This year, Shift is proud to be part of the organising team for “Food for Thought”, an event that encourages participants to make more conscious decisions about food through both online and offline activities on food circularity and action. The series was organised by the LDE Center for Sustainability Students, together with 7 associations from Leiden, Delft, The Hague and Rotterdam.
On 1st June 2021, Shift hosted Coen Hubers for an online lecture, “To Meat or Not to Meat?“, as part of the week-long Food for Thought series.
In his exciting lecture, Coen Hubers, founder and coordinator of the AgriFood Hub at LDE Centre for Sustainability, answers important questions about the current transition in our system. Questions regarding the impacts of meat substitutes, about the roles animals play in the food system’s supply chain, and questions about how regenerative farming, mimicking healthy natural ecosystems, can benefit the environment.
On June 2, Shift got together with the team from Plastic Spotter Leiden to clean-up the streets of Leiden!
In this cold weather, you want a meal that will keep you warm and contains enough energy to power you on your epic ice-skating trips or winter city walks! Shakshuka is a simple one pan dish which fulfills these requirements perfectly. There are a lot of different ways of making it, so don’t limit yourself to this recipe, you can add all the different veggies you like! For example zucchini, kale or carrot go very well with this dish. This version includes falafel to provide you with that extra bit of power. Although the eggs are one of the main features of any shakshuka the falafel allows for you to take them out and make it a vegan dish. It is best served with some bread, couscous, or bulgur.
Ingredients (2 people)
Cut the onion, eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes and feta into pieces. Heat a bit of olive oil in a big pan and fry the onion and bell pepper for a few minutes. Add the herbs (except for the parsley) with the eggplant and fry for a few more minutes. Then add the tomatoes, the tomato paste and maybe a cup of water. Leave this to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Use this time to fry the falafel and prepare the side dishes. Then, break two eggs over the vegetable mixture, close the lid and let them cook for 5-6 minutes. Garnish with the fresh parsley and optionally the feta cheese.
After Sinterklaas, Christmas and New Years it is now time for…. Valentine’s Day! Wait, wait, before you tell me all about how it is a commercial holiday (although I love that the chocolate is on sale the day after that) or that it is impossible to have a date during this crisis: it is also the start of a week I had no knowledge of before writing this piece, but is really important: Random Acts of Kindness Week!
While I was writing on the importance of love in all its forms: love for your partner, but also your family or the people around you, this week is all about that, and gives you a broader look on what Valentine’s day could be!
During this crisis, it’s even more important than ever, to look out for each other and help each other. And I think that’s where all these holidays are for: sometimes we are so stuck in our daily lives, that we forget the amazing things around us, and during these holidays, we can stop for a minute and appreciate what we have.
And, it’s for a good reason! Did you know that by helping others, you find happiness yourself? So, if you are a bit down due to the current situation (like most of us)… stop for a minute, and look around you. Is there someone who needs a hand?
We’re educated to think about the world around us, but sometimes we get so focused on that, that we forget to appreciate the little things around us. Therefore I would like to invite you to focus this week on different kinds of love, by doing random acts of kindness.
Some love for… the world
– Pick up some litter
– Help mapping for a good cause
– Volunteer somewhere
– Replace something in your house for a zero-waste alternative
Some love for… random people
– Everyone takes some walks nowadays to refresh their minds. So if you are a bit sad, a smile of someone can do a lot! When you go for a walk, say hi and smile!
– Start a conversation with a random person.
– Leave a book in one of the many shared book points.
– Write some happy note on the pavement with chalk, or paint a rock and hide it somewhere for a random person to be found!
Some love for… your family/friends/housemates
– Bake something nice, and hand it out to them!
– Just… listen. Ask them about their day and really listen to what they say.
– Send a text message to a person you haven’t talked to in a while
– Send a postcard to someone
– Call your grandparents
– Volunteer to do something for someone: baby sit, help studying, etc.
– Give someone a compliment
Some love for… yourself
– Stop and smell the roses: like literally: go for a walk, but enjoy the moment and look around you! Watch the sun reflecting on the water, or how birds are flying over you, and realize, spring is coming.
