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Product, Service & Design Innovation
How to Know a Truly Sustainable Company When You See One

“There was an American comedian 100 years ago that said, ‘If we don’t change direction soon, then we’ll end up where we’re going.’ Where we’re going at the moment is not very pretty.”

So said Geoff Kendall, CEO of the Future Fit Foundation, as he opened this breakout session, continuing by explaining that a clear, defined destination is needed for companies to know where they should be headed.

“At the start of any journey, the most important step is to understand what the destination is; something that we have been lacking in the sustainability world. That is what the Future Fit Business Benchmark is.”

Handing the baton straight to Ingun Berget, CEO for sustainable lighting company Bright, Kendall let this aspiring Future Fit company speak about its experience.

Berget shared Bright’s story of developing the Sun Bell, a multi-functional solar LED lamp and mobile phone charger. Built to be accessible to a billion people in developing countries, the Sun Bell is a solar light that is flexible and multifunctional enough to be the only light a household needs.

Lack of light is one of the challenges that come with poverty in developing areas; not having artificial light by which to study and do homework is a real disadvantage for children and young adults in education.

The UN came in as Bright’s first customers in 2014, putting in an order for 200,000 lamps for refugee camps. Similar orders kept coming in but despite the stable business Bright felt the need to diversify, to not rely on humanitarian disasters. Looking to re-evaluate the building blocks of its business, Bright approached Future Fit in an effort to ensure that it became fully sustainable.

Although providing renewable energy, solar lighting is usually not entirely sustainable due to the batteries, plastics and components used - materials that would be harmful unless tackled responsibly.

“So what does being a sustainable company actually mean?” Kendall asked. "How can we know a truly sustainable company? How will we know how far away a company is from being sustainable?”

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Geoff spoke about his frustrations with many gradings and benchmarks that measure progress against past performance or competitors rather than against the desired outcome.

Harnessing existing research about what humanity needs to flourish long term, Future Fit embarked on a journey to create a benchmark that is future focused, science based, co-created and crucially, open source and free.

Striving to recreate the Android model for sustainability benchmarks, Future Fit have created standards that are simple and easy to use, clear enough to get CEO buy in for, with Future Fit goals as company aspirations. The standards help companies measure themselves against the desired end. They then create goals as corporate aspirations with priorities set to the areas with the biggest performance gaps between the present situation and end goal.

The Future Fit goals were created by cross referencing principles with global risks, thus developing a clear, systematic tool that can help those at any level of an organization to really ‘get’ sustainability and be engaged in reaching end goals.

As Geoff put it, “It’s not an easy journey but we need to have that destination to work towards. Some goals require rethinking the business model and how we do things. Helping businesses think about this has been one of the most rewarding parts of our work.”