Forecasting Sustainability to the Year 2027
Thursday, 21st June 2007 at 3:21 pm
In a blunt assessment of the business operating context in 2027 a new report says that not only will there be new rules for sustaining business success over the next twenty years, but that the game itself is poised to change profoundly.
Sponsored by international companies including Shell, Ford, Novo Nordisk, Vodafone, The Skoll Foundation it predicts that while there will be winners and losers; there will be no more ‘business as usual’.
More than two years in the making, Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalization was released in the UK, Us and London this month.
The authors are from SustainAbility, a leading consultancy to the world’s major multinationals on corporate responsibility and sustainability.
It exposes the interplay of sustainable development and globalization that will define the future and co-author John Elkington says navigating this terrain will challenge the global business community like nothing previously experienced.
The study depicts four alternate scenarios for the year 2027 in a card game format, where clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades represent various combinations of environmental and societal wins and losses.
Jonathan Halperin, SustainAbility’s Director of Research and Advocacy in Washington says grounded in the hard realities that business and policy leaders face now and through 2027, the research is neither a starry-eyed look at a rosy future, nor a "chicken little" prediction of inevitable calamity.
He says it is about the hard choices and what they mean for corporations down the road. As the stakes rise, he says innovation, entrepreneurship, and effectively sourcing ideas and talent from emerging economies will be essential to managing the worsening divides that now threaten global stability.
The report reviews some of the key recent trends driving – and driven by – globalization. It looks at where these processes are likely to take companies over the next two decades, and their implications for the corporate responsibility and sustainable development agenda.
Globalization – that is the freer movement of goods, services, ideas, and people around the world – is not a new phenomenon but has massively accelerated over the last two decades with 20% of the world GDP now being contributed by global trade.
New players are surging onto the globalization field. China and India with their impressive growth rates are powerfully influencing commodity markets and global trade, and catapulting new South–South trade relationships onto the global stage.
Other emerging economies – like Brazil and South Africa – although not in the same league, are playing ever important regional and global roles.
While opportunities flourish, the research says divides based on demographics, wealth, gender, nutrition, health, environmental resources, education, information, security, and governance continue to persist and in many cases worsen.
The report concludes with seven recommendations to business and the wider sustainability movement:
1. Plan for the unexpected – in a world that is accelerating and becoming more complex, it will be vital to build in flexibility whether in technology platforms, supply-chains, or human resource policies.
2. Find true South – the extent to which the interests of the emerging economies will clash with those of the developed North can scarcely be exaggerated. So focus sustainability efforts and investments on regions and cities where the population is booming and development needs are highest.
3. Don’t expect nice companies to come first – Even the best corporate citizens can be damaged by scandals, controversies, and economic discontinuities. Over time the capacity to create true blended value will become a defining characteristic of tomorrow’s successful global businesses.
4. Co-evolve Earth’s immune system – Social and ecological shocks are already catalyzing the development of a civil-society-led ‘immune system’ for the Earth. Be part of this to help accelerate its development and serve as a source of market intelligence – and creation.
5. Think opportunity – and innovation – Reframe social and environmental issues not just as risks but also as sizeable market opportunities.
6. S-t-r-e-t-c-h – The scale of the challenges is immense and will require radical approaches to catalyse breakthrough solutions. Business and other leaders will need to reach beyond their comfort zones in finding new models, new technologies, and new partners in sourcing – and scaling – solutions.
7. Do the politics – This agenda is now political. Get involved and take stands. The time has come for the vision, courage, innovation, and enterprise needed to leapfrog into a different world.
See a full copy of the report here: www.sustainability.com/raising-our-game/