Business of Nature is The Nature of Business

“If this picture does not move you, then what will?” This was Babita Sinha’s impassioned plea and start on Guts Glory & Story. The picture on the screen was that of a half-burnt Kangaroo who was being given water to drink by a teenager – a terrible, heart-wrenching picture of how humans may have directly or indirectly pillaged the earth.

The earth seems to be burning – Australian bush fires, the Amazon forests, California; water seems to be running out from cities and it took a Cape Town to prove that such calamities will be witnessed by all of us living today. Trees are being indiscriminately cut, temperatures are going up and massive droughts and floods are common occurrences; a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees centigrade will be the tipping point for life on earth to begin its descent towards extinction. This is an emergent situation and needs urgent action.

If Your Green Canvas being in the “Business of Nature” cannot catalyze a reversal, then who can? – self-questioned its founder. The sequence of sustainability for them, deep-rooted in their ethos, is Planet, People and Profit and not the other way around. Funnily, if humans were not there on earth, nothing would happen to nature but if a small worm or a bacterium were to vanish, life will come to a grinding halt on earth. Can we, the ordinary people on the street, bring about any change? Yes of course. If 100 people could create 100 green spaces – big or small – and become flag-bearers and catalysts for converting yet another 100 in their immediate network connections – be it by gifting seeds, or helping small indoor kitchen gardens, gifting plants instead of other items – guess what? 100x100x100 makes it a million-people touched in just a few months. Such is the power of our network! YGC proudly claims that it is not just profit-based but passion-based. They have grown from creating small terrariums now to plant-staging both indoors and outdoors, landscaping, and planting trees on highways and roads. But it needs to be all about impact.

Simply put, it is about no negative impact on the earth and a positive impact on people. No chemical soils – the suggestion was to use kitchen waste like banana peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds, to rejuvenate the soil; water-wise plants like succulents, and planting the right tree at the right place, is important. In short local plants and trees are critical for sustainability and improving the resilience of the environment. Using coconut fiber instead of plastic pots, compost from waste, something that YGC procures from waste power plants, are easy alternates in direction of sustainability and environmental resilience. Impact via social inclusion, job skilling i.e. working with women in the local community and creating their version of ‘Shankarammas’ and finally via corporate workshops where they teach how “the nature of business is the business of nature” is their chosen route. Maintenance is yet another way where they employ and train differently-abled people for plant propagation or organic soil mixing.

COVID needs to be looked at through two lenses – environmental and societal. Nature saw its pollution levels at the minimum best. The Himalayas were visible from Saharanpur and Jalandhar. It looked like “corona was earth’s vaccine against the most petulant nature-virus – the human beings!” The founders mentioned that people have been flocking nurseries and in general, agriculture companies have been doing very well – just because “in extreme stress and anxiety, people turn to gardening as an antidote.” Gardening teaches patience.

COVID has shrunk our choices and access to spaces. The house is a refuge and a jail. People are now wanting to redefine their spaces into multi-use roles – office, relaxation, party-space, and out-door workspaces. Plants promote well-being – in-fact a large plant every 100 square-feet makes indoor spaces cooler and air quality much better. There are many studies to prove this.

Businesses can learn from nature and can make themselves resilient. Weeds in the gardens are important but if left unchecked will take over the garden; likewise, dissenters are important in an organization but if left unchecked will become corporate terrorists completely without control. Life is resilient – it grows in the most difficult places – even a compost bin! Likewise, startups operate in a similar model. Learn from your mistakes – it is fine if a plant dies, but if the second one dies then there is an issue. Sometimes you do everything correctly but yet the plant dies – relook at the entire environment. Finally, look at the root cause, not just the symptoms – a yellow leaf can have many causes – if you need to fix it you need to find the root cause. Find it.

On the grave issue of environment and sustainability, there is no time for discussions now, only action. Let us all join the choir! Thank you, Babita and Saumya… we are ready!

Full episode here.

– Alok Sinha

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