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The awakening for systemic change

Published: 5 Jun 2020
Author: Peter Bakker
Type: Insight

We live in challenging and sad times.

We have seen the world change dramatically over the past few months, heightened further in this last week, and hope these crises are the beginning of a new awakening. But hope alone is not enough...

When a face is put to things, it immediately heightens our awareness and, as we relate more, makes things that might have seemed distant immediately more real and personal.

  • The whale on the beach of Thailand was the face that made us aware of the amplitude of plastic pollution in the oceans;
  • The forest fires in Australia gave the climate emergency a face that could not be denied;
  • COVID-19, all over the world, is now the face of our deep collective vulnerability to systemic shocks;
  • Let George Floyd be the face that - finally - awakens all of us to systemic inequality and injustice.

All of these faces are a stark reminder that we cannot rely on hope anymore nor can we be silent bystanders.

Today, we must all act. We simply don't have any excuse left not to build back better and implement deep systemic change, if we ever want all people to live well within planetary boundaries.

For business leaders, it is critical to make their voices heard and show leadership in the transformation that is urgently needed. This includes universal respect for human rights as the key to peaceful and inclusive societies as envisioned by the Sustainable Development Goals. As we saw in our CEO Guide to Human Rights, CEO leadership plays a crucial role in ensuring that human rights are taken seriously across their own companies and business relationships around the world.

The goal of "Stakeholder Capitalism" will be nothing more than two empty words if we fail to address the core challenges of systemic change: climate emergency, loss of nature and inequality.

WBCSD will continue to support business in realizing change with the help of the Vision 2050 work, including a new issue brief on systems transformation next week, which will help us establish a common understanding of how systems transform and what business can do to help drive the transformation needed over the next decade.

Today, 5 June, is World Environment Day. We present concrete support for companies to deliver science-based climate action to reach net-zero through the newly-launched SOS 1.5 roadmap.

Deep systemic change is needed, globally. Let us never forget these faces and take bold actions, together, to deliver positive and lasting change - to make 2020 the year in which we finally awake to the need for systemic change and turn words into actions. 

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