Sustainability: Not Just Talk Anymore

By Frank Diana | 9 March 2021
Reimagining the Future

(Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash)

Sustainability is not a new topic. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have been in place since 2015 and were adopted by 193 countries. At the heart of these goals lies our desire to advance our Human Development. We may be in a better position to do so now than we have in quite some time. In fact, History tells us that the last time we experienced a period of great human development spanned the century from 1870 to 1970. While there have been notable efforts to realize these U.N. goals, progress has been slow. Let’s take energy as an example. It is a big part of the sustainability story and the Future of Energy has been discussed for years. However, progress towards that future has been slow. That could all change in the next decade. Several forces are Converging to accelerate the path of energy. One of those forces is a shift in orientation to purpose:

A societal shift to purpose, in this case sustainability, puts pressure on economic actors. That societal pressure changes behavior, and when combined with the improving economics of green energy, a Paradigm Shift follows. This Article via Matt Egan provides an example. Major banks are setting goals of net zero greenhouse gas emissions that will help accelerate the pivot away from fossil fuels in favor of clean energy. Wells Fargo alone is promising to pump $500 billion into wind, solar and other sustainable finance projects by 2030.

“It doesn’t take a scientist to notice our clients are affected by changes in climate,” Weiss said. “When a wildfire burns down a major portion of California or a once-in-a-century flood occurs every five years, that implies risk to people and companies in its path.”

– Jon Weiss, CEO of Corporate and Investment Banking at Wells Fargo

Combine this shift within the banking community with investments by techno-philanthropists and you can see the path to acceleration. For example, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) is an investment fund that aims to accelerate energy innovation and disrupt the energy industry. This is a great example of a phenomenon that has accelerated the pace of change and served as an engine for exponential progression. Technology has created a generation of Techno-Philanthropists (such as Bill Gates) who are using their billions to try to solve seemingly unsolvable problems such as hunger and disease. As this shift to purpose accelerates, what we measure must move with it. Efforts in this direction are reflected in new metrics like the Human Development Index. When we look back, I envision people talking about this period in history in the same way we talk about that Special Century.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Frank DianaFrank Diana is a recognized futurist, thought leader and frequent keynote speaker. He has served in various executive roles throughout his career and has over 30 years of leadership experience. At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), he is a thought leader and advisor in the context of business, societal and economic evolution. He blends a futurist perspective with a pragmatic, actionable approach – leveraging horizon scanning and story telling to see possible futures. His leadership experience obtained through various executive roles connects practical realities with the need to focus on an emerging future filled with complexity and change.

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