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Business leaders and academia work together toward a new economy

Collaboration generates fresh ideas and breaks old patterns. A new publication with articles by Unilever and HP execs serves up food for thought.

Since the onset of the longest and deepest financial crisis in living memory, capitalism is still suffering a crisis of liquidity, reliability and confidence. Our system of economy stands accused of failing to create shared wealth, of neglecting the planet, of generating an ever-widening gap in our societies and even of failing the shareholders.

There is also a huge question mark, over whether our current system will allow us to make the necessary transition to a more sustainable world — or whether we are irresistibly locked into a fatal collision course. Can we really change?

Mindful of the extensive range of design faults, many players are exploring new pathways for sustainable economic possibilities — with some great work emerging. The conversation is also going mainstream. When we see the likes of McKinsey searching their souls to see how we might redefine the genre, we know that change must be in the air.

A new system emerges

There is genuine cause for hope, generated by a very real sense that a new system is already manifesting. When viewing the landscape through a wider lens of sustainable economics, it becomes possible to see pieces of a very interesting jigsaw come together, bringing into focus an attractive picture of a new, vibrant, attractive and sustainable economic operating system.

We can remedy our insatiable desire for growth and consumption, and we can fix our dysfunctional money and financial systems. We can find a new way — an economy within which people and businesses are able to prosper, within planetary limits. 

And let's be absolutely clear, folks, this is not pie-in-the-sky stuff; this is very real and driven by the icy cold recognition that we cannot continue as we are. Some of the greatest minds on the planet are innovating and developing solutions that work, not only in isolation, but also in concert addressing the very real economic, societal and environmental challenges we face.

While a new system is desirable and possible, and while it is possible to see that change is already under way, we still have a long way to go.

The sparks of hope and frustration lead us to realize that it might be possible to help accelerate the necessary transition, by promoting greater awareness of the issues and the very real possibilities — ultimately, to enable more conscious choices by people, businesses and our civic leaders to start the migration towards a better system.

Sustainable Economy Project recruits education to the cause

And so, the Sustainable Economy Project was born, out of a desire to experience a better economic system coupled with a passion to encourage a progressive form of economic activism that will help achieve this aim.

Cover of Reframing the Game: The Transition to a Sustainable Economy
Our initial agenda for change focuses on a number of key leverage points — from changing the goals and mechanics of our system of economy, to new models of business success and investing, new financial and banking systems, new institutions and greater systemic resilience, re-localized economies, to new education curricula and models for learning. There is much work to be done.

We have been quietly establishing the infrastructure to help amplify our efforts around the world in support of accelerating the tipping point in the transition towards a sustainable economy.

A key part of this picture is a growing network of progressive business schools and universities, from around the world; they can play a major role in forming the new economy. By expanding their remit, they can act as catalysts in each region, shifting the conversation and creating a shared agenda for change within their respective business and political communities.

A publication to highlight progressive and sustainable thinking

The next step on this life-affirming journey is the new publication "Reframing the Game, a Sustainable Economy Special Edition of the Building Sustainable Legacies Journal."

"Reframing the Game" has been devised to generate a real melting pot of progressive thinking, from some of the leading players in the often-separate worlds of business and academia — and includes inspirational articles by Unilever's Paul Polman and HP's Gabriele Zedlmayer, along with some great contributions by leading academics in this space, all part of the growing global network of sustainable economy hubs.

Each contribution in this journal helps to challenge our views on what is possible and also provides us with concrete actions on how we can make genuine progress. Many of the themes also align with the Sustainable Economy Project's agenda for change.

Change is in the air — and change we must — if we are to make the necessary transition to a sustainable world. By collaborating across boundaries and joining up the dots across the many great works that already are taking shape, we can all help accelerate a much needed tipping point. I hope you find something of real interest in this collection, and perhaps something you can take with you into your own realm of influence, towards a sustainable economy.

This article first appeared at BusinessGreen.

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