Business Looks Ahead to New Energy

A personality trait of successful business entrepreneurs is a self-confidence that can easily become arrogance.

One of today’s most interesting examples is that of the Silicon Valley titans who, having been lucky enough to have been at the right place to win big in the 1990s’ information technology and internet miracles, have set their sites on transforming the way the world generates its electricity and uses personal transportation.

In Vision 2050, the 29 corporate members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) gave their arrogance a methodical exercising by taking on nothing less ambitious than predicting the future. As the result of dialogues in 20 countries with hundreds of companies and a spectrum of experts, the Vision 2050 Project was able to create a description of a world that is approaching genuine sustainability in the year 2050 and then extrapolate the means to get to that world.

The realization of the very hopeful Vision 2050 will require basic changes in the world’s governance, economic framework, ways of doing business and human ways. Vision 2050 believes these changes to be needed and feasible but, more than that, to represent enormous opportunities. The businesses that make sustainability their strategy, the report contends, can reap huge returns.

Vision 2050 asks 3 questions: (1) What is a sustainable world? How does today’s world get to it? What can business do to maximize the transition to a sustainable world? ::continue::

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The answers, in their simplest forms, are to reach the point where earth’s burgeoning population (1) lives well and (2) lives within the earth’s limits.

Living well means having access to and the ability to afford education, healthcare, mobility, the basics of food, water, energy and shelter, and consumer goods.

Living within the limits of earth’s carrying capacity means living within available natural resources and without further harm to biodiversity, climate and ecosystems.

The report offers a vision, not a plan. It invites dialogue that, its creators hope, will explain the way business can stop doing today’s business-as-usual. Improving the use of resources and materials 4-to-10 times over will cut the volume needed of those resources and materials to 1 planet’s worth, from the 2.3 planets’ worth that will result from business-as-usual.

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This post is based on Vision 2050; The new agenda for business, January 2010, from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

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