Is your business fit for the future?

By Suzanne Orme

There are barriers preventing us from reaching a new era of harmony and balance – a state that must be ushered in during the 21st C if human societies hope to flourish forever on this fragile planet.

Entrenched government policy and subsidies can be counterproductive and aimed at protecting the status quo.

Yet I see a clear way through these seemingly insurmountable obstacles – a powerful key to unlock the potential of a new age – held firmly in the grasp of business owners and shareholders, both large and small.

Turning the key means unlocking the potential of business to rapidly and radically transform the world economy away from business-as-usual. The business sector and large institutional investors have immense power to bring this about.  Each day they determine how money is spent in internal operations and 3rd party procurement. They invest in innovation, technology and the design and re-design of products.

But for business decision makers and investors to exercise their power in a responsible way, they must have a clear idea of the end point in mind. Armed with a vision of the sustainable society of the future, resources can be allocated accordingly. Investment decisions are able to be evaluated by the degree to which they support – or detract – from the realisation of the desired future state.

Substantial work has been undertaken by the United Nations to create a shared vision for the collective Future We Want. In 2015 this was defined and agreed by world leaders in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s to be achieved by the year 2030. That’s just ten years away.

In scientific circles, the notion of a “safe operating space for humanity” – proposed by Johan Rostrom and the team at the Stockholm Resilience Centre – has gathered widespread traction in recent years. It identifies the 9 planetary boundaries that it would be unsafe and risky for humanity to venture beyond.

New economic thinking has emerged too. In her enlightening book, Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21stC Economist, Kate Raworth builds on the science by incorporating social systems into the circular diagram.

The centre of the doughnut depicts the ground floor – the level to which humanity must stay ABOVE if we are to meet the essential needs of all people. The outer circle is the ceiling – the level to stay BELOW if we are to protect Earth’s natural systems by operating within planetary limits.

Now is the time for companies to step through the door to the new industrial era being ushered in. We know that incremental changes will not deliver our collective vision and there is an urgent need for the business community to take bold action.

Four of the nine planetary boundaries have already been surpassed: biodiversity, climate, biogeochemical flows and land system change.
Some of the social indicators have improved but many still fall well below the accepted minimum.

Raworth’s new mindset and compelling vision for a new world economy resonates with the concept of a future-fit society, described by the Future Fit Foundation – one that is environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive.

There is no better way to assess and guide a company’s progress towards true sustainability than the Future-Fit Business Benchmark – a set of simple metrics and freely downloadable tools, mapped against the SDGs and shaped by experts and peers.

The future just doesn’t happen – its something we co-create. Let’s support one another on our individual and collective journeys as we learn to live and conduct  business in new ways that protect, restore and enhance the social and planetary systems on which we depend.

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