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Walking the Talk
No More Band-Aids:
We Need a Radical New Plan, Report Warns

Rising nationalism and global migration are among seven trends impacting future of sustainability, according to a new report from Forum for the Future.

Fewer ‘band-aid’ solutions, in favor of more holistic systems change from world leaders, are urgently needed to address global challenges, reveals a report from sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future. The report calls for urgent collaboration between governments, businesses, NGOs and investors to avoid climate change disaster, and secure the future of our society and economy.

The Future of Sustainability 2019: Driving systems change in turbulent times reveals a “perfect storm” of seven factors that are set to impact sustainability in the future:

  • The plastics kickback

  • Migration and the climate crisis

  • Nationalism marches again

  • The onlife

  • The rise of participatory democracy

  • Changing consumerism in Asia

  • Biodiversity in free fall

It highlights that:

  • Rising nationalism around the world threatens to undermine progress in sustainability, while climate change itself may fuel nationalist politics for years to come.

  • The budding anti-plastics movement has only scratched the surface of change. Efforts must be combined with a focus on radical innovation and behavior change to tackle the world’s “throwaway” culture.

  • Global migration of at least 100 million people driven by climate change has the long- term potential to exacerbate geopolitical instability, leading to greater inequality and the need for a radical change in mindset to cope with transient populations.

  • More urgent, scaled-up and systemic action is needed to protect and enhance biodiversity, with new ways of reflecting nature’s value and importance to our survival. The extinction rate of species is now thought to be about 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet.

Drawing on the social, economic and environmental shifts happening in these areas, the report highlights the opportunities to overhaul current systems of behavior and practice, as well as the implications of doing so.

In June 2018, when Forum for the Future Chief Executive Sally Uren received an OBE for her work in sustainability, she wrote a post detailing the challenges that lie ahead, and the importance of a systems-wide approach to solving them.

Uren commented on the new report: “To tackle sustainability issues, we need to understand how the world is changing and what we’re seeing is a convergence of trends that will shape the 2020s. Rapid climate breakdown could trigger mass migration, which in turn could fuel growth in nationalism. On the positive side, the rise of participatory democracy is prompting people to act on the causes they most care about, which will be a vital part of efforts to tackle global issues such as climate change.

“At Forum for the Future, we specialise in taking a systems approach to address these challenges. But the clock is ticking and we have a limited window of opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. Now is the time for all of us — business, non-profits and more — to step up and skill up if we’re to create a more sustainable future.”

The report highlights the ways in which business, investors, nonprofits and government leaders can help address critical global challenges — including building greater connections outside their usual networks, identifying the root causes of current challenges and moving beyond competition to experiment, share and collaborate.

“The interconnected nature of the trends in this report shows us that nothing short of systemic change will help us prepare for the future and sustain the agricultural systems we all rely on,” said Sunny Verghese, co-founder and Group CEO of Olam International, and Chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “At Olam, we know it’s time for the agriculture industry to reimagine the status quo and value Forum for the Future’s insight on building futures thinking into our business strategy. Together, we are working to deliver prosperous farmers and farming systems, thriving communities and a regenerated living world.”