– Meditate: you’ve got a lot of nice apps to start with this
– Exercise: also a lot of apps, for which you will feel better even after 5 minutes.
– Just buy that nice dessert you’ve been looking at for the past 10 minutes.
– Take a spa day at home
– Make a list of all the things you want to do, when we’re allowed to do so again.
– Read a great book
– Try something you’ve always wanted to do: that fancy recipe, paint something just for fun or start balcony garden.
You can find a lot of ideas at the Random Acts of Kindness Site.
Although we learned that everything on this planet is finite, there is one exception: “happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it” (Albert Schweitzer).
Do you have more ideas or did some of them? Send your story/picture to us, and we might show it in the next newsletter!
Picture: altered from a picture of: Foto door Lisa Fotios via Pexels.
Physical lectures, Bouwpub, stale machine coffee and small talk in the bike shed made room for browser issues, quarantines, muted educators and Zoom showers. Concentration problems, motivation loss and lack of interaction are at the order of the day. In case you haven’t managed to lose your study motivation over the past near-year just yet and would like to join the lament, or when you find yourself being demotivated and are in need of some proper reverse-psychology* to get remotivated: this article might be exactly what you need.
1. Start doubting your academic ability. Let’s be honest: you didn’t end up getting accepted into this masters’ program because you’ve spent years and years of studying, examining the world around us, developing yourself, understanding the principles of research in an IE related field and mastering the art of earning ECTs. It was all a mere combination of paying thousands of Euros on tuition fees and stumbling upon an enormous amount of questionable luck that got you here. Assigning your current academic position to your intelligence or past efforts is sheer nonsense. In case you feel capable, make sure to avoid talking with novices/laymen about the courses you take, and looking back at previously taken hurdles or conquered challenges. Start the day by looking in the mirror while telling yourself that you’re dumb and end the day with a disparagement to boost your self-doubt.
2. Drop the towel. Aside from doubting your academic ability, be skeptical of your capacity to exert efforts at all. Studies show that students’ beliefs about their academic ability and capacity for effort are inherently linked to academic withdrawal (Legault et al., 2006). Past exams, papers, presentations and especially your bachelors’ dissertation all passed themselves and didn’t require any planning, efforts or coping strategies from your side. The last thing you’ve done during your pre-IE epoch is build muscles to make putting your shoulder to the wheel ever be fruitful. It’s hard to even throw in the towel when you don’t have any muscles, so just drop it. Scrap any new-course resolutions you might have and show the world your finest study flight behavior. If you’re not ready to scrap your resolutions just yet, start setting the bar way too high to make sure to disappoint yourself. Motivation is influenced by the perceived marginal value of progress (Heath et al., 1999), so stop celebrating small successes and complimenting yourself on taking any kind of effort because they have a strong potential of relighting your fire.
3. Grow antipathy towards the program. Do what you dislike, and dislike what you do. When tasks are perceived as uninteresting, uninspiring, monotonous or dull, they can severely temper students’ enthusiasm (Legault et al., 2006). Assume your teachers choose the most tedious types of assessment just to bully you, and pick the most boring topics for your assignments. Avoid interest triggers and choose electives that sound either utterly boring or extremely complicated for people with your bachelors’ background. Devalue course objectives and depreciate any of the insights you’ll gain. Burn your motivation letter, and never talk about the relevance of our field and what you hoped to achieve by registering for this degree. Reflecting on your choice of masters’ is ok, as it might make you realize that it’s probably best to drop out. By all means avoid sparking your interest or making course elements ‘fun’, and kindly request instructors to stop using Kahoot.
4. Avoid social interaction or seek discouragement. If you have roommates, try finding a place for yourself or lock your door and pretend you’re never home. Strengthen your isolation by being a jerk to others. In case you’re already on bad terms with your roommates it’s alright to roam around them so that you can occasionally pickup some negative vibes. When finding yourself in a social situation, stick to chitchat and abstain from sharing how you feel. Disable your webcam and microphone when attending lectures or group discussions. If you’re in a Shift committee, step out to upgrade your feelings of disengagement.
