BSR

The future is on the agenda

This year’s BSR Conference comes at a time of profound change. Market conditions are turbulent. Around the world, poverty rates continue to fall — at the same time, inequality continues to grow.

Technology is sparking both utopian and dystopian views of the future. Culture is also changing fast, not least through the #MeToo movement. And earlier this month, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reveals that despite many important initiatives, the world is not taking sufficient action to avoid seriously damaging climate change.

It is almost certainly the case that these changes, many of which are intertwined, will only grow in pace and intensity in the years ahead. What is a business to make of all these changes, and how can companies navigate our era of intense, inter-connected, non-linear change?

At the BSR Conference 2018, we will be unveiling scenarios that can help you and your company make sense of the evolving world over the coming years and decades. These are not predictions of what the world will be like in 2019 or 2028. Rather, they aim to illuminate the underlying forces that are creating the market and social framework in which business will be operating.

Specifically, the scenarios revolve around two fundamental questions:

  1. What forces of centralization and decentralization will define our culture, economy and political context?
  2. Will the world continue to rely on familiar, consumption-led economic models or shift to a new economic model that defines value in a more holistic way?

There is no single answer to these questions. Instead, we will present four scenarios that anticipate how these crucial questions could play out by 2030.

These scenarios tell stories of how our world might evolve, with important implications for business.

This is no academic exercise. Each of our scenarios explores core elements of the sustainable business agenda: the shape of supply chains; availability of natural resources; and nature of employment; as well as product and service development, health, and energy and climate. In this way, the scenarios will enable planning and decision-making central to the achievement of the social, economic and environmental outcomes crucial to business and embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

These scenarios will be unveiled on the opening night of the conference. But they are intended to live well beyond that: We hope that these scenarios will be widely used throughout the BSR network to consider how business can shape strategies that will thrive — regardless of which scenario or hybrid of these scenarios, ultimately defines the coming decade.

As we continue in our effort (launched at last year’s BSR Conference) to redefine sustainable business, we aspire to drive the agenda forward with this year’s event. As ever, the conference will facilitate new partnerships and collaborations through networking opportunities with participants from around the globe. It will present insights and inspiration from a diverse array of speakers from the private sector, civil society, government, academia and elsewhere.

We will explore the ways that leadership is practiced in our fast-changing world. Our sessions will offer both provocative thinking to change how you think about sustainability in the long term and practical insights you can use the following week.

If a truly just and sustainable world is our desired endpoint — and it must be — then the scenarios we will introduce can help companies and business leaders across sectors understand the changing conditions on the journey toward that goal.

We look forward to welcoming you to New York and to joining with you to make the most positive possible future our new reality.

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