Should we remove sustainability from business logic thinking?

It’s been a week since I stopped working as research associate in the field of System Sciences and Sustainable Business Models at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. Looking back on reading many scientific papers on sustainability sciences, system sciences, sustainable ecologics, ecologogical and basic needs paradigms, it got me thinking whether we should remove notions towards sustainability from primary (business logic) thinking. It’s harsh of me to write so, but it also comes with different realities that are harsh too.

I want to write about it, not because I am against sustainability, but because I believe that what it “envisions” little holds true to the different realities we face today. Let me start with “selling sustainability”. Sustainability cannot be sold; carbon friendliness cannot be sold. It is something that can happen, because of how something primary has been produced and is then sold; A bamboo straw, as example, regrows rapidly. This makes it renewable and suitable as an ecological product; if it is consumed in regards to its regrowth time. However, for such bamboo straw business to be invested into it needs a use-case; for example “drinking something with a straw” because of reason(s) X and Y. It will not be invested into because its’ sustainable by design.

Another example is “selling human right compliance”. It is not something that is sold either, it is a result of something that is sold because it is wanted. For example, the chocolate brand Toney Chocolonely is commonly known as a chocolate producing brand with the intend to produce slave-free chocolate. That is what it is known and likely also bought for. What it is really bought for is the taste of its chocolate offering. The Chocolate Market size was valued at USD 124.03 Billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 165.17 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 3.6% from 2020 to 2027. So while Toney Chocolonely certainly brought into varience in product offering, the demand exist(ed) and continues to do. No demand for chocolate = no demand for Toney Chocoloney = no demand for “human right compliance”.

Now this can go on; selling “deforestation free”. You cannot sell deforestation free, but you sell a product as a company. It means you have to look at where you source what type of material how often, how you sell it to what type of customer and how investments return into reliable revenue streams. These aren’t bad. They are important. Being deforestation free can be a part of it, but when you talk to customers, you see the discussions will be more about styles, material features etc. Similiar notions can be found in selling “circularity”. It tends to be nothing that is sold as primary business logic, but it’s part of a service offering. For example the ability of certain Games in the Gaming Industry to be repaired, but you don’t buy games because they are circular but because of their fun, excitment and other factors.

It intruiques me to write more about it, but I decide to stop here. Why do I write about it? I care about sustainability and I am enthusiastic about business and the role of investement; what makes you invest into something. And certainly it can be sustainable, but you also want returns, and often that is the return of the consumer; I don’t want to live in a sustainable house because, but if solar pannels help me reduce the cost of my living than it is something I, as consumer am interested in. And if I can repair my coffee mashine in the next years without feeling annoyed about having to buy a new one again and again, then that’s something I am interested in. But what I really buy is the coffee mashine, the joy of it, the smell, the 5 minute peace in the morning.

Hope you enjoyed this post! I would love to hear from you, your thoughts on sustainability, business models and investements. Drop a message in the comments, also if you want me to closer look at (your) business logic or service offering.

Ann

Advertisement

You can’t collaborate, if you don’t want to.

Often collaboration has many benefits and if you don’t want to or someone else does not want to, there are several guidelines on how to do it or how to improve collaboration (1). The premise is to make collaboration desirable and also managable. As a result the option of whether collaboration is not wanted or should not happen is often not mentioned. Instead the benefits are mentioned, which on the other hand could be a form of gaslighting if it is not actually wanted. That is the manipulation of ones own reality towards a different one (2). For example, being convinced that a particular collaboration is suitable for a particular reason, whilst it might not be.

What is bad about convincing yourself in wanting to collaborate?

Often times it might not work out in the long term. An easy to understand example is going on a first date. The chemistry does not fit, but for the sakes of dating and the idea(l) of having a relationship (such as in most goals actively looked for in collaborations), one might start to think of benefits for this relationship to work, a bit like cherry-picking. As a result, one may twist themselves to appear more suitable and starts to accept and appreciate differences. This might go well for a bit, but after some time it won’t, because it is not true. The ending of the honey moon phase and the reality then presented is a good example. “Oh you don’t actually like this?” “yeah..sorry, I did that for you kind of.”

Why would anyone want to collaborate, while not actually wanting it?

There are different reasons, some may be concious and some may be unconcious. Let’s explore different thought processes and how they play out in practice.

  1. Modification of an object

Someone might not like the idea of collaboration firstly, which shows as a tiny thought, but then actively point out (sudden) collaborative benefits. However, unconciously a different thought process might happen, in which collaboration is continuesly not wanted. In psyche one of such mechanisms is referred to modification of an object (3). It is a mechanism that turns something not of liking into something of liking. The purpose of this mechansim in infants for example is protection of the self such as from harm or neglect. For example, if a caretaker is neglecting a baby, it would naturally dislike them and leave. Because it cannot do so it turns such disliking into liking.

In adults or in workplace cooperation this might look like needing to cooperate because it is essential for company survival or for example also an individual position. As a result – of modification of object – and present in concious argumentation one might find benefits in collaboration and believe so “oh this company is greatly positioned, this sounds like a cool vision, this person seems fantastic to work with. I like it, lets do it.” On the other hand one might unconciously think “I would not spend a dime on this.”

2. Sugar-coated belief system

At the same time you might have read and learned about all sorts of unconcious biases such as on racism and feel ready to avoid them. For example, you may believe that you actively share no racist trades, but when it comes to collaboration with a partner of a different skin color or accent, you may find yourself naming different reasons why the collaboration does not work. For example research (4) conducted on neuropolitics by Liya Yu, found that although “white people” claimed to be actively not racist, their brain regions showed signs of fear when seeing “black people.”As a result you may choose to collaborate with someone different, less suitable or you may choose to still collaborate, whilst you unconciously don’t want to and that shows for example by being or becoming avoident. Here it might be interesting to explore a few “Whys’?” Why being avoidant? What’s that feeling of discomfort telling me? And whatever it is, it’s okay. It is okay in that sense, that it can be be explored further.

