Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalization?

Source: SustainAbility

More than two years in the making, “Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalization” offers a blunt assessment of the business operating context in 2027.

The study, published by SustainAbility depicts four alternate scenarios for the year 2027 in a card game format, where clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades represent various combinations of environmental and societal wins and losses.

Grounded in the hard realities that business and policy leaders face now and through 2027, Raising Our Game is neither a starry-eyed look at a rosy future, nor a “chicken little” prediction of inevitable calamity. The report’s authors say it is about the hard choices we face, and what they mean for us all down the road. As the stakes rise, innovation, entrepreneurship, and effectively sourcing ideas and talent from emerging economies will be essential to managing the worsening divides that now threaten global stability. These threats are catalogued in section three of the report.

The report proposes a new set of rules for business to rise to the unprecedented challenges ahead.

SustainAbility argues that the interplay of sustainable development and globalization is defining the future and the stakes for the planet are rising. “The stakes could not be higher: this century’s defining global gamble focuses on sustainability - a game in which we are betting both the planet and our future as a species,” says the report.

In this new paradigm, there will be winners and losers, but no more business as usual, the authors argue. The study looks at the trade-offs involved in future choices over environmental and social values, and at the role still to be played by innovation, entrepreneurship and the emerging economies of the South.

Globalization is not a new phenomenon but has massively accelerated over the last two decades with 20% of the world GDP now being contributed by global trade. This acceleration has been driven by the opening up of new markets, the rapid evolution of technology and global connectivity, the growing prominence of developing countries, and the great surge in the number and reach of multinational businesses.

The economic growth has major sustainability consequences. Emerging economies China, India, Brazil, and Russia already are collectively responsible for 30% of global CO2 emissions.

But while opportunities flourish, divides based on demographics, wealth, gender, nutrition, health, environmental resources, education, information, security, and governance continue to persist, and in many cases are worsening, notes the report.

Six dimensions of possible future scenarios are identified:

  • Economic growth will continue but will need to be contained within a ‘one planet’ agenda.

  • There will be a continued acceleration in the scale and speed of events and decision-making: from business cycles to environmental impacts.

  • The sustainable development agenda, or at least key components of it such as climate change and human rights, will continue to be mainstreamed into market and political systems.

  • But the agenda will continue to encounter a bewildering array of social, cultural, ecological, and even psychological barriers.

  • The importance of leadership will be further emphasized and will likely emerge from unexpected directions including from newly emergent city-states, NGOs, and companies.

  • Finally, equity will re-emerge as a fundamental principle, and a precondition of a more sustainable world.

SustainAbility looks at these forces and examines the possible interplay of economic and environmental factors over the next two decades to assess the future of business and sustainable development.

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