A few months ago, when I was hanging out with a bunch of fine folk at Ipswich innovation hub Firestation 101, I declared to the room that I was a sustainability hacker. Although no-one had a clue what I was talking about, it was a very significant moment for me.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately of ‘growth hacking’ and ‘growth hackers’. I suppose I could be considered a growth hacker, but as there are significant limits to growth, the term has never really sat well with me.
The phrase “growth hacker” was apparently coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean has said ‘A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.’
Growth is not – and never will be – my true north. As someone who is a proponent of ‘zero growth economics’ or a ‘steady state economy’ who holds Donella Meadows up as my number one inspiration, I am never going to be able to call myself a growth hacker.
So what then, do I call myself? What do we – marketers, engineers, product managers and social entrepreneurs who possess these talents – call what we do?
I know of only one other who currently identifies as a sustainability hacker and that’s Roy Nordblom III.
There needs to be more of us. We need to start coming out from behind the screen and calling ourselves sustainability hackers. Together, we need to start creating new definitions on what sustainability hacking is. We need to start making sustainability exciting, innovative and damn cool or else unfettered growth will win out.
The good news is I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and nut out what sustainability hacking really means. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my start of a definition below. Cheers big ears’!
What is a sustainability hacker?
A sustainability hacker is someone who applies a hacker approach to sustainability – using excitement, innovation, creativity, data analysis and technology to make the world a better place. A sustainability hacker is a person whose truest passion is sustainability.
Every marketing, distribution and product development decision a sustainability hacker makes is informed by sustainability.
Sustainability hackers are people – marketers, engineers, product managers, social entrepreneurs – whose specific focus is on creating an enterprise that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable.
Sustainability hackers use some of the same techniques as growth hackers, but their focus is not on growth for growth’s sake.
In fact, they will often sacrifice rapid growth to avoid an enterprise making a detrimental social, cultural or environmental impact.