Alienation to Sustainability to Profitability
Rapid technological acceleration has created a small world where people can interact internationally nearly instantaneously. Some suggest that connection via the digital sphere creates an illusion of interconnection and, instead, causes distance and a lack of empathy. On the other hand, many people feel a thoughtful and empathetic connection to those they interact with digitally. Perhaps this is due to what avant-garde playwright Bertolt Brecht called the alienation effect (or distancing effect) in his drama. In Brecht’s plays, he made certain the audience never felt that his play was reality. For instance, he had actors run across the stage with banners extolling them not to be overcome by the emotion of the play. Brecht did not want the audience to be taken in by the false “reality” of the play because he wanted them to think. In a similar manner, the digital sphere may cause just enough distance from reality to allow the audience to more deeply consider their relationships with others.
The UN Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It holds then that when people really see each other as part of humanity, otherness breaks down. Consumers increasingly want to know if the products they are buying are sustainably made and if companies are treating workers in their production supply chain justly. Sustainability across all industries is necessary to sustain resources and create profit over the long term. Transparency in the production chain is beneficial to companies, so they can refine and optimize more sustainable processes. Companies ranging from film production to flower growing to healthcare, among many others, are considering how production can be both more sustainable and profitable.
Film to Flowers to Healthcare
Production in the mainstream film industry among the large studios is often built on unsustainable practices—with each project made mostly as a one-off, in isolation from all others, and heavily reliant on the labor of part-time laborers and independent contractors. But this model is beginning to transform precisely because of the technological rate of acceleration. Films no longer need huge budgets to pay for professional-quality equipment. The ease of transportation and the ability to work remotely allows greater flexibility in where films are made and who makes them. Smaller companies like BCDF Pictures are leaning into sustainable practices to care for the environment by reducing their carbon imprint, and because sustainability is profitable over time. By relying predominantly on solar power, maintaining an organic garden, and providing local housing for cast and crew during production, BCDF is able to save resources and increase efficiency. There is a tradition of Hollywood activism concerning environmental issues on a more global scale, but companies like BCDF are striving for sustainability in their own work.
Fostering a sustainable company mindset includes caring for workers/producers justly as part of the environment. Humanity and nature are interconnected and must be cared for accordingly. BloomsyBox is a farm-to-table company that provides flowers to customers directly from farmers in South America, Holland, Thailand, and California. Doing so cuts out the typical “middle man” which reduces cost and allows for more transparency in the supply chain. According to Juan Palacio, CEO of BloomsyBox, “Supply chain transparency is key to streamlining process and ensuring care for workers and the environment.” Therefore, developing technology to increase supply chain transparency is paramount.
Blockchain technology has amazing potential to establish transparency in industry supply chains. The blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed ledger verification technology that allows for transactions without third party involvement. By eliminating the need for middlemen, industries can drastically improve efficiency of data sharing within supply chains. The chronological and distributed aspects of blockchain make it ideal for users to track constructive activity, yet difficult for malicious actors to alter records.
Nearly every industry can benefit from the increased transparency and efficiency provided by blockchain technology. The healthcare system has been a particularly fragmented supply chain, and service to patients has suffered because of a lack of transparency in medical records and inefficient communication channels between doctors, insurers, hospitals, and patients. Gem is a company using the blockchain to provide healthcare companies with clear communication, increased transparency, and information security in order to streamline services across the supply chain—all of which translates to better care for patients.
Gem can also apply their blockchain protocol to a variety of industry supply chains beyond healthcare to provide identity tracking, infrastructure for data exchange, and automation of workflow. Concerning sustaining environmental resources, a family of financial instruments backed by blockchain technology called the Carbon Impact Factor can help create systems that track and reward carbon efficiency. This ability promises to mitigate carbon impact on the environment, and can be applied to sustain other environmental resources.
The rate of technological acceleration has had negative consequences on the environment, yet also holds tremendous hope for problem solving. Our access to people all over the world has the potential for increased isolation, but also for thoughtful connection. It is imperative that humanity leans into constructive, empathetic uses of technology and the fostering of a sustainable mindset. Humanity and nature are connected so both must be thought of in terms of sustainability. An argument for sustainability simply makes good sense. A sustainable mindset for companies increases profit over time while caring for people and the environment.
Published Article can be found here.