𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐈 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞?
It's not just for farming and it can be used to improve your business or help you create a sustainable plan.
𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐭'𝐬 𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐃𝐄𝐒𝐈𝐆𝐍 𝐓𝐎𝐎𝐋.
The permaculture design principles can be applied to the design of your small business or international corporation.
Here are some examples of applied Permaculture Principles. The principles used here are those taught by 𝐵𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑀𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐷𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑑 𝐻𝑜𝑙𝑚𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑛.
Here are 12 Permaculture Design Principles you can use to improve your Business :
𝟏. 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐄𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬
An element is a component of your system or business. Your list of elements may include intellectual property, office, marketing, natural capital (such as land or materials), packaging, manufacturing equipment, products, information, transportation, SOP's, training programs, time for delivery (especially for services), customer feedback processes and email list.
These elements are then analyzed to determine their needs and all their potential functions, not just the functions we seek. We then use the principle of the relative location to link them together to optimize efficiency.
𝟐. 𝐔𝐬𝐞 𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧
Connect elements by their function and needs. Elements can be linked to an energy chain or network. Here’s how it could work in a simple system like an orchard:
An Orchard needs protection from fire, a good water supply. It also needs to be weeded and rotten fruit needs to be removed.
The processing shed can capture rainwater which can be used by the fruit processing system then fed to the geese, then it could go to the orchard if we locate the shed uphill from the orchard and use gravity as part of the water management. Geese can weed, mow the fire break, eat rotting fruit and provide droppings as a natural fertilizer.
Through the principle of Relative Location, we link the shed, the orchard and the geese (a biological resource). Some elements are linked more closely ie. Workers need education and procedures. Procedures need feedback from workers.
- Position elements of business so that there is minimal transport between them.
- Use natural forces where possible to work for you. ( the information can be transferred by email, and work is done remotely so employees don’t have to travel unnecessarily.
- Use local inputs. Physical elements such as manure can be collected, filtered and processed nearby, are easily relocated and you can determine manageable sizes (in the same way bee-farmers move their hives).
- Sunlight can warm the wall of a processing unit – be aware and determine if this is helpful or increasing your refrigeration costs.
- Solar power can be used to run computer monitor systems.
- Your office can be mobile and paperless. In this modern era with the assistance of technology, we can bring information to the customer in a variety of ways.
- Waste can be valued. It can be integrated into the system, process and sold.
𝟑. 𝐄𝐧𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐌𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐅𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬
Each element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions.
- Marketing is performed in a variety of ways, through different media, and to different types of customers.
Services and Products are modular and durable.
- Customers can tailor their purchase or use by purchasing the components they want, expand or reduce interconnecting parts and purchase as and when they want it.
- Transport can be shared with other suppliers, businesses or projects.
- Tools and equipment can be shared with other businesses. Sharing includes contracting others for their services or renting equipment.
- Equipment and physical resources will be recycled or reused as much as possible.
𝑀𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑖𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑒𝑎𝑐ℎ 𝑓𝑢𝑛𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛
The variety of skills can satisfy other functions either for other elements or for other like-minded businesses (for example your efforts to promote sustainability will help other similar organizations). Therefore, you can band together and form a co-op or just a friendly relationship with other businesses.
A business function is satisfied with more than one element: eg. Other businesses refer customers to yours because your marketing has been general as well as specific and has helped build a general interest in sustainability.
- If you run a food service business, Use a range of inputs ie. herbs or fruit, especially seasonal and local ones, to create the products whilst maintaining the quality expected by your customers.
- If you Rely on more than one source for your supplies. Ie. water, produce or power collection needs various methods to create resilience during dry periods. If your business requires the use of water constantly it would be best to install Rainwater tanks.
- If you are a distributor or manufacturer of goods, you should use a wide range of suppliers or types of inputs to build resilience when a supplier is suddenly unable to meet your needs.
- If your company houses expensive equipment or stores valuable products, use a combination of security measures such as technology, trained security staff, dogs, friends with neighbors, fencing, hedges, and intelligent design to protect your investments.