Why is there a discrepancy between conciousness and unconciousness?

There are different reasons. Our brain develops bottom up and lays an unconcious foundation for our own survival; How to relate to another, what feels safe and unsafe. Depending on the latter, these traits become part of our unconciousness. For example there is no need to be concious about how to move your finger tips, when eating. And similiar patterns likely apply to our psyche and thereby our notions of survival. For example, if you grew up in a solely x-skin colored family environment, then this is what likely feels safe to you “your tribe with its habits and belief system”(5). However, suddenly you may find yourself with different people of different backgrounds (habits, skin color, religions, accents etc) and it does less. And I believe the larger the discrepancy from what you are used to; feel save with, the more likely your “concisouness” will shut down, and your primal instincts including what is unconcious but feels safe will be present or to some extend guide you, while not being aware of.

What does this say about effective collaboration?

Collaboration is great and it does hold many benefits if collaboration is true. For example, again if you go on a first date and the chemistry fits; values, or certain values shared align with each other, you truthfully complement each other, you don’t twist yourself to make yourself fit to the other, you can be honest, you lay out your cards. Whatever it is, I mean complementation can work so different, it fits and that’s okay. That’s great actually. For example, it’s okay wanting to collaborate with someone from your hometown, or the same cultrual background if that makes you feel safe and the collaboration too.

What if I don’t want to collaborate, but you know, I have to?

I believe you should not twist yourself for anyone or let anyone twist you. Secondly, in business model research, different business models are suitable for different market segments. I believe a similiar approach can be used for collaboration. If partner x is not suitable for project b, a different one can be found. At the same time, becoming aware about certain bias might help you to actively avoid collaboration, but at the same time it also gives you the chance to work on understanding them with the intent to encourage collaboration; Why do I hold certain bias? Where do they come form? What do I fear? as oppose to: I am aware of my bias or ignore it, let’s get it on with.

More to it? Let me know in the comments.

References

(1) Nevins, M. (2018). How to Collaborate with People You Don’t Like. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-to-collaborate-with-people-you-dont-like

(2) Thomas, L. (2018). “Gaslight and gaslighting”The Lancet. Psychiatry5 (2): 117–118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5PMID 29413137.

(3) Training Material from the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis (Modification of Object)

(4) Yu, L. (2022). Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Columbia University Press.

(5) Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introductionGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.

Working With Instead of Against Emotional Dysregulation at the Workspace

The article with a focus on trauma and behavior, was written for and published by the online community “normalizing the conversation“, aiming to destigmatize and normalizing the conversation(s) around mental health. Thank you.

Healthy brain development serves as foundation for emotional regulation

Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist with a specialization in child complex trauma is known for his expertise in healthy and unhealthy brain development; The brains’ development starts bottom up with the brainstem being responsible for core regulational activities such as blood pressure, up to the cortex in which abstract forms or aspects of language are formed too. In between there is the Diencephalon responsible for functions such as arousal, appetite and other, followed by the limbic system for emotional regulation.

Ideally, all these brain regions develop healthy from the bottom to the top. That happens if one ,for instance, has been responded to when cried (crying is the expression of a need since babies cannot express their needs in language yet). Responses to cries can be hugging, feeding or humming the baby or child as it grows up, so that it or more specifically its emotions and feelings feel regulated and validated. Later on these healthy or regulated brain regions will then serve in better understanding and processing emotions so that these emotions are easier put into language so that one can express needs but also feelings well. In school or work this can look like more directly responding to questions, describing less, being more direct instead of descriptive.

What happens in unhealthy brain development and how does that show in adult behavior and how to better work with it?

However, if the baby has not been responded well to, or if the baby and child has been punished or ignored for crying or having in that sense a need, then the adult version of the child will likely have difficulties in regulating emotions, but later on also in expressing them. The consequence is that one who experiences emotional dysregulation, may also experience dysregulation in speech, not literally but the ability to express needs, including wishes and desires fundamentally to their livelihood and ability to thrive as a person, privately and at work. The inability or difficulty to express that can lead to greater levels of miscommunication and thereby create conflict at the workplace and in addition feelings that one is not listened to well or other forms of behaviors such as being avoidant, withdrawing, but also being very active or too affirmative, saying yes to most things to avoid being ignored or feeling useless.

This causes a lot of energy and this makes working for those who grew up in a less nurturing environment (not only as a baby but throughout childhood and teenie years) sometimes extremely difficult. It may not even show like that though, because being punished for acting out; this could be as normal as crying, being, angry or frustrated, – made it feel that the parts of oneself that feel or are not ideal to what a parent or other caretaker might have had expected, are unworthy of showing or being (basically feeling one can’t be sad or frustrated at work, home or anywhere). As a result, one could work in a permanent dissociated stage (detached from any feeling, working like a machine). One could also show up in the work personality, that lasts around a work day and present themselves as the best employee, while in a fact the mind beyond that look could feel much different; feeling that one is mistreated, feeling like one is not valued, feeling like one is unworthy, everyone else sucks, the jobs suck, everyone is evil, feeling like one just wants to run away, because one’s’ feelings don’t matter. Chaos breaks out, when finally out of the office, at home, anywhere.

