‘The Mesh’ is a term conceived by Lisa Gansky, describing ‘a type of network that allows any node to link in any direction with any other nodes in the system.’ This creates an interconnected market system, where businesses are tied together in many different ways. These connections can be formed by an agreement between companies, aiming to identify a market and make similar offers, or via third parties in the form of aggregated consumer data or customers’ social networks.
What makes Mesh businesses different is that their values are based on the idea of sharing their products, services, and raw materials, within a community, market, or value chain. They achieve this by using web and mobile data networks to track goods and their usage, customer and product information.
Furthermore, they aim to provide local delivery of their products and services –and their recovery- in a convenient fashion.
Finally, since their offers, news and recommendations are transmitted through social media, they avoid spending large sums of money for their promotion.
Why are Mesh businesses more sustainable?
What makes these businesses more sustainable is that they have deconstructed the old doctrine of ‘buying and selling’. Their philosophy turns products into services, focuses on accessibility rather than ownership, getting the most out of resources, and improving efficiencies.
What is more, there is a fundamental shift in the relationship with ‘stuff’. Employing a systems approach to managing their products, companies look beyond them, to the larger system, by investigating:
Ultimately, such practices affect product design, urging companies to select different materials, and making their products more durable, flexible, reparable, and sustainable.
Examples of existing Mesh businesses
Zipcar: Zipcar is a prototypical Mesh business. They do not aim to sell or repair cars; instead they share them. As a result, they maximize the use of a pricey asset that sits idle most of the day
Sourcemap: This is a website that helps consumers find and share stories about products, where they came from and what they are made of
YouNoodle: An interesting network based website, where entrepreneurs can provide information so as to get connected with like minded individuals around the world. It is also a great place for users to discover and support early-stage companies
Zopa: A company that helps people lend and borrow money with each other, sidestepping banks
So what are we to learn from Mesh businesses?
In a previous post I discussed how social media could help reshape the world, creating a more sustainable future. Mesh businesses embody this concept, providing countless examples of the advantages companies would gain by becoming part of this act. The makes ‘The Mesh’ even more amazing. It offers benefits not just to the economy; it contributes to the well being of society, creating sustainable solutions for the planet.
To learn more about ‘The Mesh’, check out the acclaimed book, The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing by Lisa Gasky.
Charles El-Zeind is passionate about communicating environmental issues such as climate change and sustainability. Charles is currently involved in a grassroots community project with the Fiveways and Hollingdean Transition Network and writes regularly for the Sustainable Business Toolkit. He holds a bachelor degree from the University of Brighton in Environment and Media Studies.