Although the presence of motivation isn’t necessarily related to academic achievement, it does lower distress while studying (Baker, 2004). Definitely something worthwhile pursuing in these home-bound times. Reverse-psychology doesn’t always do the trick but hopefully at least I managed to make you either smile or cringe. If not, I hope you know that we’re all in this together (a.k.a. you’re not alone) and that (re-)connecting with fellow Shifties is bliss.
By Esther Bliek
*= Is reverse-psychology not really your cup of tea and was this article of no use to you? Here are 5 ways to make yourself study when you have zero motivation.
Baker, S. R. (2004). Intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivational orientations: Their role in university adjustment, stress, well-being, and subsequent academic performance. Current Psychology, 23(3), 189-202.
Heath, C., Larrick, R. P., & Wu, G. (1999). Goals as reference points. Cognitive psychology, 38(1), 79-109.
Legault, L., Green-Demers, I., & Pelletier, L. (2006). Why do high school students lack motivation in the classroom? Toward an understanding of academic amotivation and the role of social support. Journal of educational psychology, 98(3), 567.
It’s big, edible and omnipresent; the food industry is everywhere. And so are its problems. The food system is notorious for its major issues such as resource over-extraction, eutrophication, underpayment and power abuse. With his recently founded organization Gros, Industrial Ecology student Simon Schilt seeks to find an answer to these worrisome developments. Lowik PietersRead More
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it becomes harder to do some Corona Proof activities outside. Therefore, we came up with some interesting indoor activities to get you through the coming winter. So put on your oversized sweater, get a steaming mug of tea and sit near the fireplace (read radiator) for some fresh ideas that do not include more Netflix time.
If you want to reduce your screen time, it is always an idea to get your creative side in the open. Ofcourse, you can draw or write things, but have you ever considered knitting a scarf or crocheting a stuffed animal (also works great as a Christmas present!).
You can start with knitting and crocheting quite easy: all you need is wool (around 1 euro a piece at Wibra/Action), a crochet hook (not even an euro) and knitting needles (you can all buy them at the Action/Wibra).
Next, you will need some starting patterns. Since I can recommend you to start in your own language (translating different types of stitches can be quite confusing), you might have to Google some yourself. But it is a rewarding task: you can have hours of fun for a few euros, it’s relaxing after a day of hard work and: you can make something nice out of it!
If you don’t know what you should make: you can also try to crochet or knit with waste plastics. This is how I made this bag. You first make plarn (plastic yarn), and then knit/crochet your pattern.
Talking about Christmas, since we are kind of skipping a lot of important parties, bring Christmas inside your house! We did some research for you, and watched a lot of Hallmark movies to get inspired. You can create a lot of your own ornaments.
Create an ornament from old christmas cards, or make a garland from waste paper. You can also make garlands from popcorn! A lot of creative ideas can be found on Pinterest.
Next to decorating, the Christmas spirit is important. Spread some joy by creating the most amazing (Christmas) cards or letters. Send a heartfelt letter to your grandma which you couldn’t visit, your fellow students or to a random person who could use some love. Spread some joy with your words!
Food and drinks
Not in a creative mood? Or you prefer creating food and drinks? Amaze yourself, and learn some new ways of cooking. Try to create vegetarian or vegan food, or create something from scratch from an entire different cuisine than you’re used to. Make your tastebuds familiar with new flavors by creating our new recipe we shared in the newsletter.
You can make your own Gluhwein with a bottle of red wine, an orange, 2 pieces of cinamon, 4 kruidnagels, 2 steranijs, 3 spoons of honey and 100 ml of cognac/brandy. In which you put everything together in a pan, and let it simmer for 15 minutes (Don’t let it cook!), get the rest out of the pan and serve your drink 😊.
Another idea for a rainy afternoon is to fill your day by baking some nice Christmas cookies or cupcakes! Believe me, you can fill a whole evening with decorating them (and eating them).
With all these kinds of nice foods and drinks you can also surprise your roommates with an evening of winter wonderland (or other theme night) with homemade Gluhwein and cookies, in which you can create your own Lichtjesavond!
Now you might have some spare time, you can invest it in going zero waste! As we have a lot of single use products, you can reuse this by using sustainable products. You might even want to create a bag which you can bring when the festival season starts again.
