WBCSD releases exploration into systems transformation in support of inclusive and sustainable growth for business

Published: 11 Jun 2020
Type: News

Geneva, 11 June 2020: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released its latest Vision 2050 issue brief which draws upon a broad range of expert opinion and research to present a concise overview of how systems transformation occurs. It provides business with a common understanding of the role it can and must play in accelerating the transformations needed to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.

This piece of work is an interim output from WBCSD’s current refresh of its Vision 2050, a landmark 2010 report that laid out a pathway to a world in which nine billion people are able to live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century. WBCSD is working together with 40 of its member companies to update this work and again provide business with a common agenda for action over the decade to come.

Our vision of more than nine billion people living well, within planetary boundaries cannot be realized through business as usual. Making this vision a reality calls for transformation across a wide range of key global systems, driving forward radical shifts in how we power our societies, feed ourselves, build the communities in which we live, move around, and consume goods and services.

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, commented: “This issue brief represents an important foundation for our work to refresh WBCSD’s Vision 2050. There is lots of talk about systems transformation;: But for us to turn talk into action and truly deliver transformative change, it is critical that we  understand how systems actually transform, what the key components of transformation are, and the crucial role that business has to play in any successful transformation.”

The term “systems transformation” is increasingly being used to describe what is needed to achieve sustainable development. Players across government, industry, academia and civil society are more and more aligned in their position that the sustainable development challenges we face are complex, highly interconnected and systemic, and that incremental change will not be enough to achieve a truly sustainable future.

However, despite the continued popularization of the concept of systems transformation, this term is often interpreted differently and applied with varying levels of ambition. To give us the best possible chance of securing genuine change and ensuring that systemic risks and vulnerabilities do not continue to accumulate, it is vital that we develop a clear and collective understanding of what systems transformation actually involves, how it happens and the levers that different actors, including the private sector, can pull to accelerate the lasting change that is urgently required.

This issue brief sets out to answer these questions. Drawing on a broad literature review and a series of expert interviews, it lays out a common theory and vocabulary for business that will support the uncommon task of driving the transformation of key economic systems in the critical years ahead.

With the world currently facing unparalleled levels of disruption, most notably in the form of the rapid escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequalities it exacerbated, it is essential that we plan our recovery in line with the transformations that sit at the heart of our Vision 2050: we must reconfigure systems to deliver long term prosperity and resilience for both people and planet.

The issue brief is part of a series of resources that WBCSD will be releasing throughout the course of 2020 in support of its Vision 2050 Refresh. Among the resources that have already been produced are an analysis of Macrotrends & Disruptions shaping 2020-2030, and a piece of work looking at The consequences of COVID-19 for the decade ahead

In the coming months we will release further thought pieces, supporting companies as they navigate the challenges of responding to the socio-economic turmoil unleashed by COVID-19, all the while maintaining (and increasing) ambition on realizing sustainable development. We must keep our Vision 2050 of nine billion people, living well, within planetary boundaries, at the heart of our COVID-19 recovery efforts – it has never been more relevant.

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