Flying back from The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s simple pledge – – “my life is my message.” If that’s a means to measure any of us, what message does our personal – – or business – – life deliver to the world?
Panelists from African villages and New York newspapers, global leaders beamed in by satellite and Swiss financiers, no matter the details of their bio, just about every speaker found varying ways to say the same thing – – the products and services that made the biggest difference to the quality of life and the stability of their balance sheets were those that relied on improved efficiency, alternative energy, and just plain using less.
We heard that 6 billion people on earth today – – or the 9 billion expected by 2050 – – could all be accommodated with a decent, dignified quality of life on the same or less natural resources than we are using today by adopting these fundamental changes to our technology and policies.
I was struck by the opportunity that this presents to genuinely make the world a more human, peaceful place – – the very essence of Gandhi’s life story – – but frankly I couldn’t help also seeing an enormous business opportunity. Hundreds of millions of people eager to be clothed, fed, transported, educated, entertained – – if only shrewd entrepreneurs could deliver sustainable products and services to help them make that transition.
More than a century ago the mantra for those seeking a new life and great wealth was “Go west young man”, today I would say “Go waaaaay west” – – to India. A country with a strong democratic government, the protection of a robust legal system, and reliable sources of credit at reasonable rates combined with many millions of consumers looking to buy those sustainable products. Think how many solar lanterns that illuminate homes far from a power grid you might sell or consider the demand for technologies that convert waste to energy. What about selling simple light bulbs that are many times more efficient than today’s standard models (a representative from Phillips was also at the Summit, no doubt equally aware of this opportunity!)?
The bottom line here is that India may be a frontier today like the American west once was, but this time a place where a bold thinker can do well and do good simultaneously. A life spent pursuing those goals could easily result in good fortune measured in many ways – – and a message left for future generations to follow.