Sustainable business for 2020 and beyond
Predislava Derugin | December 29, 2019
Sustainable business for 2020 and beyond
Predislava Derugin
December 29, 2019

The New Year will take us into a new decade and a new world of business. In this new world, businesses will be hugely impacted by shifts in politics, public perception, and the natural environment.

BSR has attributed this to four major changes:

  • There is growing skepticism regarding markets' ability to deliver benefits to society.
  • Our natural resource commodities are under thread, with impacts on social and economic wellbeing.
  • We are facing a "techlash" as concerns increase about the impacts of new technologies and business models.
  • The widening income gap and declining living standards are leading to political and economic backlash. Related to this, we see budding interest on the part of society for alternatives to the consumption-diven model.

The new decade will hardly be "business as usual". The changing socioeconomic landscape will see an unprecedented level of new disruptions. Businesses will have to look beyond short-term profits and align with society's changing expectations, carving out a path to profitability within the boundaries of the Earth's resources.

How can this be achieved? There are three guiding principles for businesses:
1. Boldness in setting big goals.
Businesses tend to be cautious about expressing big goals when they are uncertain how to achieve them. But the time has come for ambitious sustainability goals. Even if businesses are not sure how they will achieve, for example, zero net carbon emissions, the goal must be stated. This will motivate staff and provide a north star in this time of change.
2. Alignment with purpose.
Sustainability goals must be reinforced by valuations, targets, and accountability in order to reach its full potential. Businesses must embrace the need to design corporate purpose, strategies, and incentive systems in sync with societal objectives. This is where incentives and frameworks from regulators could come in handy.
3. Collaboration for achieving goals.
Only with a commitment to large-scale collaboration can we create systemic change. The leaders we need today must know their limits and how to partner effectively if they are to achieve ambitious sustainability goals.
The next decade will be decisive. Either we will succeed in attaining sustainability, or we will fail. Whatever the outcome, it will impact business. Businesses leaders must make a choice: either passively accept whatever fate the future may bring, or proactively design a future in which we can all thrive. With the recommendations above serving as guiding principles, we have a chance at building a sustainable future.
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