Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, outlines its Vision 2050 program and how it applies to posts
When it comes to sustainable operations, no industry or sector can escape the complexities. The collective system is stuck and in order to transform the system and realize sustainable development, we must urgently simplify ‘sustainability’ and start focusing on ‘climate change’, ‘inequality’ (people) and ‘nature loss’.
The postal sector cannot escape complexity either. Leadership and action are needed to tackle the job security challenge, the impact of technology and automation, the new and sustainable ways of transport future cities are asking for, and the behavior of consumers that has changed and will change further.
This can be delivered through targeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and focusing on:
• Innovation – delivering pioneering sustainable business solutions;
• Collaboration – connecting companies, partners and sectors to deliver results that no single company could achieve alone;
• Valuation – aiming for an economy based on true value, true profits and true costs, ensuring more sustainable companies are more successful.
Realizing systems transformation
With the refresh of the Vision 2050 project, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is building a collective business leadership and action agenda for the decade to come, in order to realize systems transformation.
Vision 2050 was launched back in January 2010 and is an ambitious study mapping out the transformative changes necessary to allow over nine billion people to be living well, within the boundaries of the planet by mid-century. Created with 29 WBCSD members from 14 industries, and including insights from more than 200 companies and external stakeholders in some 20 countries, it declared that business as usual was not sustainable. Vision 2050 explored what a sustainable world would look like in mid-century, how such a world could be realized, and the role that business has to play in making that vision a reality.
Vision 2050 had at its core the attributes of successful business planning: understand the current situation, identify the obstacles to success, and create a pathway to overcome those obstacles. The resulting conclusion: we need to fundamentally transform the way the world produces and consumes everything from energy to agricultural products. Vision 2050 went on to identify unprecedented opportunities within the shift for those businesses that understood they could no longer operate in business-as-usual, autopilot mode.
Almost 10 years on from the publication of the original Vision 2050, the key concepts it explored have largely stood the test of time. The pathway that it put forward accurately identified the importance of systems transformation and predicted the key action areas for initial progress toward this from 2010-2020 including new concepts, such as the circular economy, which have since become firmly established as part of the broader business landscape. It also coined the term ‘Turbulent Teens’ to describe the current decade – turbulence that seems highly likely to continue for some years to come.
Inevitably however, a number of topics have either increased in importance or emerged as critical new areas within the sustainable development landscape and even beyond, such as the deep changes being driven by technology. Furthermore, the world that business is operating in continues to change: social tensions and environmental impacts are on the rise. These escalations are already leading to fundamental questions being asked about the role of business, and the economy as a whole, within society. Business has a material interest in shaping a viable long-term operating environment. Meeting this responsibility will require system-wide transformations in food, energy, mobility, cities and communities, materials, work and education, and the economy itself. But do we really understand what systems transformation will involve?
We are now embarking on a project to refresh this vision. A revisiting offers us the opportunity to analyze social, economic and political shifts, and to incorporate new critical elements that have emerged. It allows us to review these developments to understand and shape systems transformations and also establish what the role of business within these will need to be. And through this process we can create a renewed collective, positive, business action and leadership agenda for the 2020-2030 decade to come.
Next steps for the postal sector
The postal sector has made a great first step by developing a collective structure and shared sustainability report. Now it is time to take a next step to deliver on the report objectives and create their impact for the much-needed transformation of our economic systems. On climate change it would be good if the sector can develop a collective roadmap to decarbonize the postal sector and commit to using disclosure frameworks like the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to report on progress. We look forward to seeing the leadership of the postal sector in accelerating the transition to a sustainable world.
About the author
Peter Bakker is president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). He has led WBCSD since 2012. WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. WBCSD member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than US$8.5tn and with 19 million employees. Bakker served as CFO and then CEO of TNT NV until June 2011. He has been recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award (2009) and the Sustainability Leadership Award (2010). Bakker is chairman of War Child in the Netherlands and serves as a member of corporate sustainability advisory boards. He has been an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau since 2018, in recognition of his long-lasting commitment to engaging business in tackling global sustainability issues.
In the September issue of Parcel and Postal Technology International magazine, four European postal operators share their green initiatives and goals for future sustainable operations – don’t miss it!