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A trillion-dollar global business opportunity?

TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE in connected global markets, shrewd businesses now understand they must perform a role in creating a better world.  National and local government have an important part to play in fostering an environment to facilitate that.

It is not only the hard business case that is convincing the Chief Executives of small and large organisations to get behind the United Nations’ plan for a more sustainable world – plentiful growth opportunities are now well-documented.   It is also a sense of corporate citizenship – the leaders of these businesses understand personally the case for change.

Attracting finance to the tune of trillions of dollars a year, overwhelmingly the most accepted framework is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Launched in 2015, this sets 16 interrelated targets — from health to climate adaptation — that are monitored and measured, with a further one focusing on partnerships to support the rest.  Around just $3 trillion has been found so far, the United Nations Association reported in June 2019, and achieving them could bring in investment of twice that each year until 2030.

Some sectors however have been notably slow to take up the opportunity.  “Transport is very siloed,” says Sir Nic Cary, Director of Waysphere Transport Intelligence. “The sector is limited by commercial constraints and by the ability of government to orchestrate its efforts. So it tends to focus on engineering solutions, eschewing innovations ‘not invented here’. Many people in companies just don’t see the speed with which change is happening.”

Cleantech author Felicia Jackson also points to the importance of human capital. “One of the greatest challenges is getting individuals to understand their roles as change agents”, said Jackson, who lectures on Global Energy and Climate Policy at London University’s Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  “It’s not just about altering one’s own behaviour, but taking opportunities to champion change within an organisation in order to embed sustainable behaviours within a wider tapestry,” she added.

Listen to a short overview of the opportunities from sustainable development, by cleantech author Felicia Jackson, addressing a 2019 workshop on transport and energy at the Contented offices in Birmingham, UK.

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