The term “systems transformation” is increasingly being used to describe what is needed to achieve sustainable development. Players across government, industry, academia and civil society are more and more aligned in their position that the sustainable development challenges we face are complex, highly interconnected and systemic, and that incremental change will not be enough to achieve a truly sustainable future.
However, despite the continued popularization of the concept of systems transformation, this term is often interpreted differently and applied with varying levels of ambition. To give us the best possible chance of securing genuine change and ensuring that systemic risks and vulnerabilities do not continue to accumulate, it is vital that we develop a clear and collective understanding of what systems transformation actually involves, how it happens and the levers that different actors, including the private sector, can pull to accelerate the lasting change that is urgently required.
A new issue brief released by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) sets out to answer these questions. Drawing on a broad literature review and a series of expert interviews, it lays out a common theory and vocabulary for business that will support the uncommon task of driving the transformation of key economic systems in the critical years ahead.
This piece of work is an interim output from WBCSD’s current refresh of its Vision 2050, a landmark 2010 report that laid out a pathway to a world in which nine billion people are able to live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century. WBCSD is working together with 40 of its member companies to update this work and again provide business with a common agenda for action over the decade to come. Among the resources that have already been produced are an analysis of Macrotrends & Disruptions shaping 2020-2030, and a piece of work looking at The consequences of COVID-19 for the decade ahead.
In the coming months the Council will release further thought pieces, supporting companies as they navigate the challenges of responding to the socio-economic turmoil unleashed by COVID-19, all the while maintaining (and increasing) ambition on realizing sustainable development.