Achieving a sustainable future is Mission Possible

What does the sustainable business of 2030 look like? This is the question asked to 18 sustainability business leaders in a two-day workshop as part of the edie Sustainability Leaders Forum, sponsored by Cranfield University and facilitated by Organisations that Flow; where it is a Mission Possible to achieve a sustainable future.

Achieving a sustainable future is Mission Possible

This was not an easy question to answer! But, representatives from Coca-Cola European Partners, Interface, Vodafone Group, Travis Perkins, Adams, Debenhams, PepsiCo, Philips Lighting, Atkins Global, Taylor Wimpey, Wyndham Worldwide, and VF Corporation amongst others set into the challenging task to answer this question, and in the first day, we started with…

Our ideal future

We made the assumption that the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved. If this is to become a reality, then businesses that practice sustainable values will co-exist in an adaptive and conscious ecosystem that is regenerative and abundant with clear boundaries. Also business leaders will pledge consciousness, simplicity, humility, collaboration and responsibility. 

All business activities will be accountable for the greater good, being mindful and concern of citizens. Business will operate in a true Circular Economy, re-defining value, capitalism and business leadership. Businesses will be working in collaboration with other businesses, with governments, with NGOs and citizens to re-write the rules, and truly achieve a sustainable future. 

But is it possible to predict the future?

Despite the depicted and ideal future, we were aware of current forces that make it almost impossible to predict any future such as: the commonplace replacement of humans with artificial intelligence combined with the possible opportunities that a digital economy could bring; millennials steering the ship; major political and social instability; raise of middle class in the Far East; continued mass migration and displacement; the raise of sharing vs ownership; the continuous deployment of resources; frequent extreme weather events; and the realisation of a low or zero carbon economy.

All these forces are interconnected, but it is impossible to know or control how we will respond to such changes. However, what we know is that the change we can predict is exponential, systemic, and radically life changing in nature. Therefore the businesses that will survive are those that are sustainable.

So what is needed?

Business leaders need to recognise that big changes are needed and therefore in the second day we got into the task to describe how the businesses that survive will look like and we come to the conclusion that the sustainable business of 2030 will be:

Caring, adaptive, circular, transparent, regenerative, working towards re-defining value, communal and local, following diverse ownership models based on share use and experience, and thinking on citizens no consumers. 

But how can we deliver the sustainable business of the future today? 

  • We need courage because it is the right thing to do
  • We need to believe and have conviction that it can happen 
  • We need to act upon the knowledge that we have and explain the importance of this transition 
  • We need to be more ambitious 
  • We need to operate with a systems perspective 
  • We need to present challenging propositions 
  • We need to communicate the story using a simplified but convincing language 

Mission Possible!

We were able to describe how the sustainable business of 2030 look like and how we can deliver it. But what is next? 

Mission Possible is new campaign launched by edie that will run throughout 2018 and beyond.

The ‘mission’ is to achieve a sustainable future. This campaign will prove that this mission IS possible by inspiring and empowering businesses to scale-up action across all areas of sustainable development.

The campaign is focusing on five key areas related to the future of sustainable business:

  • Energy
  • Resources
  • Built environment
  • Mobility
  • Business leadership (i.e. the people who will help us achieve Mission Possible)

Mission Possible is aimed at the sustainability superheroes that exist within business; the sustainability/CSR/energy professionals who are responsible for increasing efficiencies and reducing the environmental impact of their organisation.

Whether you’re a new member of a sustainability team or the head of the division, Mission: Possible will provide you with the insight and inspiration you need to help us achieve a sustainable future.

The campaign will be delivered through a variety of digital and face-to-face formats throughout 2018 and is committed to work together with businesses to make a pledge to make this a reality! So stay tuned…

Dr Mariale Moreno is a Lecturer in Data Driven Innovation at Cranfield University

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