Why is this?
I feel strongly that there is one main reason: we aren’t treating these three defining issues of our time as interconnected. In many instances, we remain intent on trying to tackle each as separate issues. This is why I accepted the invitation to join WBCSD’s Business Commission to Tackle Inequality – it’s an opportunity to try and make a case for doing things differently and in a collaborative manner.
So what? Stop splitting out the E from the S in ESG
There are sensible reasons why splitting E from S keeps happening. After all, it’s easier to create strategies for single issues. But in doing so, we’re missing the opportunity to design for systems change, which I feel is the only way to address the root causes of spiraling inequality, catastrophic climate change and the loss of nature.
Designing for systems change means understanding the world around us as a set of interconnected systems, redefining what we mean by sustainability and changing how we approach it.
Going from ‘sustainability’ to ‘just and regenerative’
In partnership with WBCSD, Forum for the Future has published the Business Transformation Compass, looking beyond traditional definitions of ‘sustainability’ to consider what’s really needed: a ‘just and regenerative’ future.
The Compass defines a just and regenerative future as one where: social and environmental systems are thriving; planetary health has been rapidly stabilized; human rights are universally respected; fairer ways to create and distribute value have been adopted, and resilience and vitality across generations and geographies are supported. It goes on to provide guidance for how businesses can shift their practices and approaches in line with this.
A just and regenerative future is one in which we have reconfigured all of the systems we rely on, from our socio-economic systems (food, energy, etc), our physical systems (land, water and air) and the big unlock, our economic system, such that the purpose of these systems is to enable people and planet to flourish.
Right now, the goals of many of our systems are to serve the interests of the wealthy and privileged and to perpetuate a casino economy built on fossil fuels and fuelling massive inequalities.
It is, therefore, impossible to address inequality without shifting the goals of all of our systems. Striving for just and regenerative gives us a pathway to do this.
But we need to think and act differently, starting with a shift in mindset
If you are serious about addressing inequality, then, instead, it’s time to shift your mindset. The Compass defines ‘mindset’ as the set of assumptions, concepts and values that inform how we see the world. For individuals, mindsets tell how we act, consciously or subconsciously. For communities or organizations, they underpin how we organize.
Reading this, you might feel skeptical that mindsets will help tackle our challenges. But I have learned, often the hard way, that profound transformation, the type that is needed for system change, is impossible without altering how we think and act.
And the good news is that shifting mindsets is something we can all do.