Sustainable thinking is essential for the future well-being of the world, for this nation and for the prosperity Czech business.
In less than 40 years from now, there will be 30 percent more people will be living on our planet. This is good news for business as this growth will deliver billions of new consumers who want homes and cars, electronics and a multitude of other products and services.
The bad news is that shrinking resources and potentially changing climates will limit the ability of all of the estimated nine billion of us to attain or maintain the consumer lifestyles generally enjoyed in today’s affluent markets.
It must therefore be clear to anyone thinking beyond the immediate term that we are going to have to make radical changes if we are going to achieve a truly sustainable future. The Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) – which has been grappling with this complex issue for many years – has developed a compelling vision to address the serious challenges facing our world. Called Vision 2050, it provides necessary and feasible ideas and offers significant business opportunities for companies that embed sustainability within their long-term strategies.
This vision is currently being tailored to the specific needs of business in this country by the newly-formed Czech Business Council for Sustainable Development. It poses three specific questions: What does a sustainable world look like? How can we realize it? And what roles can Czech business play in ensuring more rapid progress toward that world?
I was privileged to attend the WBCSD conference held in Seoul, Korea at the end of October together with former Czech environment minister, Petr Kalaš, who is a key figure behind the creation of the Business Council for Sustainable Development (CBCSD) in this country. During this meeting, he enthusiastically confirmed the plan to involve some of leading companies to work closely together in developing and then executing a Czech style Vision 2050.
The Vision 2050 work provides a platform for productive engagement with companies of all sizes, civil society and government on how a sustainable future can be achieved. The Council hopes to challenge companies to rethink their products, services and strategies, envisioning new opportunities that put sustainability at the heart of everything they do.
It is being developed to help Czech companies to communicate with and motivate employees and their boards and to establish leadership positions for replication by enterprises of all sizes throughout the country. Government will be asked to consider specific policies and regulations needed to guide and organize society and give markets incentives to move toward sustainability, and encourage people to make a difference in their daily lives.
At first, this Vision may sound like a utopian ideal, particularly for business struggling to make a profit in these tough economic times. But an unsustainable future will inevitably create far more difficult conditions. With or without Vision 2050, life in 2050 will be radically different for all of us. Built on the observations, projections and expectations of the companies and experts who are contributing to this effort, Vision 2050 provides an invaluable compass with which companies can steer a truly viable course.
Designed to be a vital tool in helping leaders across government, business and civil society, it will help to avoid repeating mistakes of the past – making decisions in isolation that result in unintended, damaging consequences. Vision 2050 seeks to provide a common understanding so leaders can make the decisions over the next four decades that deliver the best outcomes possible in the best interests of people, planet and profit.
The CBCSD is adapting a detailed pathway from the original Vision 2050 to connect this sustainable future with the present. The critical elements will demonstrate that behavioural change and social innovation are as crucial as better solutions and technological innovation. All types of ingenuity will be needed over the next 40 years. Although distinct, the elements also highlight the interconnectedness of issues such as water, food and energy – relationships that must be considered in an integrated and holistic way, with tradeoffs that must be understood and addressed.
Vision 2050 combines ambition with pragmatism. The CBCSD plans to convene meetings over the coming months with a wide range of stakeholders from business, civil society and government to explore how develop a Czech-specific approach based on these key elements included in the global vision:
- Addressing the development needs of billions of people, enabling education and economic empowerment, particularly of women, and developing radically more eco-efficient solutions, lifestyles and behavior
- Incorporating the cost of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water
- Doubling of agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used
- Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests
- Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050, with greenhouse gas emissions peaking around 2020 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems and highly improved demand-side energy efficiency
- Providing universal access to low carbon mobility
- Delivering a four-to-tenfold improvement in the use of resources and materials.
If Czech business is to establish a world class reputation and prosper in our fast-changing times, it is important for companies of all shapes and sizes to think and act sustainably. I am convinced that Vision 2050 will become the pre-eminent, practical guide in helping this country’s corporate sector to effectively, efficiently and profitably plan for a sustainable future.
By Jonathan Wootliff
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