Social Enterprise: BioRegional
Social Entrepreneur(s): Pooran Desai and Sue Riddlestone
Sector(s): Energy, Environment, Urban Development
Location(s): Europe, China, North America, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania, Australia
To move your innovation from niche to mainstream, focus on replicating your idea rather than scaling your organization.
The Innovation Explained
BioRegional develops practical solutions for communities, businesses, and municipalities to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. To “show by example”, in 2002, BioRegional built and became recognized for its BedZED ecovillage in London, which encompasses housing and commercial properties powered by renewable energy and based on 10 guiding principles, including using only certified sustainable building materials, local food, extremely efficient water usage, accessibility to public transport and zero waste.
To replicate this sustainable development model globally, the BioRegional team decided rather than building a few small-scale real estate developments per year, it would instead embark upon a strategy to integrate One Planet Living principles into new projects of major real estate developers. Through a series of workshops and consultations, BioRegional explores the context-specific challenges and leads the developer and their team through the One Planet Living principles. “One of the biggest innovations for us is running these workshops,” said Pooran Desai. “We bring together the real estate developers with the city planners and other stakeholders to co-create solutions that incorporate these principles.”
Out of this consultation process, BioRegional devises an action plan, which must be endorsed by a panel of experts, and then supplies the developer with a consultant throughout the design and construction process to troubleshoot as problems arise and ensure targets are met. Under the motto “developing Earth’s greenest neighbourhoods”, BioRegional has advised real estate developers on more than US$ 30 billion of planned developments and linked projects in the US, UK, Portugal, South Africa, UAE, China, Australia and Canada together under the One Planet Communities rubric.
Why This Matters
The ever increasing strains placed on planetary resources by our housing and consumption patterns are well documented and understood. What is less well understood is how individuals, communities and companies can become more sustainable. The One Planet Living principles are widely applicable beyond housing construction and are increasingly affordable thanks to technological innovations in recent years. BioRegional has developed a practical guide and is providing advisory and training services in sustainable design and practice to governments and companies in other industry sectors, including manufacturing, retail and commerce.
“These principles should be thought of DNA and embedded in the way people think about and design communities, products and services,” said Desai. “We’re also working with manufacturing companies to explore how these principles apply to the manufacturing process. Can you move to 100% renewable energy? Can you get your waste down to zero? What about the food supply in your factories – is that sustainable? Can you make your factory friendlier to wildlife and put a green roof and nesting boxes on it? Can you support a local environmental preservation project? The principles can be applied everywhere.”
Have fun. Desai said, “I like this quote from Mohamad Yunus: ‘When I see a problem, I see an opportunity for a social business.’ That’s fantastic. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is just to give it a go. You will learn so much along the way, but the most important thing is to keep a sense of fun throughout.”
Integrate sustainability into your organisation’s operating principles. “It is important now to look at the global availability of natural resources and make sure we are creating solutions that are compatible with the way our planet works,” said Pooran Desai. “Scientific concepts such ecological footprint and planetary boundaries are important starting points which all of us must become familiar with.”