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One might think that a business designer’s focus should exclusively be on customers and business, but I’d suggest that there’s more to it than that. Businesses and customers exist in the context of the larger society and the natural environment, so business designers would be remiss not to take the ecosystem in which their products exist into consideration. 

But there’s a gap between creating value for individuals and creating value for society. Individual consumers aren’t asking for climate change, natural resource depletion, or waste generation. These problems are failures on behalf of businesses and our systems. They’re symptomatic of an inability to serve customers’ real needs and create value in a way which also creates collective value (rather than societal damage).

Designers have a role in the alignment of “doing good” and “doing business” because every global challenge has a human component. Our ability to empathise with ecosystems of stakeholders gives us insights into what’s driving behavior, and how we can get to the essence of what people need. 

Thus, societal and environmental challenges open up opportunities for designers to redefine value and steer businesses accordingly. These struggles give us a chance to design businesses that profitably create a positive impact. I explain how this was applied to the male grooming (think shavers and trimmers) business at Philips in my talk – check it out at 2:46:35 if you’re interested.

An example of a company that does this well is Vigga, a Danish startup offering subscription-based baby clothing. This business model manages to save families money and give them access to higher quality garments, while producing less waste than disposable baby clothing.

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