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WBCSD releases insights into innovations that could shape and transform the next decade

The World Business Council Sustainable Development has issued this briefing as part of a series of interim outputs linked to WBCSD’s current refresh of its Vision 2050, a landmark 2010 report that laid out a pathway to a world in which nine billion people are able to live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century. WBCSD is working together with 40 of its member companies to update this work and again provide business with a common agenda for action over the decade to come.

This common agenda centers on WBCSD’s vision of a world in which 9+ billion people can live well, within planetary boundaries. Achieving this vision calls for transformation across a wide range of key global systems, driving forward radical shifts in how we power our societies, feed ourselves, build the communities in which we live, move around, and consume goods and services. As significant systems shifts are primarily influenced by prevailing macrotrends and transformative innovations, the Vision 2050 project has sought to understand these areas in greater detail.

Building on the insights of Zurich-based think tank W.I.R.E., this issue briefoutlines 25 innovation areas, grouped into three types of innovations:

  • 5 business model shifts – changes in key aspects of the contemporary approach of business-making (value creation, value delivery or value capturing);
  • 12 emerging technologies – devices or processes originating from research developments or technical knowledge that could make an impact in markets or societies;
  • 8 social innovations – ways of interacting that could alter social systems and overcome one or several challenges faced by society.

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, commented: “There is no question that innovation, including but also beyond digital technologies, is essential if Vision 2050 is to be achieved. Essential systems transformations will depend on innovation: in decarbonization technologies, transport technologies, in preventative healthcare and in gene technologies, materials and materials reuse, in building design, building use and reuse, in sanitation and in the sanitation economy, in agricultural practices, food storage technologies and more. The future is rarely shaped by single innovations – more often it is multiple innovations aligning at a particular moment and influencing society in a transformative way. We cannot predict the future, but we can identify the innovations could shape it and the ones that we might need to push the future in a certain direction. This issue brief helps us think about the innovations that we can leverage in service of our Vision, and those that we need to work harder to bring about.”

The Vision 2050 project will be releasing further issue briefs in the coming months to help companies navigate the challenges of responding to the socio-economic turmoil unleashed by COVID-19, whilst maintaining (and increasing) ambition on sustainable development goals. Among the resources that have already been produced are an analysis of Macrotrends & Disruptions shaping 2020-2030, a piece of work looking at the consequences of COVID-19 for the decade ahead, and insights into how systems transform. Forthcoming issue briefs will focus on the steps business can take to make itself more resilient to future shocks as well as reflections on how capitalism can and should change to enable a sustainable, inclusive future.

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