’ Mayors and CEOs are meeting, plotting the green metropolises of the future. Public-private partnerships are the new power couples and the driving force reshaping our shared futures. Are you in these conversations? You should be.
Photo by Yen Le on Unsplash
For the investors, it’s time to place your bets on the green frontier. Banks take note: the portfolios of the future are as much about green creds as they are about greenbacks. And if you’re into the venture capital vibe, a veritable Silicon Valley of sustainability is waiting for you to take shape.
In the heart of RENY®Studio’s philosophy lies a simple approach: impact-driven investment. The question we start with is straightforward — “How much impact can we generate by making a particular investment?” It’s a query that belies the complexity of its answers. The impact is not a static measure; it’s a guess, an estimation of potential that requires careful consideration and, often, a leap of faith. When we spend our time, how do we spend it and where?
While it’s impossible to predict with certainty which direction will bear fruit, the philosophy at RENY®Studio is to equip these burgeoning ventures with the fundamental tools they need to explore and expand upon innovative ideas. Just like with our internal projects, the external ones we support are measured against the yardstick of potential impact. In our case, against our SDGs. Or, more simply, a better future.
In every sphere where we invest our attention and resources, the guiding principle remains consistent: it’s led by purpose, but it is really about the impact. Whether it’s internally driven initiatives or mentoring up-and-coming entrepreneurs, we weigh every decision against the potential to make a meaningful difference in line with our goals and the planet.
The measure of our success is not just in the innovations we foster but in the positive change we impart to the world.
It’s your move!