Working like that is difficult and it becomes even more difficult if certain work policies or mental health programs are conflict avoidant too, so that someone having grown up in an avoidant or punishable home, has to keep up that mask or let’s say work identity. It can be like “ we are trying to avoid conflict here, by being more positive in team-work.” Urges big No Go and a sign for a lack of a supportive mental health environment, because it is indeed conflict or the ability to have different opinions, or to show different emotions so that working with a sort of “dysregulation” or an identity that works at home and at work, works.

In fact it is that a range of emotions have to be lived and expressed, so that one better expresses themselves and others can better respond too. By the way, there is no right or wrong to how one feels, but only in denying feelings and thereby oneself. Yet, while feelings are right, the result, or the action or conclusive thought that might follow might not be true and there a lot of frustration, anger or avoidance can pop up too. In practice it looks like that” I didn’t receive an email response within a day. I am sad. I conclude I am hated. I am the most hated and worst employee.” In fact it is not like that. One indeed can be sad, even very sad or any other sort of feeling, but one is not the thought. One is not the most hatred employee or a loser. In fact, another person might be out longer for the day, is sick, doesn’t feel like replying, is lazy, is too busy, is sad, is stressed, has to deal with other things. There can be so many reasons. And these are so important to think about so that whatever thought one has, no longer defines one or the feeling.”

To make life for any employee now more easy, it could be recommended to ditch some of the positive work culture and introduce concepts of clear communication without leaving room for interpretation. “Thank you for your email. I will reply by tomorrow.” Further “You did this great, and here this needs improvement, because of… Please get back to me by (date)/ I will get back to you by (date). You can contact me during the week here or there. Over the weekend I am not available.” The word because does magic, because it leaves nobody wondering.

Resources:

Perry & Operah (2022). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.

Rosenfeld, H. (1983). Primitive object relations and mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis64, 261-267.

Marketing for sustainability?

Sustainability should aim at enabling but also providing invdividuals and groups of individuals a lifestyle of their choosing, without causing damage to the environment such as the ecological ecosystem, people with who the environment is shared with and individuals themselves. To enable that, marketing for sustainabiltiy should educate consumers about products and lifestyles so that consumers are enabled to make concious purchasing and lifestyle choices. A good example is the sales of cigaret packages that often include marketing for the negative aspects of smoking such as its risk of cancer. Another good example is the use of health education as part of marketing, i.e. using an uber or other forms of car sharing as a means to circumvent drunk driving if other forms of public transportation aren’t available, helping thereby to avoid incidences from drunk driving. While there is a clear health benefit there are also business and environmental benefits that come from shared mobility.

In these forms of marketing, there is no sugarcoating. It is honest. This differs to growing strategies in marketing for sustainability, which can tend to market “sustainability” such as sustainable lifestyles and products, although the intention often still remains the sales of a product or service. Hereby sustainability becomes an ideal that is sold as part of a marketing strategy. The risk is that marketing for sustainability can continue to facilitate consumption or more specific growth behavior, while in sustainability, growth or the sales of a product or lifestyle (see push marketing) can work contradictive.

This can be seen in products with a renewable resource base; if the extraction and processing contradicts the resources’ needed regrowth time. However, these products might not be kept longer, because they were pushed onto the consumer and possibly not intrinsically needed. This might differ to other forms of marketing such as in pull marketing for sustainability, where consumers make more concious choices in terms of a purchase so that the product or service chosen is kept longer by aliging more with what the consumer needs and wants. Of course this might not be exclusive and there can be overlaps.

How does marketing for sustainabiltiy work these days?

Before marketing was sustainable, marketing sold certain imaginary that likely were not sustainable, think about the topless muscleman, infront of a BBQ of brand x with his guy friends and the woman in the background taking care of the children. Now in marketing for sustainability we may no longer see the muscle guy, but the well dressed husband or a lesbian couple, with a vegan steak in front of the now a newer and more efficient BBQ of brand x. One may now buy not only that lifestyle, so close to a sustainability ideal, but most of all one buys a new BBQ. Marketing did it again. It sold.

Because it is marketed as sustainable, does not mean it is (in the long-term). Source

What is more likely marketing for sustainability?

Marketing for sustainability should be as simple as that it is honest and deviate from selling sustainability ideals sourrounding the product or by idealizing the product for being sustainable. It is nearly as knowing a partner who one choses to marry or a partnership one engages with for an investment, because one knows them. For example, a tourist agency could sell a sustainble sailing turn across the atlantic ocean with vegan food, FSC certified timber and a romantic ride into the sun. However, it also has to sell the reality that being the risk of sea sickness, the storms on the sea, the team-work needed, 24 hours readiness and most of all the lack of romantization such trip might bring along. If it does so, it will find that consumers sustain the sail turn, but will also return as consumers again because marketing was honest, and the reality sold matched what was expected. Honesty hereby makes marketing sustainable – the product being sustainable tourism- long term profitable.

Curious about the many ideals sold here? Klick here.

For physical products that could look as much like “here is the product we are selling, but it also falls short on long-term battery life. We are being actually honest that you can’t expect this from this product, but we are looking into developing a new model that enables you to keep the product and be able to easily replace the battery so that you don’t depend on new product purchases. This will also be part of a new business service offering, so that you don’t have to deal with long returns and actually safe money over time, with benefits for us to save on production resources too. The product is actually useful for these purposes…. and we don’t recommend if … because you likely won’t end up using it. If you still want to try it out, we can rent it out too as part of our new service offering. ”

It could also be as simple as selling a lack of ideals or filling a niche or problem: Here you can use the GPS tracker for your pet in the city so that your pet can go outdoors, you don’t get mad during home office, while you don’t have to worry, whether it gets locked up in a garage without finding it. This type of marketing might even work better then selling such GPS in idealized sustainable scenarios with a wild tracker pet father or couple, conquering wild river beds and sustainable forests with their pets, because most people work during the week, so selling a product what it is for in the context, make it sustain and the consumers too. It may even increase the reach including sales, while improving coustomer loyalty.

