Sustainability

The second mega-trend of direct relevance to the world’s resources and infrastructure sectors is the drive towards environmental and social responsibility, alternatively called sustainability.

There are three key issues:

Climate change

There is increasing consensus that the global economy must rapidly de-carbonize.   For many companies in the energy and infrastructure space, this requires full focus on managing  the   transition to low-carbon technologies successfully.

Over-consumption of resources

The World Economic Forum (2019)[1] places biodiversity loss and water scarcity as top risks/issues.  So too does the Sustainability Leaders Questionnaire (2019)[2], in addition to plastic pollution.

The response for organizations is to design products and services for the circular economy as well as promote conservation.

Inclusion

There are persistent concerns regarding global income and wealth inequality, as well unequal access to education and opportunities.

The response for organizations can be to focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and define pathways for the company to contribute to more inclusive growth.

These trends are welcome and essential.  That doesn’t make them any less disruptive to current business practices.  Navigating them successfully requires acknowledging the underlying issues, the responsibility of the private and public sectors and the most appropriate strategic response that aligns with company competencies and geographic positioning.

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[1] Global Risks Report, 2019, World Economic Forum.  This report identifies 7 out of top 10 global risks as environmental and social (extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, natural disasters, water crises, biodiversity loss and eco-system collapse, man-made environmental disasters, large scale involuntary migration)

[2] The 2019 Sustainability Leaders, Globe-Scan-SustainAbility Survey.  Top five issues (in order): climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, water pollution, plastic waste.