This was a key message that came out of BT’s Better Future Forum held this week, an online conversation involving 200 sustainability experts across 22 countries.

The aim of the forum was help inform emerging business strategies around net positive and the circular economy – two areas where BT is looking align its future focus.

Questions around sustainable consumption dominated the debate where it was broadly felt that current consumer models needed to be re-examined. It was suggested that people should be defined as citizens who use services rather than consumers who buy products.

“In some ways it is about asking a fundamental question,” noted a representative from the Aldersgate Group who participated in the discussions.

“Is consumption our primary purpose? Are we consumers or citizens? Do we live to shop or do we shop to live, in order to fulfill our individual purpose?”

It was also felt that the debate around sustainability needs to be rearticulated in a way that will engage those currently outside of the CSR community, especially consumers and investors.

Alongside this, new business models are required. Circular economy, net positive, regenerative models and leasing services as a replacement for buying products were posited as good examples.

Central to achieving this is collaboration – companies and supply chains must increasingly work together to shape the parameters of such models as well as drive innovation and encourage disruptive thinking.

Since the forum, BT has held internal talks with its Better Future colleagues across the business and its governance body, the committee for sustainable and responsible business, to see how it can move the debate forward.

It intends to forge greater collaboration across multi-sector groups to help build momentum on net positive leadership, where it will work with key stakeholders to develop and promote common principles and approaches to different net positive models.

“We recognise a key challenge is working together with others to achieve the shift of mindsets, especially among consumers and investors, essential to deliver the scale for change,” BT stated.

The Better Future forum is an extension of BT’s open-sourced approach to developing a carbon net positive framework that underpins its own ‘Net Good’ vision.

BT’s Net Good goal is to help customers reduce carbon emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of its business by 2020.

Maxine Perella

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