- If you have warehouses or large storage facilities, Use a variety of pest deterrents such as animals (cats or ratting dogs) indoors in warehouses to deter rats, ultra-sonic beams to scare away rodents, as well as rodent-proof construction of shed walls, floors, and doors. Unfortunately, a lot of sustainable practices and techniques have been abandoned and forgotten in the Plastics era.
- If your business is health or service-oriented, Use a combination of hazard prevention measures such as building a culture of care, clear signals, clean workplace, good relations with workers.
- If your facility has sensitive documents or assets to protect, Use different means of creating barriers to entry like privacy walls or security fences. You can plant living fences or hedges to create a durable, long-term security system. Hedges can last hundreds of years. You can plant living walls and be confident that it will only require low-tech for good maintenance.
- If your business relies on constant electric to run mechanical equipment like water pumps, You can be solar-powered with a back-up facility such as a windmill, or ethanol-powered generator.
𝟒. 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬-𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐘𝐢𝐞𝐥𝐝
If you give each element several functions you accept that not all the functions can be performed all the time.
The workers can choose to from a variety of tasks unless there is a strict time frame, then there should be a rotation system so they don’t get bored or injuries from repetitive work like typing or sitting for too long at a desk.
- Listen to ideas of workers, suppliers, and customers to improve the system.
- Production may be lower than in forced conditions but the sum of all the functions is greater (ideas, harvest collected, respect and observation of trees).
A reduction of stress on each element in the business, if they are all working for the good of the business, will result in the sum of efforts will be greater. Every worker and component will run efficiently and have greater productivity.
𝑆𝑒𝑡 𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑏𝑢𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑙𝑢𝑠
Safety is a very important consideration, without safety in the workplace; the cost can outweigh all profits over the years of the business.
Early in the implementation of permaculture design, you should aim for a stress-free yield because you are doing something new and will be vulnerable to stress.
- You don't need to borrow money for business because this will enforce a level of profitability that will be stressful. Sell pre-orders first to validate the market and get feedback from real customers!
- You don't need to seek government funding because the project will have to meet government expectations rather than real customer needs. Crowdfund first to engage investors and get support from a community!
𝑆𝑚𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑆𝑙𝑜𝑤 𝑆𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠
A small business can be a pilot for a larger company or you may discover that you are happy staying small.
Some services and products can be expanded or contracted according to market demand.
𝑂𝑏𝑡𝑎𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑌𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑
Ensure that your short-term efforts have some immediate rewards but keep some profit for long-term goals ie improved software and documentation methods)
refine work procedures ( performance reviews and staff management)
Re-evaluate your measures of success and raise your standard for redistributing resources. Sharing surpluses once the business is functioning well by providing scholarships, support or donations to others in need.
𝟓. 𝐄𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 𝐄𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲
Use existing physical, social and biological capital to maximum energy potential: share resources such as cars, support local transport, build structures that can work to shelter the garden as well as store heat for night-time, require minimal energy in maintenance, and are durable.
Avoid abandoning ideas, technology, machinery or computers that are not competitive without first examining ways to update/expand and increase their efficiency. Many users do not use their equipment to full potential, they are still learning the potential of the current one while considering a new model.
Some offices can be made more efficient by natural resources such as natural lighting, solar or sun-heating, coupling the room with a greenhouse window or room.
Remember that customers will expect your office to be a working model of sustainability. Ideally, it should not look expensive but should be simple, comfortable, accessible, well-lit, full of natural fibers and a view of a garden.
𝟔. 𝐁𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐬
Maximize the use of biological and physical materials.
Consider the full life of the product.
Search for biodegradable alternatives that can be used as mulch or compost at the end of their first use.
A wide-spreading tree is a more efficient use of resources for a shade house than one made of wood and nails.
In the promenade at Notre Dame Paris, the trees form a durable, seasonally adjusting, air filtering shade.
In the narrow streets of El Bosque in Spain, citrus trees are the posts to guide to cars, their trunks are painted white and flowers grow at the base.
