Business leaders must embrace whole-systems thinking

In considering the past and future of sustainability, businesses must consider their current place in the web of natural resources availability and use.

"What do we mean by actually engaging in the ecosystems of the world?" asked David McConville, co-chair of the think tank Buckminster Fuller Institute. 

It's not enough to increase energy efficiency or reduce emissions, although these are "critically important," but actively cultivate the health of the globe. Businesses and utilities can be fragmented in looking at vectors of sustainability without noticing the "hidden role" of ecosystem services to support human settlement. 

For example, to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide emissions, businesses also should pay attention to the role the agriculture sector plays in increasing soil health, sequestering carbon or retaining water.