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Time to transform – Watch the GreenBiz21 keynote on how business must lead the transformation the world needs

Published: 1 Mar 2021
Type: News

Geneva, 1 March 2021 – What will it look like for nine billion people to live, and live well, on the planet by mid-century within planetary limits? How can business galvanize momentum towards action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), collectively driving an inspirational agenda for business, and ensuring that transformation in support of sustainability is at the core of businesses’ response to the COVID-19 crisis?

Peter Bakker, President & CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), together with Sunny Verghese (CEO and Co-Founder, Olam International as well as WBCSD Chair) and Andrea Alvares (Chief Brand, Innovation, International and Sustainability Officer at Natura) sat down with John Davies (VP, Senior Analyst GreenBiz Group) for a keynote session at Greenbiz21 to address the importance of positioning transformation at the core of business’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts, and to tackle the roots of the climate emergency, nature loss and growing inequalities.  

The session provided a preview of WBCSD’s refreshed Vision 2050, a framework to guide business action for the decade ahead that is practical, grounded in reality, and designed to help companies drive change in their sustainability planning and business strategies. The conversation focused on the key mindset shifts that business must embrace in order to set the stage for genuine transformation in support of the SDG agenda. These mindset shifts include the recognition for the need to reinvent our current capitalist model, the importance of enhancing business resilience and our capacity to embrace and adapt to change, and the need for more regenerative thinking as we address the need for restoration of environmental and social systems.

“Ten years ago we thought of sustainability as individual themes, like climate change or water, today we are all talking about the need for system transformation and the interdependencies between these challenges have become much clearer”, said Peter Bakker during the keynote. “But do we actually know what systems transformation is, and more importantly, do we have a clear enough view of how we actually transform systems? Vision 2050 has undertaken that work very thoroughly.”

The speakers stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive disruptions it is causing to societies constitutes an unprecedented opportunity to rethink business models and accelerate transformation with a greater focus on inclusion, and regeneration.  “When the world stopped, we saw very visibly the impact of human action on the planet, putting us in to look with a critical view of our on our ways of living and on the systems that we have created. And if we have created them, we probably have the capability to reassess and redesign them, for more sustainable business models, economic systems, and mechanisms of social distribution of wealth and equity” said Andrea Alvares. 

According to Sunny Verghese, “the pandemic has acted as a massive trigger to double down on sustainability for Olam. What started as a health crisis evolved into a food security crisis but also a poverty crisis.” He added: “We have to make individuals change. If you're not the change that we want to see in others, the zero chance that we can change the world.”

More information:

  • Full video of the GreenBiz session titled “Time to Transform” (20 minutes)
  • Join us on Thursday 25 March for the launch of WBCSD's Vision 2050 update. Organized on WBCSD's new bespoke virtual platform, this event will: share a top-line overview of this update to Vision 2050 - developed over nearly two years by 40 WBCSD member companies in close collaboration with an advisory committee of leading global experts; feature WBCSD Council Members' perspectives on the implications of Vision 2050 for shared, disruptive and accountable business leadership on sustainable development; and rally business, partners and other stakeholders behind a transformative agenda that is fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets of the Paris Agreement, translating the ambitions of these critical global frameworks into clearly actionable areas of business activity.

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