Section 12.2: Vision 2050 – The new agenda for business

In 2010, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) brought some of its members together to define a holistic view of what a sustainable world would look like, and the path that needs to be taken to achieve it.

Through dialogue and deliberation, the members agreed that “business as usual” actions would be insufficient to achieve sustainability or secure economic prosperity, and that radical change on all fronts was necessary to attain progress.

Recognizing the need for business leadership to function as a key catalyst for achieving sustainable development, the WBCSD and its partners created the Vision 2050 report.

Vision 2050 outlines a pathway to reach a sustainable global society by 2050, in which the earth’s projected population of 9 billion peoples can live well, and within the limits of the planet. The report is the product of an 18 month long combined effort with CEOs and experts from 29 leading global corporations across 14 industries, and in consultation with 200 other companies and stakeholders form 20 countries. It presents the most comprehensive set of milestones for achieving this goal and serves as a call to action from businesses to other businesses, and to society as a whole

By presenting the best-case scenario for sustainability and pathways for reaching it, Vision 2050 serves as a systems thinking tool for thought leadership and innovation, as well as a platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration and cooperation.

In doing so it, Vision 2050 seeks to challenge businesses to rethink their business models and to break away from the traditional growth by depletion ideology.

Watch the following video for an insight into Vision 2050 – Vision 2050: business pathways, opportunities & risks in a sustainable world

Vision 2050 Must-Haves

The pathway towards Vision 2050 is broken up into 9 elements: People’s Values, Human Development, Economy, Agriculture, Forests, Energy and Power, Buildings, Mobility and Materials (x-axis). Each element consists of two time frames: “Turbulent Teens” from now until 2020, and “Transformation Time” from 2020 to 2050 (y-axis). These time frames provide companies with an understanding of the magnitude of the challenge and present the necessary achievements –the “must haves” needed in order to attain the vision.

Vision 2050 defines the “must-haves” for a sustainable 2050 – the necessary achievements that must be attained by humankind as a whole, over the coming decade to ensure the establishment of a sustainable planetary society. These include:

– Incorporating the costs of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water, into the structure of the marketplace.
– Doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used.
– Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests.
– Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems.
– Improved demand-side energy efficiency, and providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.

The failure to achieve any of these individual must-haves would have ripple effects that prevent the achievement of other must-haves, and thus stall the progress towards a sustainable future.

Source: World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2010

Supplementary Resources

Hollender (2015) “Net Positive: The Future of Sustainable Business”

Vision 2050

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