As you may notice, now we are home all day: we use a lot of single use plastics, even when we’re at home. Therefore you can make a lot of reusable products: did you know you can get a lot of fresh food in a reusable bag? Think of all the reduced plastics by buying at the local market, or at the baker.
Or go through your bathroom cabinet: did you know you can make a lot of household products yourself?
One of my favorite hobbies I picked up during the lockdown again is reading. When I was little I used to have a book with me all the time, and I have read my way through my local library. I rediscovered that it’s still the best way to escape our reality for a while. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive! Go to your local secondhand store, like Rataplan, where you can buy them for an euro per piece.
Another thing is the bookshare libraries, which you can see in the streets. In Delft there are a lot of these, where you can borrow a book, or leave a book.
Or, exchange books with your friends. You can even start your own book club.
Also, did you know the University of Leiden also has some reading books? Just search their library page for a specific book. No inspiration for a book? Check out Goodreads.
More ideas? Let us know! Send us a message and maybe your idea will be in the next newsletter!
When sitting at home in these windy, rainy autumn days you might be in need of some serious comfort food. With this easy recipe you can make a delicious vegan curry with the vegetable of the season: the pumpkin. Not only nice to carve out or put in your pumpkin spiced oatmeal latte, but also just for eating. I like to peel the skin off, but you can also leave it on for some more bite. Serve with naan, rice, (vegan) yoghurt, freshly chopped cilantro and lime slices!
2 tbsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. dried chili flakes
2 medium sized onions (chopped)
1 inch of fresh ginger (grated)
2 gloves of garlic (grated)
4 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. Sereh (lemon grass powder)
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. of salt
1 kg of pumpkin (peeled, in pieces)
1 lime (half for juice, the other for garnishing)
50 ml vegetable stock
400 ml coconut milk
Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds and chili flakes. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, stir in the chopped onion. Fry the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and fry briefly.
Stir the curry powder, sereh powder, and cumin into the onions and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the pumpkin.
Pour in the chopped tomatoes and coconut milk and stir well before adding the stock. Season with a teaspoon of salt and the dried mint. Bring to the boil and cook the pumpkin without a lid for about 25 minutes (until you like it the texture of the pumpkin).
Season the curry with the lime juice and garnish with the finely chopped cilantro.
Book review by Lowik Pieters:
Prosperity without growth by Tim Jackson
It seems like the world is changing rapidly, but one thing has been stable for centuries: our need for (economic) growth. To date, the EU and the UN stick to the mantra of ‘green growth’, arguing that over time, our economic system will function separately from its resource demands. Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, UK, immediately exposes that ‘decoupling’ material and energy input from economic growth is a myth. In his book Prosperity Without Growth, Jackson doesn’t preach a post-material phantasy, he offers serious solutions to a flaw in the fabric of our economies.
Prosperity Without Growth: Foundations For The Economy Of Tomorrow was first published in 2010 and immediately gained attention among scholars and economy students: why was ‘post-growth’ economic thinking not part of their curriculum? When it’s second edition was published in 2017, the book was no longer regarded a radical narrative. Instead, it offered a clear vision for a post financial crisis world, with proposals for changes in the financial sector.
Tim Jackson inspired Kate Raworth to write her bestseller Doughnut Economics and his book is seen as a ‘landmark in the sustainability debate’. The Guardian called it a manifesto for an emerging movement that is trying to convince economists that there’s more than GDP growth. In fact, GDP growth is eventually limiting prosperity because of its unequal distribution. Today, many countries acknowledge that GDP isn’t a good indicator for prosperity measurements, but they seem to fear to take action on how to deal with prosperity issues differently.
The dilemma of growth
Tim Jackson’s ‘dilemma of growth’ resulted in his book Prosperity Without Growth and several scholarly publications. According to Jackson, prosperity means flourishing, a steady state that strives for wellbeing for everyone. This isn’t a very new way of thinking, though. Already in 1973 the book Small Is Beautiful was published by economist Fritz Schumacher, who urged economies to transition to regional systems, focusing on social and ecological principles. It reads like a hands-on economy focused sequel to Limits to Growth.
In what way is this book different from Doughnut Economics and earlier publications that address the dilemma of growth? Jacksons work offers a solid theoretical background, but also includes concrete solutions to problems of capitalism (such as employee ownership, revitalization of social investment, changing investments in general). Would these solutions be the perfect answer to neoliberalism?
