Governments are anticipating that people will be displaced from factory and service jobs as intelligent systems are increasingly deployed. Smart environmental enterprises could offer a more sustainable approach than solutions such as universal pay, and provide employment.
In a circular economy (see www.nature.com/thecirculareconomy), commercial enterprises that reverse environmental damage, for example, are needed to deliver value in a new guise. This can take the form of a surcharge for certifying improved environmental conditions — for instance, as a result of companies reusing materials from landfill, or cleaning up the environment after manufacturing processes.
As with other start-ups, government support would be essential. Once in motion, these companies could follow their own competitive paths. Such ventures would also encourage sustainability efforts among conventional manufacturers.
We urgently need to apply such business concepts to sustainability. Landfill space is running out and recyclable materials are piling up through a lack of capacity for handling and processing. The proposed enterprises would incorporate design and business-development functions geared to launching products and services based on waste and recyclable materials.
Some business areas and jobs would have to be created because they do not yet exist. For example, we need an effective process for removing microplastics from soil, water and air.
Nature 558, 30 (2018)