COP21: Sustainability Schizophrenia — Atelier Pan

COP21: Sustainability Schizophrenia

Atelier Pan | COP21 Sustainability Schizophrenia

The recent COP21 Climate agreement (Conference on Climate Change in Paris) left me puzzled. There are a lot of people really happy with the results of the conference, but I also hear a lot of criticism about the agreement. Without getting into the details of the agreement, I feel that the things agreed upon are solutions to problems that should not have been problems in the first place. I believe our whole mindset needs to change to ensure a sustainable society in the (near) future. We need to change the way we think about our society, personal lives and business.

When I attended the first annual SwitchMed Connect* conference here in Barcelona at the end of October 2015, I listened to interesting conversations and participated in workshops on topics ranging from top down policy making to bottom up grassroots implementation of sustainability in business.

*SwitchMed Connect is a two day event to “build synergies, exchange knowledge and scale up social and eco innovations in the Mediterranean area.”

I’d like to share one thing that has occupied my mind a lot since the event and to reflect on our predicament regarding climate change and business:


One of the interesting people I met at the event was Bijan Kafi from SEKEM (Egypt). During one of the workshops he mentioned something that has been on my mind for a long time now —but I was unable to put my finger on it, until Bijan articulated it so well. He talked about the ‘duality’ of the whole conference.

On the one hand there was a lot of conversation on social and eco innovations (helping out society and the environment) and on the other hand conversation on profit, scalability and market pull (pure business talk). Two sides of the same coin when we talk about the 'change making’ business, but also two sides that can be difficult to balance.

Atelier Pan | COP21 Sustainability Schizophrenia

I find that my willingness to help others, to help society and to help the environment often stand in my way of doing business. Or the other way around. And I can imagine that I’m not the only one. I believe in making a difference and in having impact, while at the same time I'm trying to make a decent living.

For me it’s not about making millions, it’s about:

  • Making the world a better place
  • Helping out in the community
  • Improving other people’s live
  • Spending more time with family and friends
  • Working less
  • Being with nature
  • Producing less waste
  • Consuming less
  • Enjoying what I already have

As a fellow change making business…

…what’s it about for you?

  • … (fill in what’s important to you)


The word sustainable by itself is all about our ability to sustain ourselves, to endure and to be in balance with our surroundings —Equilibrium.

It reminds me of a scene from the first Matrix movie, when Agent Smith explains humanity to Morpheus:

“I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”

Although Agent Smiths’ explanation might be harsh and extreme, I believe a majority of businesses matches this description quite well. They only focus on one type of growth. And that led us to where we are now.


So, instead of looking for growth in just one area: profit, I believe we should focus on growth in three areas:

Atelier Pan | How to deal with sustainability schizophrenia

1. Growth for your community, 2. growth for the environment and 3. growth for your business

As change makers we want to create and sustain vibrant communities (people), a healthy environment (planet) and profitability (profit). Sometimes referred to as “triple bottom line” —the social, environmental and financial performance of your change making business.

To achieve equilibrium, all three are important. That way we’ll be able grow as one big sustainable community.

Fortunately there are also a lot of great examples of change making businesses that have been able to find the right balance. Actually, I mentioned 4 examples in my article on the Importance of Social Significance.


To help you with your Growth of the environment part of Triple Growth, I'll send you a free copy of my ebook: 10 Practical tips to save paper and ink at the office. It'll save you up to 20% on paper, ink, energy and money for your office. All you need to do is answer the following question in the comments below:

What is currently holding you back to achieve Triple Growth?

As soon as your comment is placed, I'll send you your copy of '10 Practical tips to save paper and ink at the office', so you can start with your Growth of the environment.

Atelier Pan | 10 Practical tips to save paper and ink at the office

With pleasure,


Atelier Pan | Visual identities for Change makers

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