Of course selling purely sustainable values is great too, particular if it does not prohibit behaviors by purchasing products and lifestyles that are for instance socially and ecologically friendly prodcued such as re-use bottles or bags bags as a means to avoid the use of continues plastics. But to sell to sell and then use sustainability as a selling point.. hmm hmm.

More thoughts ? Message me anytime.

References

Koelen, M. A., & Van den Ban, A. W. (2004). Health education and health promotion. Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Training courses on the unconciousness mind, ideals and fantasy.

On the ideals on pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true.

Image Source: GQ-Magazin

I wrote this blog in the light of the US Supreme Court ruling on overturning abortion rights. I also write this blog, because I had an abortion myself. In that sense I am biased and in the same sense I understand how important access to abortion and particular safe abortion is. Following I have listed 6 arguments I have read most about to avoid pregnancy and to carry on with it. Most of the arguments are based on the ideals of (avoiding) pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true. I wrote (mother)hood, because in parenthood also the father is involved. I highlight motherhood since pregnancy is about the woman and her autonomy over her body (at least it should be).

I write about ideals and their lack and post this here, because we tend to idealize so much, that decisions taken tend to not fully align with the realities that exist, but more likely the ideals of realities, also known as fantasy. This does not only apply to the abortion case, but one can also see this in other fields, in which actions are taken based on ideals, but no longer the realities, that diversity and a globalized world with inequalities bring with them. And that is; risky.

Argument 1; Why not avoiding pregnancy?

One of the key arguments that can be found on social media is that pregnancy is inevitable avoidable. That is by using contraception such as the condom and birth control. I write about these two, because they are most commonly used. Now, people have sex for different reasons in different circumstances and choose to use and not to use contraception, not because they don’t know about it, but because they don’t want to. Because it is like that; Sometimes people are horny, they do it in the heat of the moment. They may use the pull-out method instead, but how difficult must it be to pull out before an orgasm? I am not a man, but I imagine it to be challenging. In other instances, people might have drunk sex and are careless. What about reboundsex with the ex? There are also instances in which condoms are used, but for the many reasons they may slip off with the orgasm, or before. I did not like using birthcontrol because it made me feel tired and so I believed in the “calendar” method, which did not work out at all. Of course, there are also instances, in which a lack of education leads to unprotected sex. There may be wishful thinking, of course there are also extreme cases of rape and other reasons why people have unproteted sex.

Argument 2. You can get a baby, regardless what situation you are in

When I looked further through other social media posts and comments, one can easily find different recommendations on how to carry on with the pregnancy. In doing so one disregards the circumstantiality in which people get pregnant and speaking for diverse people and particular woman that I met throughout my life; disregarding the hardship of poverty, the hardship of lacking access to maternal care, the hardship of battling mental health problems, the hardship of being a single parent with little income, the hardship of domestic violence (emotional/physical), the hardship of combining a career with children, the hardship of being too young of a parent, the hardship of an affair, the hardship of wanting to persue studies, the hardship of too much uncertainty, the hardship of a relationship one is potentially forced into, simply not wanting, … .

Argument 3; Having a baby will make you happy.

Ideally speaking and also according to google bias, when you type “pregnancy and/or parenthood”, it appears so joyful, its beautiful. Particular the mother, can find herself in the best time, well taken care of with ideally a supportive husband and if not married one can quikly go to the church to ensure a lifetime relationship; ready to pursue the American Dream. For single parents there is according to google bias also little hardship; one can find the happy single dads throwing their happy children into the air and for others it seems as if there is indefinite support.

These ideas do no longer hold true, because of the bias they imply. When I found out I was pregnant I had just ended a relationship that was no longer nurturing. I had no money, and after working and studying abroad for 7 years and having no emotional support coming back, but also having my first paid long-term job, it was the most unideal situation for myself having a baby. I had not felt calmness for myself in a long time and I wouldn’t be able to offer calmness and consistancy at that point either to myself nor the child privately. The cicumstantiality decided against it. The circumstances or as Adam Shechter (Psychotherapist) calls it on his instagram account; the psychicic pregnancy was non ideal.

We also no longer live the American Dream. People break up and marriage no longer is “a life-time insurance” and neither does it say anything about how people love, how nurturing the relationship is, how healthy it is for the baby. There is little happinness, when what is, is not happy. So is also a single dad or a single mom not always happy.

Argument 4: The baby will help you solve your relationship problems

I remember feeling the relief of a break-up, but also the sadness with it. I remember the tears as my pregnancy test would show positive. I did not want the relationship to continue. Inevitabely I was suggested that the baby would help bond with the partner. Most people would do it like that. I strongly disown that. A baby should not be used as a means for couples to stay together. Because when you do not function as a couple independent of a baby, you do not function as a parent. And you have to function as a parent if you want to raise a child healthy. Thinking that a baby will fix all the relationship problems is wrong. It may even trap people in relationships (not only romantic ones but also family relationships, friendships, work relationships) that are no longer nurturing.

