Doing well by doing good
We live in a world of accelerating change where industrialization and globalization has helped us leap forward and transform the world in ways that were previously unimaginable. Today, our lifespans are longer, we are better educated, millions have been lifted out of poverty, and our way of living is more comfortable than ever before.
This comfort has, however, also come at a great cost for our planet, with unwanted consequences such as biodiversity loss and climate change. Over the years, it has also become increasingly clear that business as usual will not save the planet. Neither will the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we do not act on them. But are things moving?
A Harvard Business Review study found that most corporations seem to be addressing the SDGs on a superficial level. Most simply connect what they are already doing to one or a selected set of these goals. Consequently, very few companies are actually doing something beyond business as usual.
We believe that this is because the world’s wicked problems are still seen as something to be solved by governments, universities, and other actors rather than seen as the business opportunities that they really are.
Why? Possibly because sustainability in the business world is still viewed as risk reduction and a dry topic reserved for experts, rather than as real opportunities that can enable companies to do really well by doing good, and integrating that thinking into their business plans and operating models.
As business leaders, the time has come for us to step up and make a difference. Because there are indications that the world is at a tipping point where our involvement is urgently needed.
AT A TIPPING POINT
A tipping point can be described as the moment at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, even more important change. Such a tipping point may be here now. Largely due to a united global community, a persistent Swedish girl, and a global pandemic.
Let’s examine this statement.
2015 was the year of the 2020 Agenda and the 17 SDGs. The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries and organizations to act on a number of critical issues for the global good. It was not until 2019, however, that a young Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg opened the eyes of world leaders about the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
2020 now seems to be the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus outbreak across virtually the entire globe – in combination with the climate crisis – could actually be the turning point that is already transforming the world as we know it.
Treating the COVID-19 pandemic as unrelated to climate change and ecosystem destruction would be a potentially fatal mistake. Since the first publication of the Club of Rome (1972), scientists have warned that infectious diseases are directly linked to climate change and the destructive impact of humans on nature. The public health crisis and the climate crisis are similar; they both pose a threat to human health and economic well-being. However, climate change and the destruction of eco-systems is a threat to all life on planet Earth. These are wicked problems indeed.