How can we future-proof the health of our planet? In a time when climate effects receive prominent media coverage, there’s a lively debate about this question. One thing is crystal clear: we’re hitting the boundaries of what our planet can deal with. Throughout the whole world, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions that warm up the atmosphere are being felt. At the same time, we see alarming reports on the social perspective of a sustainable future.
The mission: we must design and implement a set of coherent measures to mitigate climate change and to prevent the earth system from being pushed into irreversible change. It’s a mission of the utmost urgency and, with a reference to the Titanic, one could say that the violins have stopped playing.
In this paper we analyze the situation we’re in and – more importantly – explore how we can deal with this urgent matter. We also consider the roles that various stakeholders play in this challenging transition. We need radical change.
Looking at the situation from a distance, a compelling yet optimistic message emerges: we are convinced it can be done.
First, human beings historically have proven to be a creative species when the going gets tough. The Covid-19 crisis has yet again shown that we can be adaptive, provided we devote the right resources to the right issues.
Secondly, we think that radical approaches are not only necessary but also feasible. This may sound somewhat optimistic at a time when world leaders can’t seem to make tangible progress in joint arrangements on fighting climate change. Despite this apparent and disappointing lack of joint agreements, we have to bear in mind that, in the twenty- first century, the power to transform societies may come from another source altogether. In this day and age, the necessary radical approaches may result from evolving business strategies, executed in close cooperation with other stakeholders.
In fact, we believe that for business leaders and their strategies, climate is now ‘the new digital’. A growing number of business leaders understands the strategic importance of building a sustainable future, just as over the past 10 years they understood that going digital was the name of the game. They now fully grasp that they don’t need to choose between profit and the protection of the planet and the people on it. The two should go hand in hand. This means that business leaders now start designing business models that recognize and potentially capitalize on the creation of societal value. Our bold statement is that any company that has a proposition or a business model that creates value for society, must be able to translate this into a business model where there is also financial value to be harvested. If not, the business may not even have a justification to exist. Yes, we will need creative minds to design these business models. And no, there are no easy answers. But isn’t that just what digital strategies were about 10 years ago?
Moreover, we are optimistic about the role Big Tech could play here. In its annual report on Trust, Edelman concluded this year that ‘Tech loses its halo’. In recent years, tech companies have indeed been heavily criticized for how they use their power. On the other hand, there is a silver lining to their powerful position: big tech companies can also use their influence to contribute to a sustainable future. Yet again, there are no easy answers here. But it is promising to see that big names from the tech world have already jumped on the bandwagon of new opportunities.
We believe there is one other crucial factor for success: we need a compelling narrative that connects the dots of all efforts in the transition. It’s a journey where all stakeholders need to be on the same page. We must all have a clear understanding of our joint mission and our role in it. Once this is the case, we can use the momentum to make real impact towards a sustainable future. Just like the impact that we have witnessed in digital transformations over the past decade.
Read the paper here: Beyond the tipping point: New value in a new sustainable future
This paper was written in preparation for Dutch Transformation Forum 2021. Together with the video below, it formed the start for the conversations.