Argument 5: When one is pregnant, they will do automatically a good job at being a parent

Nowadays, families do not live together anymore. Families hereby may compromise “father, mother, grandparents, cousins, and other friends” in which children can be taken care of. We live more scattered now. We live more isolated (particular in Germany), where taking care is often the primary responsibility of one care-taker or a couple. Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist who I had attended a policy roundtable on maternal health care in Calfifornia with, tends to write and teach about how important the role of community in attachment, regulation and healthy brain development is. An isolated family system, reduces that. It also reduces a single parent to the primary care taker, after which the primary care taker may no longer take enough care of themselves. It increases stress and pressure and parenthood no longer is “ideal”.

In addition, being a parent is no longer leaving the kids to play video games. Being an attuned parents requires time. TV and playstation cannot raise a child. Parents have to engage their children, support them in becoming the version that is true to them and does not appeal to what we learn in media only. Parents have to raise their children in a world with wicked and yet so complex challenges that the role of a parent no longer is as ideal and easy as it might have looked like many years ago. It wasn’t even then. Ultimately, the ideals no longer hold, after which an abortion may no longer be perceived un-ideal.

The last Argument 6: You can give your baby up for adoption

Just, no! Fostercare is one of the worst systems that exist. In university I interned at the NGO Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in California, USA, where foster children are matched up with volunteers to provide some sort of consistancy for at least two years. That form of consitancy and nourishing relationship was perceived as essential, since fosterhomes are often overcrowded. There children are often being displaced to other foster homes, and the older they get the longer they stay. The longer they stay the higher the burdon on their mental health. I did not want that! And I know many others don’t either.

Why do safe abortions and access to legal matter?

Abortions will always be happenning, because of the beforementioned. They will continue to happen because of the lack of ideals and the circumstantiality after which people get pregnant. If abortions happen unsafely, there are high risks for the mothers health. For instance, the abortion pill consists often of two pills. The first one in which the fetus detaches from the uterus and the second one in which the fetus (if not already discharchged) is discharged through contractions the second pill iniatiates. However, it has to be verified that the fetus is discharged, because it is harmfull if it stays inside the uterus. A fetus may also stay attached to the uterus (if the pill did not work out) with yet unknown birth harms.

Is all unwanted pregnancy bad?

I want to write about this, because of the critical text I wrote first. I do believe that not all unwanted pregnancy is bad and I also believe that there is often no ideal moment to become a parent. Its a challenge and we have to grow into. But I do believe that there are lack of ideals, which have to be recognized because of the “risks” that a continuation of pregnancy can bear to the parent(s) and the child.

Resources

Clinical Reserach during my internship at the Court Appointed Special Advocates in California, USA in 2015. Parts of the report accessible at; https://www.slideshare.net/AnnCathrinJst/anncathrin-joest-professional-product-962015

Conversations and LinkedIn comments

My own Abortion and Circumstantiality

Where has all that meaning gone and how to get it back?

When we are children, we are yet too young to know what we want to do later in life. What passion will drive us. We make sense of this world, relate to our parents, maybe adopt one or another of their joys; their taste of music, their taste of styles, their taste of being. Our peers styles, what they like and don’t.

And there is us; what we like, the styles we enjoy, the interests we form independent of others. Interests and styles we merge and sometimes one interest swaps over into another, creating confusion or for others „disorder“. To be part of the girls group, you need to wear pink and listen to hip hop.

As a child just forming a sense of this world, being excluded sucks. Eventually the child gives in. Changes it’s writing style, changes clothing, wanting to be part of the girls gang. Yet, it never really becomes part of it fully, because its full part is the individuality it gave up to be part.

As adults we long for that. For that individuality, we lost as a child, we gave up because it made us excluded or because we had to because it wasn’t liked or too odd to be understood (at home, in schools and any other setting). There were informal laws full of bias holding us back ; not being allowed to mix Goethe with Techno, not spending too much time on homework one enjoys not because of the enjoyment, but because of the perception of homework for instance that it shouldn’t take too much time, loving long hair as a boy but cutting it short and now having it short because of the bullies experienced as child but now feeling one can’t fully be themselves because of the image created to oneself and others [feeling locked-in], loving to game and to connect to others thereby, but being shamed for being an indoor vampire and than as adult realizing how much one missed and learned from gaming with people around the globe. Now we are adults with the images we had created to be accepted. Where is the meaning now we had lost?

In these moments, others might made us feel that these were slight annoyances, but they were the annoyances that might have ended something that gave meaning to our lives and it’s continuity; a skill-set, a passion a genuine interest, a feeling worth living for that could have carried on into our adult life as is now. Yet where has that gone? Where has that feeling of belonging gone? Where has that meaning gone to? What filled you with joy, not because it filled others with joy, but because it filled you with joy ?

What was it that you loved so much and gave up? What exactly about it ? And for what reason did you not persue it? Can you get it back now? How would that effect you? Would it scare you? Why would it? Can you try it out? What do you need to do so?

Why would this matter for sustainability?

People thrive, where and when they can be. At work, privately and both.

Transition in eating practices and its addiction to food

A short history on eating

Around 300,000 years ago, homo sapiens were named as the first human species, though distinct from what we would refer to as humans today or according to Charles Darwin (treaties on evolution), 200,000 years ago. Although different, both had something in common. They hunted and gathered and as hunting and gathering was limited to time and space and therefore the resources time and space provided, so did both depend on relocation.

The benefit of changing locations where that different nutrients were obtained and digested. Most nutrients were fresh and they supported the variety of minerals and vitamines needed -(ideally of course) and not limited to what “tasted good” today. They moved, they rationed and they likely were concious of what they had. They were very likely aware of what it meant to be hungry or not.

What do we eat today?

