International sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future has published its latest Future of Sustainability report, ‘Courage to Transform’. It highlights four possible future trajectories and calls for five shifts in how businesses operate if they are to manage the systemic risks associated with an increasingly disrupted climate.
In a bid to enable leaders and change makers to stay focused on transformation, the report analyses examples of how businesses are responding to today’s ‘polycrisis’ (defined by the World Economic Forum as a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects) and highlights four very different yet plausible ‘future trajectories’ as a result.
These include scenarios where maximising shareholder value, above all else, remains the top priority for businesses; actions are being taken but fall short of creating lasting impact; data and tech are seen as ‘silver bullet solutions’ but in an over-reliant way; and, lastly, businesses fundamentally rethinking their responses to sustainability challenges.
The shifts for leaders and change-makers are:
- From a risk prevention mindset to a transformative one, which involves seeing opportunity, not risk, in change, while investing in both climate adaptation and mitigation measures.
- From addressing the symptoms of our social and environmental crises to tackling their root causes, moving beyond incremental solutions that are likely to fail.
- From passively responding to their operating context to actively shaping it. From influencing policy to better engaging stakeholders and customers, businesses must increase their agency to drive change.
- From slow centralised decision-making to more agile distributed governance models. Instead of consolidating power, businesses must distribute responsibilities and value creation across multiple levels and stakeholder groups.
- From failing to acknowledge the influence of individual, organisational and contextual bias to identifying and removing this bias in risk assessment. Businesses making this shift will see more equitable and balanced decision-making longer-term.
Produced with support from Bupa, People’s Postcode Lottery Green Trust, Aldi Süd, The Crown Estate and Henkel, the report draws on in-depth desktop research, interviews with business leaders and ‘signals of change’ generated through the online ‘Futures Centre’ hub: an open-source participatory platform powered by Forum that tracks and makes sense of change.