Meet Michel Scholte, Co-Founder and Director of External Affairs at True Price, driving change by helping organizations uncover and calculate social and environmental costs, in order to improve their decision-making.
What is your vision of a sustainable world?
Sustainability is all about balance. Balance between your own needs as a consumer or company and the needs of others, including future generations. To take balanced decisions, you need relevant information, about your key potential impacts. Companies collect as much information as possible on the financial impacts of their decisions, yet only a (growing) minority of companies look at their impacts in a broader sense to choose the most sustainable option.
What is your model of change towards a more sustainable world?
With technology driving accessibility of information, people will increasingly base their decisions on insights into the impacts of the various options available to them. Sustainable market segments (like organic food) are outpacing the growth of others, driven by consumers and companies looking for products that fit their values. Research has even shown a willingness to pay a price premium for such products. Accurate information is crucial for their decisions. A growing number of online applications, like the GoodGuide and the (Dutch) Questionmark facilitate this.
What drives you? What kind of role do you see for yourself in this change?
Key drivers for me are technology, the power of people and joint action with others from around the world. There are many complex problems in society, but through technology today it is possible to understand these problems better and to turn information into action to drive change. About half of the world’s population is under 30, and it is great to see that change can be started by anyone, not just by those with formal authority. Technology also makes it very easy to connect with like-minded people from around the world – enabling us to make the smaller initiatives add up to a wave, a movement to create a sustainable world.
These drivers provide me with the much-needed energy to contribute to change – sparking the start of the True Price Foundation earlier in 2013. True Price is part of the larger trend towards transparency; leveraging the power of technology to generate the information needed for balanced decision-making. In True Price (and other platforms) my role is really about creating connections, enthusiasm and inspiration for people to join and act.
What kind of leadership is needed for positive change?
Complex problems call for creativity and inspiration; they can’t just be solved by rational thinking. That is why we need leaders who inspire, rather than just manage. Through story-telling, rituals, imagination, a leader is someone you believe in, someone who inspires and connects. Dutch Astronaut Wubbo Ockels recently put this into words: “To be able to live more sustainably we need symbols and rituals in addition to technology and rational arguments”. Inspirational leaders lead to get the desired results with a team, rather than focusing on individual glory and contributions.
What is next for you and the TruePrice Foundation?
True Price is growing. We have developed a unique method, with which we help a company calculate the true price of a product-group, its true profits or the true return of an investment, and develop a strategy how the company can manage and improve its performance. In addition to various assignments, we are also busy making the methodology publicly available and publishing a report together with several large accountancy firms.
In recognition of his efforts, practical mindset and ability to connect, Michel was placed on the Dutch list of most influential young sustainability leaders. For more information on Michel’s work at the True Price Foundation, please visit www.trueprice.org, follow @true_price on Twitter or watch his TEDx talk.