By Ankita Singhvi.
A quarter of the world’s population lives within 100km of a shoreline, with urbanisation on the rise. Coastal space is scarce and valuable, but it is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to climate change. The main hazards that the coast needs to be protected against are erosion (the loss or displacement of land, or the consistent removal of rocks and sediment along a shoreline due to waves, currents, tides or storms) and flooding (when sea height exceeds the elevation of land and covers it, caused by high tides or storms). In order to protect the coast, various interventions are taken on the shoreline: e.g. dikes, dunes, seawalls, beach nourishment. In particular, multifunctional coastal protection has increasingly been receiving attention due to its promise of enhancing adaptation to the threats of climate change, as well as relieving the pressures of increasing urbanisation. Multifunctionality refers to the multiple benefits that an intervention can provide beyond risk reduction. The concept emphasizes the explicit interweaving of ecological, social, and economic functions. What does this look like in practise? Here, I will describe two cases in the Netherlands – one ‘nature-based intervention’ and one ‘grey’ intervention.
Sand Motor, Monster
The coast of Monster has a large, man-made hook-shaped peninsula (see image above) – one of the few interruptions to the otherwise uniform shoreline of the Netherlands. This peninsula is a beach nourishment project called the Sand Motor (also referred to as Sand Engine and Zand Motor). It was constructed by placing 21.5 million m3 of sand on the beach with the aim of reducing the speed of coastal erosion and protecting upland infrastructure from storm surges or high tides. Typical nourishment projects are a repetitive process; a coastline is artificially replenished every five years. In contrast, five times the volume of the average sand nourishment was used at the Sand Motor with the expectation that replenishment would become unnecessary along the Delfland Coast for the next twenty years.
The Sand Motor’s design uses an ecosystem-based conceptualisation of multifunctionality and emphasizes ‘building with nature’ in its design philosophy. In other words, the multiple benefits that the coast provides in addition to protection are dependent on the newly created sandy ecosystem. The hook-shape of the peninsula is crucial for the creation of a shallow lagoon, which supports kitesurfing, recreational swimming, fish habitats and soil organisms. The sediment size and grading of the sand, as well as the presence of shells allows dune formation, which supports an underground fresh water lens and above-ground vegetation and habitats for wildlife. The width of the beach supports recreation, and the entire system is a pilot project that benefits research and education.
Scheveningen Boulevard, The Hague
Scheveningen’s boulevard has a 2km long dike integrated into it for the purpose of flood defence. The boulevard has an undulating course that follows the historical coastline. On the sea side of the boulevard, the beach has been widened to reduce the impact of waves on the flood defence structure during extremely high water. This allows a lower crest height for the dike to suffice. Furthermore, sand supplementation has made the beach ~50 metres wider with the aim of creating a smooth transition from the boulevard to the beach. The core principles that guided the design of the boulevard are: accessibility, vitality, spatial quality and strengthening the identity of Scheveningen.
The boulevard takes a spatial planning conceptualisation of multifunctionality: it uses the dike-in-boulevard to increase the capacity of the shoreline to provide services such as parking spots, hotels, residential buildings and commercial zones – which are all built on top of the dike. The premise of this multifunctional dike is that it is more cost-effective than a conventional dike because it optimises land use by providing multiple real-estate development opportunities. In addition to coastal protection, the dike serves the town with a mixed-use program that should be interesting for both tourist and business visitors, and secure a year-round programme to attract more long-stay visitors. Scheveningen is the most popular seaside resort of the Netherlands, and the dike aims to support this function rather than subtract from it.
To summarise, both coastal protection interventions showcase multifunctionality in different ways: in the Sand Motor, it stems from the ecosystem, and at Scheveningen it stems from the urban system. In the context of increasing scarcity of space in urban areas, it no longer makes sense to build mono-functional infrastructure. The cases show how multiple functions can increase the adaptivity of an intervention to an uncertain future by making it useful even when there are no immediete flood or erosion hazards. Multiple functions help in building public and political support for large investments, and they support the creation of multiple lines of defence – leading to safer, higher quality spatial planning for our cities.
