When “solution-aware” is the problem

On the importance of knowing what we’re trying to change

B. Lorraine Smith
8 min readAug 24, 2023
It’s hard to solve a problem when we don’t know what the problem is. It’s even worse when we think we know and we’re wrong. (Chalk sketch by me).

Marketing folks talk about five stages of awareness in order to improve sales: problem-unaware, problem-aware, solution-aware, product-aware, and most aware.* This framing helps prioritize marketing efforts. But what happens if the seller doesn’t understand the problem they propose to solve?

When it comes to sustainable business solutions, I consider myself at the problem-aware stage.** The problem I am aware of is that the sustainability industry is not aware of the real problem, so the solutions they sell don’t work.

This is *not* marketing guidance. And I don’t have a solution to sell you.

Rather I am sharing something I have been learning through experience, in my efforts to foster an economy that serves life.

We’re still making things worse, and it’s not for lack of trying



B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/