Published: Tue, Oct 17, 2017
Author: Peter Bakker
Type: Insight

Panorama means “unobstructed view” and that’s exactly what we need in order to address global challenges: the full, unobstructed picture of what’s going on - even if it might make us feel uncomfortable.

To continue the business journey towards long-lasting change, we need to be flexible, we need to take diverse perspectives into account and – most importantly – we need to be adaptable.

 

 

Panorama is a start, and we call on all business and sustainability leaders to get involved, to share their perspectives and to consider alternative viewpoints.

Why now?

2015 was a watershed moment for sustainability – governments, scientists, city mayors and company leaders all came together to address some of the greatest challenges of our time.

The advent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the success of the Paris Agreement helped show the world that where there’s a will, there’s a way – and for the first time, we saw a glimmer of hope for tipping the scales in favor of sustainable development.

But 2016 and 2017 have reminded us that there’s still serious work to do – environmentally and socially.

Over the past year, extreme weather events plagued the world over. 2016 was named the hottest year on record, as were the two years before it – with 16 of the 17 hottest years on record occurring since 2001.

Wildfires ravaged the planet –  burning across Europe, Australia, North America and the Amazon. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hammered islands in the Pacific – while floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal affected 40 million people.

Alongside the constant environmental threats, social tensions are also rapidly growing in developed and developing countries alike as trust in government, business and the media hits all-time lows.

At the same time, political rollback on climate, coupled with increasing violence and discontent continue to dominate global headlines – with noticeably more vigor and frequency than in recent years.

Those of us focused on building a more sustainable world are pushing for change - but things aren’t moving fast enough. Maybe the answer lies in expanding our toolbox of solutions – starting with the way we think about and approach sustainability issues. 

As sustainability professionals, we often get stuck in the same thought patterns, speak to the same people and approach sustainable development the same way, day after day – then we wonder why things aren’t changing fast enough.

If we don’t fix it, this kind of conventional thinking will hinder the success of the sustainability transition. What we need is innovative thinking and a willingness to see the “whole picture.”

Humans have been struggling with this for millennia.

As early as 544 BC, political and military strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “There are not more than five primary colors, but in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen.” For many of us, we can’t see past the five primary colors, but it’s time to push past our limitations to imagine the rainbow of solutions that will accompany a new perspective.

How can we expect to change anything if we think the way we’ve always thought and do what we’ve always done? The good news is, an old dog can learn new tricks, but not without stepping outside of his comfort zone.

Across the sustainable development movement, let’s endeavor to learn something new, to get unstuck and to build new ways of uncovering solutions. In doing so, we’ll open the door to innovations we never dreamed of.

So how can we shake things up?

We can start by doing our best to look at things differently. At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we’re walking the talk – most recently – with Panorama.

Anything we can do to challenge ourselves by learning new things will help us succeed in our sustainability mission. By being open-minded about the transformation that lies ahead, and by rejecting the status quo, we have the opportunity to deliver prosperity for decades to come.

We look forward to hearing from business and sustainability professionals around the world about alternative perspectives on sustainability issues, current events and exciting solutions – in ways that we’ve never experienced before.