By Lowik Pieters & Quirien Reijtenbagh.
It is often assumed that profit is to capitalism as sand is to a beach. The constant growth of resource extractions, essential in a for-profit economy, is aggravating ecological and social crises. Currently, many organizations are adopting a not-for-profit structure. How can these structures contribute to an economy that includes environmental and social justice? Hinton & Maclurcan (2018) developed a Not-for-Profit (abbreviated as NFP) World economic model. In this article, we will investigate the potential for a ‘real-world application’ and the possibilities for starting an NFP business after graduating from Industrial Ecology.
What is the NFP business model?
Let’s start with a clear definition: a non-profit organization is legally excluded from making profits, whereas a not-for-profit business model should be understood as a not-only-for-profit business. For such organizations, profit is no longer the key focus. Practically, we use not-for-profit as an equivalent for non-profit in this article, since we think the long term strategies of both business models are the same. We do not favor hybrid structures, which we will explain later on.
Organizations that have adopted an NFP model are seen as mission-driven enterprises, usually with a changed nature of incentives and ownership structure (Hinton & Maclurcan, 2018). The successes of these companies are based on their impact in the community, rather than the profits they generate. NFPs don’t have private owners and financial surpluses should serve social and environmental benefits (Hinton, 2020).
The NFP business model isn’t new. Lately there has been renewed interest in old business models such as consumer cooperatives (Utting et al., 2014). Nowadays, consumer cooperatives often supply food or renewable energy. We think that the NFP business model has been on the rise because of a certain level of distrust in governments and new forms of financing, such as crowdfunding or community bonds.
Hybrid business models?
The profit/non-profit dichotomy is secured in most industrialized countries in regulations with a clear distinction between the for-profit and the non-profit legal status (e.g. foundations, associations are not allowed to make profits). This separation resembles the classic capitalist distinction between market and state. However, in practice, many companies already have diverging operations that make the profit/non-profit distinction questionable (Schmid, 2018). Scholars demand a hybrid structure (Alberti & Varon Garrido, 2017), but we specifically propose a revival of the not-for-profit with an obligation to clearly define objectives and values.
We chose this option because we think that the dynamics of a not-for-profit organization are key to breaking with the capitalist growth mantra. A hybrid structure is diffusing. Social housing corporations represent a pertinent example. Many Dutch housing corporations prefer building profitable houses where returns are high, rather than serving their original objectives: essentially, these organizations should provide affordable household and community services.
The critical role of profit for sustainability
An unfortunate consequence of the for-profit structure is that it is built on the foundations of ‘limitless growth economy’. This system encourages depletion of natural resources, consumerism and social inequality (Hinton, 2020). A typical example of a for-profit structure is the shareholder model with profit maximization. Profits are usually the only incentive for shareholders to invest. Diametrically opposed to this, when the legal structures are well defined, a not-for-profit should only pursue social and environmental benefits. Any generated profits should be reinvested to ensure the continuation of the NFP’s socio-environmental strategy.
Moreover, the diversity of goals of not-for-profit organizations supports heterogeneous economic structures, which helps us to move away from the narrow-minded perspective that economics only includes for-profit enterprises (Schmid, 2018). Contrary to for-profits, NFP structures, such as cooperatives, are surprisingly resilient when coping with (financial) crises (Toia, 2013). The societal benefits of NFPs can be derived from the fact that NFP earnings are maximized for mutual or collective benefit rather than for individual investors (Utting et al., 2014).
Pros for non-profit startups
At the micro level of a company itself, the advantages of the NFP business model are as follows.
Is it always promoting sustainability?
Even though Hinton & Maclurcan (2018) argue that the NFP business model encourages sustainable decision-making by a changed ownership and incentive structure, NFPs are not obliged to have social and environmental aspects as part of their strategy. This is an important limitation that is lacking in legal requirements (Schmid, 2018). Also, the blurry legal structure allows for cheating. Limited supervision by authorities can promote abuse of the regulations such as misreporting on annual accounts (happens at ANBI foundations (In Dutch)).