Consider only biodegradable packaging and insulation such as popped-corn for fragile packages instead of plastic pieces.
𝟕. 𝐄𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 𝐅𝐥𝐨𝐰
Design to harvest the full potential of resources and laborers by creating natural energy flows. Labor can be guided to work in a friction-free way. Layouts of workspaces and processes can be improved by designing for better workflow.
Gravity can aid or harm any business, by placing loading materials and objects that need to be relocated frequently nearer to entry points, you alleviate the need for additional labor to move heavy objects far distances.
- You can position collection points, processing equipment and export bays with a road out at the bottom of the hill. This can help minimize the need for imported energy inputs.
- You can reduce the costs of storage of products or equipment by keeping the product fresh and utilizing the just-in-time processing concept. We can keep the order process prompt and maintain closer contact with our customers.
𝐿𝑒𝑡 𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒 𝑑𝑜 ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘
In a technology-based Business, you can use natural energy as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell a customer that nature can offer a similar service. Consider the Osteopath that recognized that the customer needed to walk to help heal their back. The customer who takes this simple advice may no longer be a regular customer but will refer to others.
In a labor-based business, you can set up systems where the laborers manage and monitor themselves.
In an agriculture-based business, you can create ideal conditions that support natural breeding rather than engage in expensive artificial breeding systems.
-Garden can be constructed in the shade of fruit-bearing trees to devise protective shelters.
-Nuts may be able to harvest more easily during particular climatic conditions.
-Allow crops to self-seed or allow crop residues to create compost for the next crop.
𝟖. 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧
Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs.
For commercial crops investigate systems similar to Fukuoka. Eg: You could allow the grasses to become seeded with herbs and flat ‘weeds’, grow tall grasses and pioneer species that act as green manure (Oats, Wheat, Sorghum) to protect young climax species (eg. fruit trees) from frost and insect attack.
A social example would be to glean the wisdom of our elders (canopy and support species)
- Be active in social or professional guilds (companions and guild people) and seek a niche for our talents (a place in a complex society)
- Allow time to explore growth opportunities as they appear (as in the forest when the canopy opens and new light appears).
𝟗. 𝐕𝐚𝐥𝐮𝐞 𝐁𝐢𝐨-𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲
A farm should aim to include a variety of species of food plants, pollinators, animals and workers. This principle works in Business when we value a diverse range of supplies, techniques, and technologies.
Diversity in nature builds resilience and resistance to pest attack. It also lets us find which variety works well in our own particular climate and micro-climates.
There are some government subsidies, customer value (including organic and Forestry certification systems) and other Integrated Pest Management rewards for farmers who strive to preserve. These are tangible economic rewards for the active efforts of businesses to preserve and promote diversity in natural systems.
Diversity creates opportunities for initiatives and inventions.
Explore a range of biological solutions to complement and eventually replace the conventional.
This concept aims to maximize the productivity of a system. In the same way, a food forest can have numerous layers. A business can have many layers and zones:
- Family and friends provide support and promotion in personal circles
- Associations, educational bodies and accreditation bodies provide support and quality maintenance
- Like-minded businesses provide branches of promotion
- Customer Relationships – we can use diverse channels for promotion and feedback. Observe and accept feedback as a chance to connect better with your customers.
𝟏𝟏. 𝐀𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐓𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐧𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲
Optimize the use of technology by making it serve more than one need.
- Favor simple and effective technologies. Consider delivery and running costs, it is efficient, prompt and reliable. Here is a comparison chart to help choose the best-fit with efficient technologies.
- Favor natural fibers and avoid destructive materials such as plastics or inefficient fuel-dependent delivery.
Information and Observation replaces Energy
- Favor Smaller, more intensive, localized systems that can be more productive and adaptable. They can take advantage of reduced costs/waste involved in transporting a product to the consumer.
Specialized products and services developed by information and observation. The natural succession or staging plan can conclude with the sharing of the business experience or intellectual property with franchisees, senior employees, students or prospective business purchasers.
