Leading Voices in Global Sustainability
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CEO & Co-Founder, Future-Fit Foundation
10 Questions to Change The World
How do you think climate change and the global sustainability agenda will
impact your industry over the next 3-5 years?
We are a non-profit working to support businesses of all shapes and sizes across every industry, to help them understand what it’s going to take to play their part in the transition to a just and regenerative future. So climate change and the sustainability agenda are central to why we exist. I think in the next 3-5 years it’s going to start dawning on CEOs, investors, politicians and others that setting a bold ambition – such as a net zero carbon target – is not something to be celebrated, but rather just the starting gun for an incredibly challenging transformation journey.
What is one ‘sustainability hack’ you’d recommend to an organisation wanting
to transform into a more sustainable operation?
There are no shortcuts, but finding the right path is only possible if you have the right mindset. So let me offer a ‘mindset hack’. I would encourage all business leaders to ask themselves three questions:
Finding the right path is only possible if you have the right mindset.
1. What societal need does your business address?
Note that this is not the same as saying “what products do you sell?” The pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, for example, sells insulin. That’s its product. But the need it addresses is to help diabetes sufferers lead healthy and productive lives.
2. How might a business, starting from scratch but knowing what you know, meet that same need in a new way – one which has far less negative social and environmental impact?
To build on the Novo Nordisk example, could another company figure out how to monetize the prevention of diabetes, to meet the same societal need but without the environmental impact of producing millions of single-use doses of insulin?
3. Are you going to disrupt your own model to become that business – or are you going to wait for someone else to disrupt it for you?
Why have you embraced sustainability in your professional career?
Because around 2009, as soon as I realised the trajectory society was on, I didn’t feel I had a choice. It’s as if you came across me in a car about to head over a cliff and asked me “why did you decide to slam your foot on the brake and turn the wheel?” I really can’t see any other option.
What are some of the wins you have achieved in your career to date?
As soon as I realised the trajectory society was on, I didn’t feel I had a choice. I really can’t see any other option.
Over a dozen business schools have started teaching our Future-Fit methodology in their MBA and exec MBA programs, so we must be doing something right!
What do you want to have achieved before you retire?
I want to see that society is mobilising in pursuit of a rapid and radical reinvention of how we live and interact with the natural world, in pursuit of a flourishing future for all. I hope the part I can play in that transition is meaningful, but my sense of success or failure will be tied to the outcome, not my own contribution.
What advice would you give for organisations looking to start or advance on their sustainability journey?
Go to donellameadows.org and read the top few articles (about leverage points and dancing with systems). Then go for a long walk. Then read them again. Then go to rethinkx.com and read the Rethinking Humanity report. If it’s not too self-serving I would also suggest you read at least the first 3 chapters of the Future-Fit Business Benchmark methodology at futurefitbusiness.org. After all that, go for another long walk and don’t stop until you’ve figured out what you’re good at, what you love doing, and what part you want to play in building the future we need. And feel free to look me up and email me whatever you come up with, and I’ll endeavour to provide any pointers I can to help you on your way.
Who do you go to for inspiration in this space?
Don’t stop until you’ve figured out what you’re good at, what you love doing, and what part you want to play in building the future we need.
My brother, my kids, Donella Meadows, RethinkX, John Elkington, Duncan Austin, and nature.
- Geoff Kendall -
How do you offset your own footprint?
Insofar as is practical I cycle everywhere, buy second-hand clothes and other goods, and buy stuff with as little packaging as possible. But ultimately I think the best thing I can do is help to change the way those in positions of power think about their ambition and ability to build a better world.
What is your one ‘guilty / non-eco’ pleasure? (that you can’t live without)
Very frequent cheap flights to see my children, who unfortunately live in Italy with their mum. I hope the work I do goes some way for making up for my horrendous carbon footprint. If I didn’t get the energy I receive from seeing my kids as often as possible, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I do. I know it’s not ideal, but for now I can’t see any alternative.
If you had to choose one person, organisation or community to lead the world in sustainability, who would it be and why?
The team at RethinkX.com. Go and read Rethinking Humanity, and you’ll see why.
"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it. In my lifetime I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours you could - and should - see a wonderful recovery.”
- Sir David Attenborough