Appropriate Technology as an external concept dealing with products and energy systems is easy to understand. Appropriate Technology as an internal principle applied to business approach is more subtle.
Jade Mountain started as an "Access Company"in 1972 . The basic idea of an "Access Company" upends the conventional business approach. Instead of buying what you think people will want andthen trying to convince them that they need it, an "Access Company"asks people what they need first and then helps them find it. With this approach, the business stays more objective. Because it doesn't have aware housefull of goods it has to get rid of, it can more easily make recommendations based on what's best for the customer rather than what's best for inventory control. This also significantly lowers overhead and often allows big discounts.
Not keeping everything in stock also means an ability too ffer more products. We now have over 5000 products listed and a 25-yearcollection of appropriate technology products on file taking up three file cabinets that we're slowly adding in. And stacks of possible new items comein every day. Obviously, much more than could fit into a normal mail order catalog. The Internet now erases this limitation. We can quickly add information on new and obscure products without the high expense of printing and mailing.We can finally take the idea of an "Access Company" to a much more complete level. Look for an abundance of new products online.
On the down side though, this approach frequently translates into longer shipping times. Since we don't have everything "instock", sometimes we have to order and receive the item here first before we cansend it to you. With many of our vendors we "drop-ship", send directly from them to you. This often gets orders out as fast or faster than if we had them here; but, we also try to promote and support small,independent businesses. Many of our suppliers are one and two-person companies,often off-the-grid and using solar, micro-hydro, and wind power. Thesebusinessesdo n't ship as fast as their Fortune 500 counterparts.
Appropriate Technology as a business principle means slowing down and making decisions based on more criteria than just profitability.I recently met someone who owns a liquor store and asked him how he felt about promoting tobacco, something so completely proven addictive and harmful.His justification was a long discourse on how if they didn't make it available,the mafia would take over and the world would have more crime and corruption.He may be right but it made me appreciate Solar Mountain more and theopportunityto work in a field that makes the world better and helps people in fundamentalways.
In evaluating products, besides profitability and highsales volume potential, an AT approach also considers environmental impact,durability, how and by whom the product was manufactured, and many other similar concerns. Some products we carry only sell once every year or two.And consider the business decision to sell light bulbs that last 750 hours(standard incandescents) vs. LED's that last100,000 hours. About 30 years ago, the major lighting manufacturers got together to discuss this question and decided to change the filaments inbulbs that then lasted 1500 hours to the 750 hours most common today. Profitsincreased.
At the same time though, economic factors are important in making AT a strong influence on society. When I first started workingis this field in the early 70's, we made $5/day. I remember when we finallygot up to $5/hour saying to a partner, "This is amazing - we're makingas much in an hour now as we used to working a whole day!"
This was fine for young, AT fanatics but more people needto get involved on all levels. For this to happen, wages and benefits need to become competitive with the polluting, harmful industries. "Eco-Economics" is a system that rewards people based ontheir contributions to the planet rather than factors based on other criteria,factors that often detract from and harm planetary health.
Instead of bowing to the temptation to "sell out"and market purposeless but profitable products, we're working toward this"Eco-Economics" model. We're trying to make AT business sustainable by staying on the cutting edge, doing free design and sizing, and offeringa huge selection of products without needing to recommend products basedon inventory control.
Supporting AT businesses, has moreof an impact than just the consequences of using the products. You're alsosupporting AT lifestyles, a spiraling geometric progression ofsustainability!
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