They call themselves fittingly as a ‘profit for good’ company — a mission backed by a non-profit foundation. Ducky.eco, formed in 2014, addresses the climate crises and threat to the environment. The company intends to slowly, surely and steadily, expand its influence-footprint globally — to motivate people to truncate their environmental footprints.
“Ducky is built around reinforcing positives,” quips the Ducky.eco’s International Research Director Nigel Powell, from the UK, in an e-mail interview with this writer. He says that they do not intend to make people guilty of what they have been doing to the environment. Most certainly, if much-needed behavioural changes need to be brought about, and also sustained, in the journey towards a sustainable global society, guilt will be counter-productive.
SUSTAINABILITY: A FUZZY PARADIGM
Sustainability is a fuzzy paradigm, or an ideal, a moving target, an ideology, or form of ‘humanistic’ religion many researchers and administrators are striving towards. Well, ‘many’ is a relative adjective, which may also be interpreted as ‘few’ by those who sense the urgency. As the late Italian Professor Dr Genon Giuseppe wrote in the foreword to ABC of Sustainable Development, by this writer , “This concept of sustainability, traditionally used in the field of environmental evaluation of limits for the exploitation of resources and technological activities in the context of the carrying capacities of the environmental media, must also be considered from the social point of view — on account of the interaction between industrialisation and developments in manufacturing/production on the one hand, and a fair and reasonably-equitable distribution of the ‘produced riches,’ on the other, aside from a human, cultural point-of-view, so that an acceptable level of quality of human life can be achieved.”
As depicted in the illustration [‘The virtuous chain: Thought to word to action’], academic research is futile if the ‘thought’ and ‘word’ do not lead to the desired action. This bridge between thought-word and deed is what Ducky.eco is trying to build and entrench, by understanding the natural and applied sciences first and then comprehending the social sciences to reaching out to the masses, both directly and through local and provincial governments in Norway.
From their bases in Norway and the UK [where Nigel is based], Ducky.eco is onthe verge of becoming more global. A week or so before the time of writing, the Japanese came calling, to finding out how they could use Ducky.eco’s ideas topromote sustainability-thinking in the Land of the Rising Sun. To recall Victor Hugo’s purple metaphor: “There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”’
Ducky.eco started off five years ago slowly, surely and steadily — the brainchild of graduates from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology [NTNU, Trondheim] – Silje Solberg, Johan Eilertsen and Mads Simonsen. The awesome threesome intends to expand its influence-footprint globally, to motivate people to truncate their environmental footprints bring about much-needed change in the world in the years ahead. And, this, mind you, is not just change for the sake of change that one would often associate with the bored rebellious types.
CRUX OF THE MATTER
Each individual impacts the environment adversely; some more than the others. This is indispensable as all of us have to consume resources — materials and energy — to survive. But, there are many among us who do not differentiate among necessities, comforts and luxuries and in the postmodernist world, sadly, and to the detriment of sustainability, luxuries of yore have become necessities of the day.
The customer is king in capitalist economies and consumers hold sway in the global marketplace. As long as buying continues, selling also will. It is a chicken-and-egg story. If some industries wish to be sustainable with respect to optimisation of resource usage [materials and energy], there is always a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ element. Hence, it is wise to ‘start from the other end of the pipe’ — sustainable consumption. As Ducky co-founders Mads Simonsen and Silje Solberg told me many times, during my conversations with them, “Science must reach people out there, if it has to be really effective in bringing about meaningful change.” While quoting from an article published recently in a Norwegian science magazine, Silje believes that the biggest hurdle to change is that politicians, capitalists and industrialists are reluctant to take initiatives lest they lose voters and customers. But, passing the buck, and sitting on the fence, waiting, worrying and blaming is not going to work anymore.
Ducky’s initiatives in reaching out to schools for instance, in Norway, is laudable. Well, a country like Norway, there is much greater ease in establishing collaborative and co-operative endeavours, and municipalities are eager in supporting start-ups like Ducky. Now, would this be possible in the developing world, in a country like India? Here is where, Nigel’s observation is noteworthy, “India clearly offers a huge potential market for the Ducky platform, and if we can find a suitably large and well-established partner over there, we will look at it very seriously…as we are currently doing with Japan. If, for example, we are asked to help out with a government-wide initiative in any developing country, we will, of course, do everything we can to step up to the challenge and deliver an excellent Ducky solution as fast as we can.”
If this piece interests you, dear reader, please visit Ducky.eco, and read about the blossoming start-up… I have used the word ‘blossoming,’ as it is at present just five-years-old. Maybe, you will be able to help Ducky build a host of bridges out there, and also expand, more so, in today’s globalised, yet, at times, insular societies, or cultures.
A CONVERSATION WITH NIGEL POWELL
Nigel Powell, International Relations Director, Ducky.eco, is a columnist, entrepreneur and environmentalist, based in the UK and serves as the start-up’s ‘gateway’ to the world. Excerpts from the interview:
What are the hurdles you expect in adopting the Norwegian models [developed by Ducky] in the developing world?
Our climate platform has been specifically designed to accommodate international use, but obviously there’s a fair amount of variance between different regions/cultures in the world. The challenge will primarily be keyed to select the correct set of cultural icons and triggers to motivate each particular culture to reduce its emissions and improve its sustainability. Ducky is built around reinforcing positives, not making people feel guilty, so we’ll have to be careful with how we ‘translate’ these drivers.
You now have Japanese entities expressing interest in understanding how they can use Ducky to promote sustainability in Japan? The word is spreading and, perhaps, there are other countries coming on board?
International interest is growing by the day. In fact, we’re deferring some enquiries simply because we don’t currently have the bandwidth to deal with all the many languages and cultures at the same time. Of course, we hope to eventually be able to provide the amazing Ducky solution to all parts of the world; but, for now, we’re choosing our partners carefully to ensure we offer them the best platform we can.
Bridging the gap between academic research and behaviour changes out in the world is doubtlessly important for sustainability to be something more than an ill-defined ivory tower idea. Your comments?
It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Behaviour change in academia is very well established and there are large stores of research and expertise which we can — and, do — call upon. The trick is in combining regional or country-level cultural aspects to this research, so it becomes meaningful in action. For example, combining carbon emission data with health issues may work better in one country than another. We have to identify each driver for each culture and ensure they are backed up by solid relevant research data.
Can you sketch out your plans for Ducky in the developing world? Any contacts with India?
Ducky is really in the second stage of start-up, the first being initial product development, which took us four years. For this reason, we are focused right now on the easiest targets nearer to home. For obvious reasons. We have not had any direct contact with India, although we are fairly certain that Professor Espen Stoknes’ TED talk video has been viewed in the country. India clearly offers a huge potential market for the Ducky platform, and if we can find a suitably large and well-established partner over there, we will look at it very seriously — as we are currently doing with Japan. If, for example, we are asked to help out with a government-wide initiative in any developing country, we will, of course, do everything we can to step up to the challenge and deliver an excellent Ducky solution — as fast as we can. After all, the climate clock is ticking.