Resource Use

Forum for the Future launches #theBigshift


Image: Forum for the Future

Earlier today (3 December) sustainability group Forum for the Future announced the launch of a new campaign aimed at helping businesses improve their sustainability.

‘#theBIGshift’ campaign emphasises ‘the need to take a systems based approach to sustainability’, whilst ‘championing the rewards’ of organisations and businesses that ‘successfully engage with a sustainable future’.

As part of the launch, Forum for the Future is now calling on businesses to ‘step up their sustainability efforts’ and stop seeing ‘sustainability as separate from their main brand identity’.

It argues that there is a ‘robust’ business case for pioneering sustainability practices, including resilient supply chains, efficiency gains and market differentiation. To see success and change, Forum for the Future says brands ‘can’t think of sustainability as separate from their main brand identity’.

Sally Uren, CEO, Forum for the Future, said: “Business models are at risk from all quarters  – from fast-emerging disruptive technologies to the notion of ‘radical transparency’, where it’s much more difficult to hide supply chain secrets. They are also at risk from major changes in their operating context.They must have one eye on the future if they are to remain successful in a complex and rapidly changing world. Doing nothing presents real risks. Acting now opens exciting opportunities.

“To deliver a more sustainable future, businesses need to think of themselves as system innovators – this means innovating their core business, products and services, and understanding their role in the wider system, as well as working to create the conditions in which they will be successful. However, individual efforts can only take you so far. Working with others to solve systemic challenges presents real opportunities and can step up the pace and scale of change. We call this systems - approach and we want ambitious organisations, large and small, to join us.”

‘Systems innovation’

Following a report earlier this year, Forum for the Future, a global sustainability non-profit organisation, has developed a ‘bespoke, three-stage process for system innovation’.

The report reads: ‘We want to create the big shift towards a resilient, equitable and vibrant society and a sustainable future. System innovation is the critical way forward in creating that shift. But we know that we can’t do it on our own.’

The first proposed stage involves ‘diagnosing the issues within the system’ (such as system mapping). This involves identifying and analysing how the system works, who is responsible for what, why change is needed, and where the challenges are.

 The second stage involves ‘spotting the windows of opportunity and the people who want to work on it, along with undertaking a realistic assessment of the power and resources that you have as a change agent’. Forum for the Future outlines that this step often involves collaboration, as working alone can sometimes mean the ‘ability to create change will be limited’.

The last stage sees organisations scaling up their initiatives to ‘create impact’ and move ‘beyond incremental change’. This involves undertaking impact analysis and prioritising action.

Forum for the Future says organisations that address sustainability in this way will ‘lead the transformation’ to a sustainable future; ‘only by influencing the nature of the systems in which they operate– can businesses create a context in which they can innovate for long-term success’, it adds.

Examples of ‘system innovation’

Looking to some examples of ‘system innovation’, Forum for the Future highlights how sports company Nike discovered that 60 per cent of the environmental footprint of a pair of their shoes is embedded in its materials.

To address this, it has now adopted a ‘systemic approach’ and partnered with NASA, USAID and US State Department to ‘accelerate’ its use of sustainable materials.

Further, supporter of #theBigShift, consumer goods brand Unilever, is also championed for itssustainability ethos ‘Project Sunlight’, which encourages people (mainly parents) to take ‘small sustainable steps’ and shop with sustainability in mind.

Karen Hamilton, Vice President of Sustainable Business at Unilever said:“We can't just look at our own shop; we need to look more widely at the big challenges that are facing businesses like ours and society, such as climate change, water scarcity and the worsening conditions associated with urbanisation. The only way we will achieve success in creating a better world for all of us is if we work together. System innovation crosses competitors, governments and borders to create that change.”

Read more about Forum for the Future’s #theBigshift campaign.