Our Movement | September 01 2012
Giles is a business change agent with a passion for exploring ways of applying nature’s inspiration to sustainable business transformation. His work draws on a range of theories and practices (such as biomimicry, cradle-to-cradle, systems-thinking & eco-psychology) applying them to provide practical insight and guidance to help businesses redesign for resilience in these volatile times. He is the co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and has recently published a book ‘The Nature of Business’ which explores organizations applying ecological thinking for business transformation.
E2H: A man for whom 'Nature is mentor', what's the greatest lesson you've learnt from it?
GH: The greatest lesson would have to be learning to ‘be the miracle’. Let me explain: there is a rightness that comes with a re-connection in nature; clarity of knowing and being. Put simply, nature unfolds miracles within miracles, and as was insightfully and comically said in the film Bruce Almighty ‘if you want to see a miracle, be the miracle’. Inside you, me, everyone is great potential to make ‘good shit happen’. Part of this lesson is about ‘letting go’ and being emergent, as nature is, while remaining true to our purpose. It is a lesson that I am for-ever learning from, and so for me nature is a life-long (perhaps eternal) mentor.
E2H: Biomimicry involves an on-going study of the plant and animal kingdom. Which species inspire you the most and why?
GH: Fungi. Why, in part because the answer is unconventional and so opens space for fresh discussion, and also because Fungi act as a great guardian and facilitator of mutualism within nature. Fungi as a Kingdom are neither animal nor plant (having characteristics of both). There are many examples of fungi exhibiting collective intelligence (without brains), fostering diversity and enhancing cooperation within and among species. They are often first on the scene after a disturbance, breathing life back in to challenging situations. Not only can humanity gain inspiration from the Fungi Kingdom with regard the power of networks, adaptation and mutualism, but also fungi can directly aid us in helping clear up the toxic waste we make (turning so many forms of waste into life-giving food). Otherwise, I would say Bacteria (but that’s another story).
E2H: You recently published a book on Biomimicry applications for business, if you could recommend just three things that business could learn from nature, what would they be?
- Resilience: distributed, diverse, decentralised
- Presence: being in the moment, alive – ‘the present will always seem insufficient until we are sufficiently present’
- Emergence: organised, complex and/or cohesive, often unpredictable, patterns arising from a series of individually simple component interactions. This is the nature of nature, and the future of business
E2H: Which bio-inspired / biomimetic projects inspire you the most and why?
GH: There are many and they are on the up (thank God), just google ‘Blue Economy’ or watch this clip:
Also google the ‘Biomimicry Institute’. Closer to home, I shoot for The Eden Project, because it ‘walks-the-talk’ in that the experience, the people, the place, the architecture, the ethos, the education, the music, the fun, all resonate with the fundamental truth of working with the grain of nature. Plus the founder (Tim Smit) is ‘rock-n-roll’ and loves to tell it how it is.
E2H: Barely a day goes by without one or another news story breaking about another environmental catastrophe or threat. How do you remain positive and pro-active in the face of such challenges?
GH: This question reminds me of something Paul Hawkin said in a speech back in 2009:
‘Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course... We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television’
I am fortunate enough to live in a world/universe full of immense beauty, and so while I may get moody, frustrated or impatient sometimes I am always in love with life. Just as one would be pro-active in a loving relationship, I remain resolute in my proactivity to help heal the hurts we inflict on nature and our own human nature. My love for nature seems only to grow.
E2H: A prolific reader, we can think of few more informed to advise on the best sustainability books around? What should we be reading and why?
GH: Harmony by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly, because it covers most of the bases and provides easy access to deep wisdom.
E2H: You've met many an environment and social justice champion, from whom have you learnt the most?
GH: Difficult to say who I have learnt most from, easier to say who I feel we need more of: Vandana Shiva – she rocks. Also, closer to home, check out Clare Dakin of Tree Sisters in this 1min clip, never a truer word spoken:
The world desperately needs powerful, eloquent, deep yet light-hearted women capable of global leadership.
E2H: Many a sustainability campaign 'preaches to the converted'. Having previously led Global sustainability operations for a major PLC, how do you think we can inspire more people to take an interest in addressing environmental and social justice issues?
GH: By seeking and sharing the truth. People are people, yet many of us are desperately ill-informed about reality. My belief is that the cause of many of the effects we now experience (economically, socially and environmentally) is our dis-connection with nature and our authentic human nature. Each of us through our daily actions and interactions can seek and share the truth and help ourselves re-connect. It is time to lead from the heart, starting with the man in the mirror.
E2H: While many a PLC is championing sustainability, which do you feel are setting the pace and why?
GH: Most PLC’s are attempting to address sustainability, yet few really ‘get it’ i.e. understand their purpose and role in a truly sustainable world. Most forward-thinking PLC’s would be the first to admit that they are far from close to what good looks like on the transformational journey towards sustainability. Here are a couple that are helping set the pace of transformation: Unilever (attracting long term investors; significant organisational transformation; decoupling growth plans from environmental degradation; big brand with visionary leadership in Paul Polman); Nike (relentlessly pushing the boundaries; embracing innovation at every level - product, process, organisation, industry; redesigning for resilience through sustainable business strategies, big brand with visionary leadership in Mark Parker). There are other too like TNT, Danone, Novo Nordisk, Semco, Natura to name a handful.
E2H: You're about to become a father for the first time. What changes do you hope to see come into effect before your child reaches adulthood?
GH: Humanity evolving beyond insanity. Humans encouraged to be connected with nature and their authentic human nature through education, cultural influences, family life, business principles and global/local community norms.
E2H: If you could build a legacy what would it be?
GH: First off it would not be my legacy; it would be seeds of change infused with love of life. Life’s legacy: love for ourselves, love for each other and the wider web of life. I hope/dream that our ego’s (collective and individual) see the value of re-connecting with the wonder and wisdom of life – a re-enchantment with Mother Nature - as without which any ‘sustainability initiative’ will be incomplete, ungrounded and ultimately fruitless.
Here is a short YouTube clip where I talk about this:
Giles Hutchins blog | Twitter
The book 'The Nature of Business' is on Amazon.
Short video on 'The Nature of Business':