Sustainable business 2018
12 years left to meet the world 2030 agenda. An agenda precisely and elegantly formulated by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. What is next for sustainable business? I have summarized 10 key takeaways from dialogues with corporate leaders. Some are developments or trends I expect to see emerging, others are hoped for, as we now enter 2018 and clearly must step up our effort for a safe and sustainable future.
Too many good stories are never told and too much experience is not shared. In the coming years we will turn into a sharing economy where sharing of assets, resources and best practices becomes the norm and businesses realize that everybody wins when we actively share knowledge, solutions and practices to enable even more businesses to go sustainable.
Customers and employees will be more informed and powerful. They will pressurize and inspire businesses to become more sustainable. In the coming years we will see corporate sustainability moving in to the core of business models and people management will actively use sustainability performance as a tool in recruiting, retaining and stakeholder relations.
The next generations of leaders and employees are world citizens that will be attuned to sustainability in a very different way than today’s executives. They will not need to un-learn that business is solely about shareholder value, period. They bring a new set of values and skills for holistic leadership that will move mountains.
The world needs transformative changes, and to drive that we need bold, visionary and principled leadership. Sharing ideas and creating platforms for collaboration is vital. A collaborative mindset creates platforms for dialogue, forming policy, building trust, and enabling real and systemic change to happen.
In times of transformation, lifelong learning is essential – on all levels. From executive MBAs to primary education, sustainability needs to be on the curriculum and increasingly it is. And, it just so happens, that education in itself is one of the most powerful tools in the sustainable development toolkit.
Businesses will increasingly see themselves as part of the solution and want a level playing field. They are increasingly advocating progressive and smart regulation, seeking to embed the principles of sustainable business in regulations and standards.
Transparency and sustainability go hand in hand. Commitments to responsible behavior are worth little if stakeholders don’t trust you to keep your word. Rapid development in communication technology and reporting will create a hyper-transparent business environment.
We will need to be better at measuring the impact of doing business sustainably. Business will need to demonstrate a positive impact for itself, but also for society and the environment. Creating meaningful metrics will be crucial to engage a wider group of businesses and investors.
Sustainable development has a strong stabilizing effect on potential conflict, but responsible businesses also can play a role. When different factions are at odds, businesses can keep up daily relations, weaving strands of commitment and trust.
Last, but most definitely not least, an important pillar in leadership is to express hope. It is a resolute belief that doing the right thing – for the right reasons – matters. It is the only way to stay in business in the long run.