Today food is constantly available in variances per single food category (think about how many types of apples exist), the different types of pasta, other grains and all sorts of cheeses up to cereals, marmelades and other diary products. They come in different flavours, from different origins, they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, sugar free. They are pre-cooked and not. They come with sauces (how does the actual food taste if not for preservates? Would I even like it?). They come without, sometimes with toppings, sometimes with chemical flavours and or they may be called food but aren’t (using flavored wood-chips to replace strawberries). They may be organic, they may be not or they may be a mix of it. That is what we eat.

Why do we buy food?

Unlike the homo sapiens, we do not have to hunt and gather for food. Food is available, because it is. Hereby I am talking particular about any place/country/region, where there is a surplus of food. It means more food is available then is or can be consumed or is needed. The more choices, the more difficult to decide what to consume. The more choices the higher the discrepancy between why we eat and what we want to eat. Do we buy because we are hungry? Do we buy because we want to eat? Do we buy because it looks nice to eat? How does this affect the availability or production of more food (choices)?

Ever thought about what role design plays in food consumption? Are fridges too large? Do fridges need to be full of food or is less food full enough? Do we feel we have too less because the fridge is not full enough? How much full is full enough?

When do we eat?

It feels as if we are eating almost all the time, snacks, small meals, large meals. There are small meals at work, small snacks on the way home. Individual snacks for rewards, snack rewards on a trip to the play ground, meals on a hike, snacks on a hike. Snacks infront of Netflix, snacks in the movies, snacks for the day of, large meals for festivities, buffets, more snacks for holidays, meals because the “clock” says so, meals because its a tradition, all-you-can eat restaurants, too much food as a sign for wealth, certain types of meals because its always been eaten a certain way, in a certain style, in a certain fashion, a certain type of food. When are we hungry?

When a movie in itself is already stimulation, do we need more stimulation i.e. food? Although, the stimulation of food tends to be limited to the time eaten.

When are we hungry?

This morning, when I woke up, I was not hungry. Yesterday, after one hour kick-boxing I was not hungry. Playing one hour on a play-ground with a child, I was not hungry, neither was the child as we just ate a meal; But it “wanted something to eat.” I was hungry 2 hours after. Then I got really hungry, but I knew I was hungry. I felt it because my stomach said so, I could not focus well and I felt it was time. I ate. I am not hungry, when I procrastinate and therefore eat. I am not hungry, when I am not happy with writing but eat to get a reward or to avoid. I am not hungry, when I look for an external stimulu, when the stimulu has to be found internal. And where there is no stimulu, I have to find out why. What feeling am I trying to compensate with food?

Is there enough time to cook “real” when hungry?

We work, hours, days, weeks and months. Some work more, some work less hours. Some volunteer, some are full-time parent, some are not. Some have more time, some have less time to cook – when they are about to get hungry and when they are hungry. Cooking hungry is no fun. Cooking something healthy (in terms of meals that require longer preperation), something fresh when being hungry could be annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, senseless, sad, whatever, especially if the work-hours are long, children and ourselves have to be taken care of. It makes a pre-cooked meal, a wood-chip joghurt, fast food, a bag of chips, whatever goes fast appealing. Could that be changed if we had more time?

Sometimes we talk about packaging waste. It’s about why this sort of waste occurs also. Can we work less and invest more time in ourselves [cooking, friends, hobbies, families?). Does this reduce waste and stress, fast-related eating?

Sustainable transition in food practices?

I would argue it is systemic. Its about having more time and about being aware when a feeling is substituted with food as oppose to when food is a need “to be hungry”. At the same time there is too much food, including too many food choices, and too little food in terms of healthy quality. There may also be the lacking time to cook healthy, or pleasure might be looked at somewhere different. Cooking for example is also work.

Resources

Aarnio, T., & Hämäläinen, A. (2008). Challenges in packaging waste management in the fast food industry. Resources, Conservation and Recycling52(4), 612-621.

Blundell, J. E., & King, N. A. (2007, September). Overconsumption as a cause of weight gain: behavioural–physiological interactions in the control of food intake (appetite). In Ciba Foundation Symposium 201‐The Origins and Consequences of Obesity: The Origins and Consequences of Obesity: Ciba Foundation Symposium 201 (pp. 138-158). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Kaye-Blake, W. (2009, July). What psychoanalysis can tell economists about food consumption. In 50th Annual New Zealand Association of Economists Conference, Wellington (pp. 1-3).

Kemp, E., Bui, M. Y., & Grier, S. (2013). When food is more than nutrition: Understanding emotional eating and overconsumption. Journal of Consumer Behaviour12(3), 204-213.

Leach, G. (1976). Energy and food production. IPC Science and Technology Press.

Ncube, L. K., Ude, A. U., Ogunmuyiwa, E. N., Zulkifli, R., & Beas, I. N. (2021). An overview of plastic waste generation and management in food packaging industries. Recycling6(1), 12.

Pelchat, M. L. (2009). Food addiction in humans. The Journal of nutrition139(3), 620-622.

Rosenheck, R. (2008). Fast food consumption and increased caloric intake: a systematic review of a trajectory towards weight gain and obesity risk. Obesity reviews9(6), 535-547.

Ziauddeen, H., & Fletcher, P. C. (2013). Is food addiction a valid and useful concept?. obesity reviews14(1), 19-28.

Would we buy less, if the meaning of a product was better understood?

Although I work in the field of sustainability and specifcially sustainable consumption and production patterns, I still caught myself to buy new things occassionally. Sometimes that was when I felt I needed something new, when I felt “bored”, or in a bad mood, when I wanted distraction, or when I felt I deserved a little reward, etc.

