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That doesn't make any sense. How are you going to make money if you don't sell anything? I think that the businesses of the future (meaning ones that are starting today) need to think differently about their business models. There is a lot of evidence that we are running into ecological limits of the earth and that (natural) resources are going to get more and more costly. If you are building a business based on (new) physical goods, it is going to get more expensive to source the raw materials and the embedded energy to manufacture and ship them.
Businesses that succeed in the future will be businesses that have one or many of the following characteristics:
Based on experiences. More and more there are businesses that provide you with an experience that doesn't cause any (or very little) non-renewable consumption. Think about backpacking trips, concerts, gangster tours around Chicago, World of Warcraft, Second Life, VIP access passes and baking classes. Yes, there are physical things needed such as servers that power the online games and buses that require fuel that power the gangster tours. But, those are going to get more expensive so the winners will be companies that plan for renewable sources of energy and the physical materials of their make up. The leading edge companies are pushing their vendors to be more sustainable and thinking about a competitive advantage in the future.
Provided as a service. I am a big fan of the collaborative consumption movement and it is gaining speed. The businesses that do well will remove the need for ownership. Take TaskRabbit, I-Go or Getable, for example. Between those three businesses, you could get your gutters cleaned (hiring someone on TaskRabbit), help a friend move (rent a car for a couple hours on I-Go) and go biking on vacation (renting a bike from Getable). Your customers get the service they need without having to buy it or own it.
Leverage already produced products. Again in the collaborative consumption mindset, there are sites like OhSoWe.com, GetAround.com or AirBnB.com that use existing excess capacity to build their businesses on without needing to actually provide a product. The user base provides a common good, but with individual ownership, which mitigates many of the risk of the Tragedy of the Commons. These distributed systems provide access without ownership, keep money in the local economy and help build stronger communities.
Built to last - then to be recycled. Some of most innovative and successful company's are building sustainability into their product, which is lowering the production costs and helps create a circular flow of raw materials. If you look at Herman Miller, Steal Case or Interface Carpets, they are working towards building businesses on products that are 100% recyclable, meaning they snap together so materials can be separated easily for recyclable. And in the case of a company like Interface Carpets, they have developed a carpet recycling technology that allows them to recycle even their competitors’ carpets. So as oil and other inputs continue to climb in cost for their competitors, their cost will head towards zero for their raw materials.
With that said, there are infinite businesses that can be built in a way that doesn't require anything new to be built and only the most competitive business will do so. Even the mighty Apple announced that they were going to move off the EPEAT standard, but after much up roar they reconsidered their decision. EPEAT is not as aggressive as we will ultimately need to be, but it is a start for sure. More and more businesses will not only need to meet the minimum standards of programs like EPEAT, but will need to do more.
A startup or early stage business of today can't be status quo, you need to leap frog every other options and play to that advantage. If you follow in the footsteps of today’s companies you won't be able to compete. You need to change the game. Most of them have so much sunk cost and built in infrastructure that they will cling to the old dying, uncompetitive ways by trying to keep legislation and environmental regulations soft, but the physics of a finite system will catch up.