Business knows supply chains are vital. For both direct profit and, in an increasingly connected and information rich world, the embodied environmental impacts.
But, these are not easy assessments. The ecological backpsck concept helps. It creates one measure for the total amount of materials that go into producing a product or service.
As you'd expect services tend to have a smaller backpack. 2kg of materials are used to let you watch a movie for an hour. Versus 53kg to create a coffee machine.
There's some obvious wins here as society changes. It takes two and a half times less material to download music versus buying the equivalent CD. And some rather staggering numbers. A ten gram wedding ring has a five tonne backpack.
For business, as the Harvard Business Review highlights this month: societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets, and social harms can create internal costs for firms. Concepts like the ecological backpack help define the connection between society and economic progress - unlocking a wave of innovative growth.
Picture: Screen shot from ecological backpack video. Volkswagen Autostadt exhibition.