What I came to realize is that most of these goods did not last long with me and they also did not make me happy. Products that indeed made me happy, where those products that I chose to buy over weeks or sometimes (in the case of a leather bag) for months.

How did I stop buying stuff I didn’t need?

It happened that I learned about the psychoanalyst “Gustav Carl Jung”, who used symbolism to interpret his patients unconcious motives or desires. Within symbolism, colours, forms, and various patterns can be analyzed to understand ones own feelings, but also meanings and their biases that either suppress or support a decision (un)conciously.

Because I was curious to understand my own buying motives, I tried to integrate a psychoanayltical persepctive into my buying decisions. Therefore, I followed four steps, when I was about to buy high-heels, that I didn’t need. In doing so, I dissolved the meaning of the high-heels and also learned that the meaning, these high-heels emboddied, had nothing to do with the heels themselves that day, but my own (un)concious challanges and mood. By thinking about these (un)concious motives now more often, I am drastically reducing my buying behaviour and focus on other challanges these goods unconciously represent for me.

1.Why do I need this product ?

[High heels make me taller, and I am not as tall as other people. However, sometimes I perceive taller people as more powerwful.]

2. Where does that perception come from?

[ I was often told that I am not tall enough for a German and when I was taller I felt this observations was less mentioned. Because of that being taller made me feel more powerful. ]

3. Why did being tall matter that day or in that moment?

[I realized that I didn’t share an idea in a meeting that day. Because I didn’t, I missed out a powerful opportunity, which my team but also I could have beneffitted from. ]

4. What does my own analysis mean to me?

[I must have unconciously thought that by buying something that makes me feel tall , I would feel more more powerful. However, there is no relation between these heels and my work situation, and instead of buying these heels, I will work on sharing my ideas more often to empower myself and my team. ].

How can external costs of consumption be equated with external costs of production? – An economic-psychoanalytical perspective

The traditional business model equates production costs with revenues and therefore measures success based on the profits created. In doing so, most business models neglect their external costs of production. These are costs that relate to pollution or other forms of destruction and are often not accounted for. Business models that do not account for these external costs of production, likely run risk of market failure in the long term. A consequence is that neither business, nor planet, nor consumer will benefit in the future.

Increases in production come at an expense of
resources and well-being that is worth
more than the products produced. It also
implies that an undesirable balance of
quantities known as utility and disutility
occur. Utility is the level of satisfaction of the population’s needs and wants. Disutility refers to the sacrifices made necessary by increasing production and consumption, such as labor, loss of leisure, depletion of resources, exposure to pollution (Daly, 1990)

External cost of consumption?

Climate change and also climate awarness have been increasing steadily, particular since Fridays for Future. “We must act now, our planet is on fire, system change is needed” are some of the phrases that cover media. While these phrases demand companies, governments to change systems, they externalize individual repsonsibility and hence individual and collective cost of consumption. These are cost produced because of a (subconcious) desire for consumption and lifestyle choices. Because of that system change as demanded now, misses a sustainable point of view. That is a view in which “external cost of consumption” need to be internalized by consumers.

How can external costs of production be internalized?

Businesses can transition towards more sustainable business models and because of that reduce their external costs of production. That can happen if unsustainable materials are swopped with more sustainable materials (think about a plastic straw being swapped with a bamboo straw), if a company promotes the re-use of products or offers recycling opportunities (and so much more). However, swopping one thing with the other, or continue producing at the same speed, does not necessarily lead to more sustainable business models. Instead current production problems shift to other production processes. Because of that, long term business sustainabiltiy might fail.

For sustainable business models to take place in the long term, the role of consumers, the way they engage, behave and hence, want to purchase or not and how needs to change as well.

What are external costs of consumption and how can they be internalized?

Humans aren’t static. Humans like other species evolve and adjust to changes. “Survival of the fittest” – in evolutionary terms. If adoption does not occur, the survival of a species is at risk. To adopt and to change, we adjust, we make ourselves appeal to others by creating images, to become part of a group, to subconciously influence our own survival. However, much of such behaviours , think about dressing a certain way, or looking a certain way to be accepted by a group, does not relate to survival anymore – it is instinctional and therefore (unconciously) culturally influenced. Such behaviours therefore stimulate external costs of consumption [Evolutionary desire for change and adaptation, while such a change and adaptation is not need but rather socially constructed path-dependent]

External costs of consumption can hence be internalized, if individual and collective awarness increases towards unconcious behaviour and lifestyles. Where does a constant desire for changes deprive from? What purpose does a change fullfill? Who is this change done for? Who does one desire to desire back and because of that adjust towards a certain lifestyle , look or behaviour and therefore changes? What meaning do changes in choices have? Where should subconcious evolutionary need for change and adoptation stop? Where is the point of maximum utility for happiness reached and hence, the possibility to create an equilibrium between internalized external costs of consumption and production?

Do we need hair dye to impress others? Do we need new phones to take better pictures? Do we need make up? For who? Who are we, when we don’t change who we are or appear to be?

References

Campbell, A. (2000). Cultural identity as a social construct. Intercultural Education11(1), 31-39.

Graham, C. (2005). The economics of happiness. World economics6(3), 41-55.

Harte, M. J. (1995). Ecology, sustainability, and environment as capital. Ecological economics15(2), 157-164.

Hedman, J., & Kalling, T. (2003). The business model concept: theoretical underpinnings and empirical illustrations. European journal of information systems12(1), 49-59.

Hollan, D. (2000). Constructivist models of mind, contemporary psychoanalysis, and the development of culture theory. American Anthropologist102(3), 538-550.

