If you are a start up company, and you set out to design a radically new car and take it to market – pitched against the established giants of the automotive industry – you need a plan. The business structure underpinning Riversimple is described as disruptive, but what does this really mean?

Peter Lang is one of 6 custodians who advise the operational board at Riversimple. The custodians represent investors, users, environment, staff, commercial partners and communities –as founder Hugo Spowers puts it, “the interests of society in microcosm.” Peter is Riversimple custodian for the environment. He is an experienced environmental consultant, working with charities, NGOs, governments and key influencers such as Jonathan Porritt and Caroline Lucas.

On Purpose

 “The company purpose has always been to eliminate environmental impact. Hugo (Spowers) felt that to produce a sustainable product we first needed to change the governance. That is how the 6 custodians came to be.  My role as custodian for the environment is to make sure that the board and staff work continually towards the primary purpose.”

On Motivation

“We need to be sure that board and staff are motivated to uphold the purpose of eliminating environmental impact.  Lots of companies have an environmental policy, but how far does it reach – does it reach to the shop floor, for example? How much do staff know about it? Is it taken seriously? At Riversimple the staff are all focussed on environment – that goes far and beyond a standard policy.”

On Supply Chain

“We would like all suppliers to share our environmental commitment. Some already do. A quality product may not be branded sustainable but if it lasts longer and performs well then we are interested. If we have a good quality supplier with limited commitment to environment maybe we can leverage better commitment which means we can have a long term supplier relationship.  

On Hydrogen as a Storage Medium

Petrol and diesel are primary fuels – you can dig them out of the ground – but if you think of Hydrogen as a fuel you can make the wrong choices. Hydrogen is a storage medium. It can one day be used to store energy from solar, wind and tidal energy at times when supply outstrips demand. At the moment however, most hydrogen comes from natural gas. Our sale of service model means that we have more choice over where the H2 is purchased, and from what resource.”

Wish List for ramping up the business

“It’s going to be vital for us to maintain a good connection with staff as the business grows.  And I’d like to develop a method for measuring environmental objectives with research teams and data to back up assumptions.”

Nugget of Wisdom

“Environmental decisions are dynamic and multi faceted. We need to know how a decision will impact across Riversimple.

~

There is no other business model like Riversimple. Lang feels that the model could be widely replicable and profitable but, he stresses, it must be a streamlined business structure for decision taking.

Custodians contribute meaningfully to overall business strategy and execution. They take part in regular teleconferences, facilitated by the company steward, Estelle Clark. This includes an update on progress and an opportunity for each custodian to feed in questions and issues. Custodian input is collated and fed back to the board. It has a direct impact on all decision making, paving the way for a business model that is answerable to the bigger picture and can hold its own in the marketplace.

Written for Riversimple, interview with Peter Lang by Rachel Francis at Sharpening Pencils

Published in “Knowledge” – by Chartered Quality Institute

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