This is not just a possibility, but an imperative.
Today the very innovations essential for saving the planet are also those that can usher in a new era of business self-reliance in energy, materials, and resilience in the face of a sputtering global supply chain. More than this, digital transformation has given companies a decade-long dry run of the processes to create value from these technologies.
We are entering an era of sustainable transformation, the successor to digital transformation.
This report, which is a synthesis of roundtable discussions held in collaboration with Salesforce and Accenture, combines the insights of over 50 leaders in sustainability, science and technology. Our mission is to put C-level leaders and board directors on notice that there’s a new business case for sustainability and tried-and-true roadmaps to take bolder climate action.
We believe a better future isn’t just possible — it’s also highly probable. It’s now up to us to forge a new path that leads from probability into reality.
Sustainable transformation is about taking the lessons we've learned over the last several years dealing with disruption, data, speed, and agility, and applying them to sustainability.
The solutions companies must pursue to reach net-zero are the same as the ones they’d have to implement anyway to adapt to three major challenges shaping the most uncertain decade for business in living memory.
Global Sustainability Strategy Director, Unilever
The sustainability era brings a host of new challenges, but it’s not uncharted territory. The last decade of digital transformation provides a problem-solving blueprint to profitably address planetary woes while fixing business pain points. We call this approach sustainable transformation, the successor to digital transformation.
Sustainable transformation is about using new technologies to compete in a way that also mitigates existential business risks like climate change. It's about fusing purpose and profit in every product or service.
The challenge is, under the market's current rules, purpose and profit don't naturally overlap in all places or over all time frames. Policy changes are needed to address this, and businesses should aggressively advocate for them. But in the meantime, strong business cases exist for sustainable transformation goals in the places where they already converge.
To harness the untapped possibilities of clean technology, we must go beyond digital-transformation-as-usual, which author John Hagel likens to "just helping caterpillars walk faster," not transforming them into an “unrecognizable butterfly.” Tectonic business model shifts and product overhauls are the main goals of sustainable transformation, not merely an aspiration.
The largest profit-purpose overlaps that companies can act on today include:
An intergenerational struggle to reach “net-zero,” completely decarbonizing our economies to prevent the worst effects of rising global temperatures.
The urgent race to cut global emissions by half before 2030, or risk global warming becoming a runaway train no amount of investment can stop.
Sustainability Tech GTM Lead,
Salesforce Business Group at Accenture
Consider that Moore’s Law – the idea that computer chips will double their performance for half the cost every two years – is “contagious” and spreads to other technologies.
Now, many of the core tools of our modern world follow similar “S-curves” of adoption and growth that drove the information revolution.
By most estimates, the cost of solar panels has fallen by over 80% in the last two decades.
Wind power costs have dropped more than50% in the last ten years and are expected to decline by an additional 37 – 49% by 2050.
According to Nature, lithium-ion battery prices have plunged by 97% since 1991.
In most places, renewable power is already much cheaper than coal or natural gas.
Wherever you look, exponential technologies, which by definition improve at least 10% a year in cost and quality, are replacing legacy technologies that can’t keep up.
Managing Director, BeyondNetZero at General Atlantic
Our research and sessions with more than 50 executives and science and technology experts from the world’s leading organizations have identified six key strategic shifts that are common to nearly every organization’s sustainable transformation strategy.
Think of them like a checklist for evaluating investment decisions. The more boxes ticked, the more impactful the approach.
As dire as the prognosis for our environment and society may be, this is no time for fatalism. If technology follows its historical adoption curves, if the forces of consumer opinion, financial markets, and regulatory action pile on to push the curves further and faster,
it’s possible that humanity will achieve net-zero even earlier than we can imagine.
The foundation of a new net-zero economy is already under construction. But since every revolution is market-driven, it’s time for us to act, innovate and build the infrastructure, marketplace, and global community we need to take us there.
Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, GE
For the first time in history, technology makes it possible for companies to be more profitable by becoming more sustainable.
This is not just a possibility, but an imperative.