Lüdeke-Freund, F., Carroux, S., Joyce, A., Massa, L., & Breuer, H. (2018). The sustainable business model pattern taxonomy—45 patterns to support sustainability-oriented business model innovation. Sustainable Production and Consumption15, 145-162.

Thompson, S. A., & Loveland, J. M. (2015). Integrating identity and consumption: An identity investment theory. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice23(3), 235-253.

The role of early attachment in consumption patterns – a public health perspective

In 2015, I conducted public-health related research into the consequence of child complex trauma on the brain. The goal of my research was to develop an activity guide for lay people that could help reduce these consequences on the brain. To conduct the research, I interviewed a range of practitioners includig; psychologists, psychiatrists & neurologists in Southen California, USA. Besides that, I also also merged into the literature world on brain development and the role of attachment/ relationships in child development.

After finalizing my reserach and presenting the outcomes to “Court Appointed Special Advocates“, I realized that how we are nurtured, the way we are loved and cared for has one of the greatest impacts on how we later behave in life. It impacts how we form, build and maintain relationships, how we communicate with each other and how meaning is created within ourselves and the world around us.

The capacity to love is at the core of the success of humankind. The reason we’ve survived on this planet is that we’ve been able to form and maintain effective groups. Isolated and disconnected, we are vulnerable. In community, we can protect one another, cooperatively hunt and gather, share with the dependents of our family, our clan. Relation glue keeps our species alive, and love is the relationa superglue. Perry & Operah, 2021, p. 77

Healthy attachement can be formed in multiple ways and directions; parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, communities

What influence does attachement have on our neurological development?

When a baby is born, it enters the world with a specific number of neurons. These neurons then form into neural networks that predefine how we view and engage in this world later on. Because the brain develops “bottom- up” (see Figure 2: Brain chart), the way in which neural networks are formed from infant age pre-define later developments in the higher regions of the brain. It defines how these regions are connected and how resiliant our behaviour will be towards challanges such as stress, disagreements or changes (think about private/work relationships or within ourselves).

How these neural networks develop differs for individuals. If a baby grows up in an attuned and loving environment, where its needs are being met emotionally and physcially, neuron-connections will form that are based on “healthy, self-regulatory and resilient” developments. If a baby grows up in a stressfull environment or an environment in which it was neglected, continuesly stressed or only its basic needs were fullfilled, the brain develops in such a way that the functions of upper brain regions can be impaired. Such impairment can be illustrated in difficulties such as “self-regulation and resiliance towards stresses, or ability to reason”. It may also impair the ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships.

Brain map and sypmtoms (Source: Bruce Perry, http://www.Child Trauma.org, Ann-Cathrin Joest, Research Report, 2015)

In adult life, such dysregulation within the adult and the adults relationship can be displayed in a range of behaviours (see Figure 2: Brainchart and related dysfunctional symptom). Someone who grew up in an environment through which healthy neurological networks developed in all four brain regions, will be more likely to view a challange as something “natural”, something that is not a threat. However, someone who has difficulties with self-regulation may view a daily challange as a threat and therefore involuntarily shuts down the more complex region of the brain responsible for reasoning and arguing (cortex-region). In doing so, the more primative functions of the brain are actived (Brainstem, Diencephalon[Midbrain]), those that support survival. While these functions possibly helped a child to survive, these functions do not serve as an adult anymore, think about someone quick to respond agressively or without thinking or someone yelling, swearing , leaving etc.

How does neural development and attachement relate to sustainable behaviour?

At my my current job, I am engaged in the development of sustainable and circular business models. I try to answer questions such as “How can sustainable business models reduce interest in consumption? And why do people consume so much? How can products create intrinsic meaning and how can such meaning be translated in a society that currently appears to seeks meaning in an access of consumption ? ” .

For so long, I could not cearly think about the answers until I began reading the book “What happenned to you? Conversations on Trauma, resilience and healing” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. It was that book that reminded me on my research on neurodevelopment and healthy attachment, that I realized many answers can be found in “dysregulations and early (un)healthy attachement“. That the more dysregulation exists within ourselves and the less healthy attachements we formed as an infant or child, the less meaning we create within ourselves and relationships. The more likely we seek satisfaction in extrinsic activities, ways of behaving and acting [unconciously] to regulate an intrinsic need (we may not be aware of). So I believe that -love / instrinsic love- is the cure to much of the sustainability debates we face today. Love and early healthy attachements, that nurture, love that supports resiliance (within brain structures) and supports curiosity for positive change. Love -that type of glue that lasts longer then the short term satisfaction from addiction such as overeating and consumption.

The challange with activating our reward circuits is that the pleasure fades. The feeling of reward is short-lived. Think how long the pleasure of eating a potato chips last. A few seconds. Then you want another. Same with a hit of nicotine from a cigarette. Or even the smile of a loved one. It feels so good in the moment, and we can recall it and get a little pleasure, but the intenses sense of reward fades. So each day we are pulled to refill our reward bucket. The healthiest way to do this is through relationships. Connectedness regulates and rewards us. Perry & Operah, 2021, p. 64.

Moving forward?

For a sustainable society, to thrive as individual and thus, the collective, I believe that we must put greater emphasizes on healthy developments and community, identify healthy meaning within the individual that can translate into the collective and the other way round. However, how can such a society be created, if more hours are worked, if cost of living are increasing and if global inequalities persist?

References:

Winfrey, O., & Perry, B. D. (2021). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing. Flatiron Books.

Joest, A. (2015). Consequences on Complex trauma on the brain. Reserach Report. Windesheim Honours College & Court Appointed Special Advocates, Orange County, California.