Ensure your business is well equipped with tax and legal information, for example, if you are not aware of the tax costs upon the sale of the land or business, then the overall profit figures may be greatly altered. If you have to pay more tax in capital gains than you have earned as a business based on the family land, then the net result is not worth the effort. On the other hand, there may be a wide range of tax advantages. Information is critical in business.
Aim for optimum production with minimum intervention. This is how new farming techniques such as SRI have evolved.
Work with the natural and social context. Fit the design into its surroundings. Look at the wider social environment as a key to what will work. Creating a large park where there is a huge ‘lawn’ area that is designed to withstand wet conditions and high pedestrian traffic. It works with nature and provides for the needs of the people. Another example can be seen when planting expensive crops in poor regions.
These require more human intervention (in the form of security). Whereas a design that considers the social environment involves the community; provides work, and shares the profits with that community. It also benefits from pride, protection, and support from that community.
The Web of Small Business:
From the initial source (sun, rain, wind, and animals) energy is diverted, used, released again and transferred from one element to another. Energy connects the elements. Their common use of energy forms the web of relationships.
From the source to the sink (the place where the energy leaves the system):
𝐸𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑠
Organizational complexity increases (but there are many new management tools to help to enable better self- determination and teamwork between workers.)
A business can be truly sustainable and ethical when it is resilient, responsive and responsible. This is a hard conversion in the short-term, especially when competitors are cutting costs by using unethical pay and polluting the environment. However, being ethical and environmentally responsible facilitates long term market harmony and prosperity.
- Use the principle of the relative location to link resources together by proximity to optimize efficiency.
- Use relative location to connect elements by their function and needs. Elements can be linked to an energy chain or network.
- Enable multiple functions, each element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions.
- Reduce stress on each element in the business, by encouraging a stress-free yield. Organizing all workers and resources for the good of the business, will result in the sum of efforts will be greater. Every worker and component will run efficiently and have greater productivity.
- Use existing physical, social and biological capital to maximum energy potential: share resources such as cars, support local transport, build structures that can work to shelter the garden as well as store heat for night-time, require minimal energy in maintenance, and are durable.
- Maximize the use of biological and physical materials.
- Design to harvest the full potential of resources and laborers by creating natural energy flows. Labor can be guided to work in a friction-free way. Layouts of workspaces and processes can be improved by designing for better workflow.
- Stacking functions aims to maximize the productivity of a system. In the same way, a food forest can have numerous layers. A business can have many layers and zones.
- Optimize the use of technology by making it serve more than one need.
- Work with the natural and social context. Fit the design into its surroundings. Look at the wider social environment as a key to what will work. Creating a large park where there is a huge ‘lawn’ area that is designed to withstand wet conditions and high pedestrian traffic. It works with nature and provides for the needs of the people. Another example can be seen when planting expensive crops in poor regions.
- Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs.
- Value Bio-Diversity, in nature this builds resilience and resistance to pest attack. It also lets us find which variety works well in our own particular climate and micro-climates.
- Efficient waste recycling and choosing natural energies can reduce costs.
- Environmental responsibility is a means of adding value to a product.
- There are government funds and other avenues of support and some economic incentives for acts of conservation, ethical standards, and sustainability.
- When a business does not behave ethically it eventually faces market disapproval and risks failure through legal processes. 𝐸𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑙 𝑖𝑠 𝑔𝑜𝑜𝑑. Many businesses have had to face huge legal costs of unethical, economic or environmentally damaging acts in recent years.
- The innovative business that works with nature and technology is harmony is complex and may require patience and development of specialist skills and knowledge.
- You can team up with other businesses. Many businesses have been successful in forming partnerships that provide a hub for small, diverse and complementary projects.
So go out and collaborate with other companies. Apply the principles of permaculture to your business and reap the rewards of sustainable growth.
visit www.sagedesignconsult.com for consulting on applying permaculture principles to your business model.