The 4th Industrial Revolution has brought along a series of innovations, across digital, physical and genetic worlds. Increasing competition for technological advancement across regions is healthy for innovation; however global economic tensions and volatility are creating an environment of uncertainty that negatively affects the entire industrial sector. The 2020s are being seen as the “decade for delivery” and those companies that show this leadership will be the ones most likely to win the support of investors, regulators, and society over the coming decade.
As quoted by António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations: “It is abundantly clear that a much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goals.”
While most of us believe that working towards the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is the way forward to help focus on sustainability; however, we must also acknowledge the fact that doing it in self-focussed silos isn’t enough. Times of crisis boosts innovation, where young entrepreneurs develop game-changing solutions. Just imagine a world where these start-ups had support from the bigger player within the ecosystem to help scale operations.
For the first time in history, we have a challenge ‘addressing the inefficiency’ as well a rare opportunity to address the contradiction, i.e. ‘progress for all’ to create a sustainable future.
There are certain pragmatic steps needed to ensure we create a better world for us and others to thrive in the changing and challenging times.
Recalibrating ecosystem drivers: To begin with, we need to shift focus from creating disrupting technologies/ solutions for our businesses to creating disruptive solutions to change the narratives for the ecosystems.
Sustainability strategy: Aligning business strategy with a sustainability strategy should be the focus to help scalability within companies and across industry sectors to bring the necessary system transformations. ‘Long on words and short on actions’ approach is no longer working.
Redefining collaboration: Acknowledging that the transformation needed is beyond the scope of anyone firm or industry. Creating a level playing field for actors of small/big segments through necessary regulations for accelerated impact. Collaboration with more honesty around issues and their impact, acknowledging mistakes and limitations, engaging in genuine, constructive dialogue on solutions, and embracing a growth mindset.
Leading by Example: Responsible leadership sparks purpose-driven strategies to understand the issues to shape and drive the adoption of meaningful solutions. Authenticity, collaboration beyond personal interest and sharing lessons not just to improve your firm/industry but beyond. Genuine concern for sustainability would drive effective business performance.
Taking a cue from the latest developments: The leaders throughout the world unanimously adopted the landmark Paris Agreement and crafted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These are twin plans for transformative growth. SDGs are the vision and climate change is the commitment. This vision and commitment must go hand in hand.
Address trust deficit disorder: Create a multipolar and multilateral architecture with the UN at the centre as a neutral convener, articulating and embedding societal purpose within the ecosystem.
Increasing stakeholder expectation: Most of the solutions are created around market demand. So, if the stakeholders are made aware through academia and blogs around the SDGs, then the ask from stakeholders/ consumers would drive firms to inculcate responsible sustainability and make a positive shift. Following a bottom-up approach will increase the market pull.
Surviving vs thriving: As the environmental challenges are growing rapidly, so is the business economics, leading to an obvious trade-off between social, responsible and ethical commitments and viability. Creating alliances would help increase resource, economic and strategic power to not just survive but thrive in disrupting times.
Unleashing socialism and not capitalism: Capitalism has created extreme poverty, increased inequality, terrible social conditions, and the current course of action will only make matters worse for business. Unequivocally, marginalized societies cannot bring economic, political or social prosperity. Unleashing Socialism would help bring the focus back to Equitable growth.
Transforming portfolio: empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or another status.
Recognizing the change is required and it would only happen gradually, is of utmost importance, bringing the governments, businesses, academia, and communities together to spearhead the transformational and systematic effort towards a sustainable future. We only have one planet and our future depends on all of us, individually and collectively, to bring a remarkable cumulative impact for humanity.
The author is a technology entrepreneur with a key focus on climate, sustainability and inclusion. Views are personal.