A Business Model for Sustainability
Schaltegger, Lüdeke-Freund, and Hansen propose a ‘Business Model for Sustainability’, that “helps describing, analyzing, managing, and communicating (i) a company’s sustainable value proposition to its customers, and all other stakeholders, (ii) how it creates and delivers this value, (iii) and how it captures economic value while maintaining or regenerating natural, social, and economic capital beyond its organizational boundaries” (Schaltegger,Lüdeke-Freund, and Hansen, 2016: 6). We agree with the three points of this definition, but would like to emphasize the need of supportive and transparent governments.
The role of the government
Due to their structured course of action and their enormous outreach, we see governments as perfect facilitators of bottom-up initiatives like cooperatives. However, they should not become initiators that try to function as a business. If citizens come up with initiatives, governments should find ways to support them, but not appropriate their ideas. Nonetheless, we encourage governments to arrange appropriate supervision to avoid cheating with the mutually agreed rules. An important condition of this collaboration is that a government should have the trust of its citizens. But a trustworthy government is unfortunately not a matter of course.
We stress that the NFP business model should not function as a substitute for failing government policies. This is how many NFPs started in the 19th century in The Netherlands. In this era, the night-watchman state model demanded self-sustainability of all citizens. Non profit organizations, such as housing corporations, were established to provide services for those who couldn’t afford it.
How to substitute for missed profit taxes
What if many businesses would really adopt an NFP business model? You might think that this article is just a range of utopian ideas. We couldn’t resist already thinking about practicalities that could help you to put these ideas in a realistic perspective. Considering this proposal from a government perspective, we might imagine that policy makers will wonder: What should governments do to replace the missed profit taxes? Let’s look at our current regulations: carbon taxing of current for-profit businesses has not worked so far and nations struggle to implement laws that include external costs of pollution, environmental damage and social inequality. NFPs are likely to be less harmful. For instance, they could be the big equalizers when adopting nature and environmental inclusive values and employing workers that have a distance from the labor market. This will prevent governments from making costs to fix these negative externalities. Even though NFP business models might lead to less tax revenues, we expect that government expenditures could likewise be reduced.
Cons for non-profit startups
In practice, many businesses start with a not-for-profit structure but eventually move to a for-profit model when they grow bigger. This usually has to do with the fact that NFPs have to publish a detailed report of their annual results to the general public. Public scrutiny makes companies more transparent, but also more vulnerable to competitors and prone to social pressure. Since many NFPs strongly depend on a sense of morality, their activities can face opposition. This is why we think that the legal statuses of NFPs should be protected by the government and so should be the level playing field of NFPs. We encourage policymakers to think about instruments for this.
An organization that advocates a separate legal status for NFPs as well is Social Enterprise NL (for info on legal status see here). This association aims to connect members that are businesses acting as a ‘social enterprise’ (read the criteria developed by EU here) by supporting them, inspiring them and facilitating an optimal business environment. An important step of the last goal is legal recognition.
In short, our proposal includes both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. For governments we underline that they should protect not-for-profits legally, they should demand goals related to sustainability and equality and check regularly if these strategies are complied with. For businesses that want to adopt NFP, we deem it important that they include social and environmental values in their statutes. The same holds for non-distribution clauses and asset locks. By including these values, they do not only serve as objectives, but as a pledge for a long term strategy.
Must reads if you are thinking about starting a not-for-profit business:
Alberti, F. G., & Varon Garrido, M. A. (2017). Can profit and sustainability goals co-exist? New business models for hybrid firms. Journal of Business Strategy, 38(1), 3–13. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-12-2015-0124
Hinton, J., & Maclurcan, D. (2017). A not-for-profit world beyond capitalism and economic growth? Ephemera, 17(1), 147–166.
Hinton, J. B. (2020). Fit for purpose? Clarifying the critical role of profit for sustainability. Journal of Political Ecology, 27(1), 236–262. https://doi.org/10.2458/v27i1.23502
Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E. G., & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2016). Business Models for Sustainability: Origins, Present Research, and Future Avenues. Organization & Environment, 29(1), 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026615599806
Schmid, B. (2018). Structured Diversity: A Practice Theory Approach to Post-Growth Organisations. Management Revue, 29(3), 281–310. https://doi.org/10.5771/0935-9915-2018-3-281
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