With the new year here, it’s time for businesses to step out of their comfort zones and embrace bold, even audacious, goals. The future demands leaders who are willing to reimagine not only what they do, but also how they do it.
Setting Massive Goals
The first step is setting goals that may seem beyond reach at the present moment. This isn’t about playing it safe; it’s about envisioning a future that challenges current capabilities and then striving to meet it. Instead of asking, “What’s next?”, companies should ask themselves, “What if?”.
Ambitious goal-setting can be exemplified by SpaceX’s mission to colonize Mars, which once seemed like a far-fetched dream but is now a significant goal driving technological advancements. Similarly, Tesla’s aim to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy challenges the automotive industry. Businesses can draw inspiration from such examples to set their massive goals. For instance, a retail giant could aim to become entirely plastic-free in five years, necessitating innovation in packaging and supply chain management.
Aligning Business with Sustainability
Business models need a fundamental shift towards sustainability. This means embracing a circular economy, where waste is minimized, and products are designed for extended lifecycles. Companies must look beyond profit and consider their impact on the planet and society.
IKEA’s transformation towards sustainability is an apt example. They aim to become a circular business by 2030, focusing on renewable materials and extending the life of their products. Another example is Patagonia, which not only uses sustainable materials but also encourages customers to repair and reuse their products. Companies can follow these models by rethinking product design for longevity and investing in materials that reduce environmental impact.
Decarbonization: A Core Strategy
Decarbonization should no longer be treated as a side project but rather as a central element of business strategy and operations. This involves reducing carbon footprints, investing in renewable energy, and innovating for lower carbon emissions in every aspect of the business.
In the energy sector, an inspiring example is Ørsted, a Danish energy company that transformed from being one of the most coal-intensive energy companies in Europe to a global leader in offshore wind power. This shift highlights a profound change in strategy, directly impacting the reduction of carbon emissions. Companies can emulate this by transitioning from traditional energy sources to renewable ones, like wind or solar power, and by investing in innovative energy storage solutions to address intermittency issues.
Another groundbreaking development is the advancement in fusion energy research, led by companies like Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Though still in the experimental stage, fusion energy promises a nearly limitless and clean energy source. This forward-thinking approach can inspire businesses to invest in cutting-edge research and development, pursuing long-term solutions that could revolutionize energy production and consumption globally, significantly contributing to decarbonization efforts.
Moving Beyond Mere ‘Action’
It’s no longer enough for companies to simply ‘act’. This term can be interpreted in minimal terms. The focus should shift to realigning products, services, supply chains, and operating models to address the urgent issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, and social equity.
An innovative example in this context is the urban farming industry, like AeroFarms, which uses vertical farming and aeroponics, significantly reducing water usage and allowing for local, sustainable produce in urban areas. This approach challenges traditional agricultural practices and contributes to solving issues like land use and water scarcity. Companies can seek inspiration from such models by investing in technologies that radically change their environmental footprint, such as adopting sustainable manufacturing practices or creating products that encourage eco-friendly consumer behavior. Another example is the emergence of car-sharing platforms like Zipcar, which not only reduce the number of vehicles on the road but also promote a shift in consumer behavior towards shared resources, directly impacting urban congestion and emissions.
Leadership Companies as Role Models
In the business world, there are already leaders who are setting an example by integrating these principles into their operations. These companies aren’t just talking about change; they are living it, showing that it’s possible to be both successful and sustainable.
Microsoft serves as a role model with its initiative to be carbon negative by 2030 and to remove all the carbon it has ever emitted by 2050. This bold move sets a high standard for other tech companies. Another example is Adidas, which has committed to increasing the use of recycled materials in its products. These companies show that integrating sustainability into business practices is not only possible but also beneficial for long-term success. Businesses can look to these leaders for inspiration, understanding that sustainable practices can coexist with profitability and growth.
As we enter the new year, let’s encourage and support businesses that are willing to take these bold steps. It’s not just about the survival of individual companies; it’s about the well-being of our planet and future generations. Let’s make this new year a turning point towards a more sustainable and equitable world.
If you need a boost, GPM is here to support! Our Competence Standard for Sustainability Leaders is a great (free) resource to help get you started!