The Vision 2050 framework guides businesses to lead urgent global transformations addressing pressing issues, such as climate change, inequality, and environmental degradation, to ensure a sustainable future by 2050. This article will summarize the Vision 2050 report and highlight its key points.
Image Credit: Piyaset/Shutterstock.com
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led global community of over 200 leading sustainable businesses working together to accelerate the systemic changes required for a net-zero, environmentally friendly, and more equitable future.
Vision 2050 was first introduced by WBCSD in 2010 as part of a significant report that examined what a sustainable world could look like, how it could be achieved, and the role of businesses in making it a reality.
A decade later, WBCSD and its member companies have recognized the slow progress toward sustainability, despite the availability of new frameworks such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
As a result, they have updated Vision 2050 and set a new baseline for business leadership to accelerate sustainability efforts.
Time for A Shared Vision
The Vision 2050 report outlines a shared vision for a future in which over 9 billion people can live well on Earth by 2050.
What does it mean to live well within planetary boundaries?
Living well within planetary boundaries entails respecting everyone's fundamental rights and needs and providing them equal opportunity. This goes hand in hand with a commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, protecting and sustainably using nature, and maintaining resilience in a healthy Earth system.
Achieving this vision is crucial for businesses to operate profitably and build long-term value.
The urgent need for action
By 2050, over 9 billion people can live well within planetary boundaries, but immediate action is necessary to achieve this goal.
Earth faces significant challenges, including a climate emergency, deteriorating nature, growing inequality, and social unrest, with critical tipping points being approached.
Businesses, civil society, and government must work together to transform the systems to prevent further deterioration. The next decade represents our final opportunity to steer towards a better path.
WBCSD Vision 2050
Video Credit: World Business Council for Sustainable Development/YouTube.com
Time for Action
Vision 2050's Transformation Pathways for Businesses
Vision 2050 includes nine transformation pathways, outlining the essential services and products that society needs. Each pathway has a clear vision of meeting societal needs by 2050 and a list of transitions and action areas for businesses to achieve them.
Energy: An affordable and reliable net-zero carbon energy system for all.
Transportation & Mobility: Safe, clean, efficient, and accessible transportation of people and commodities.
Living Spaces: Healthy, inclusive, and nature-friendly homes.
Products & Materials: Resource use is optimized while systems can regenerate to meet society's needs.
Financial Products & Services: Mobilizing financial capital, products, and services to support sustainable development.
Connectivity: Responsible connectivity connects people, improves efficiency and transparency, and increases opportunity.
Health & Well-being: The best achievable standard of health and well-being for everyone.
Water & Sanitation: Sustainable and flourishing aquatic ecosystems for food, energy, and public health.
Food: An equitable and sustainable food system providing everyone with healthy, nutritious, and safe food.
Progressing along the transformation pathways of Vision 2050 should be at the core of the global business leaders' mission. However, this progress requires fundamental changes to their mindset.
Time for a Mindset Shift
What mindsets do businesses need to accelerate the Vision 2050 transformation?
The following three key strategic mindset shifts will accelerate the transformation and shape decision-making in the next decade:
Mindset shift 01: reinventing capitalism
Businesses must advocate for the reinvention of capitalism to redirect the strength of the competitive markets and private enterprises toward long-term environmental, societal, and business prosperity.
Mindset shift 02: long-term resilience
Businesses must prioritize resilience in their strategic planning to strengthen their ability to adapt to the unpredictable and volatile nature of the world.
Mindset shift 03: regenerative thinking
Businesses need to move from a "doing no harm" mindset, unleash the potential of ecological and social living systems they rely on, and strengthen their ability to evolve, flourish and regenerate.
Time to Succeed
How do systems transform?
Transformation involves fundamental changes at the root level to produce entirely new outcomes. This process goes beyond individual companies or sectors and requires action from multiple industries and societies.
Transformations are triggered by innovations and macro trends and supported by factors such as regulations and mindsets. In addition, it requires an understanding of how systems change and what actions can be taken across ecosystems of influence to unlock the required transformations.
Businesses cannot transform systems alone but can facilitate change by acting and collaborating with other stakeholders. This requires ambitious effort and systems thinking across all levels of society.
What are the essential transformation enablers that businesses must leverage?
The report outlines four significant domains where business can use its influence to drive behavioral changes, shape markets, and bring about systemic transformation:
Innovation & technology
Businesses that prioritize environmental and social impact in their innovation processes and technology and proactively avoid unintentional negative consequences will benefit society and build more resilient business models.
Finance & investment
Finding strategies for businesses to direct their investment toward socially, financially, and environmentally beneficial outcomes will be critical to achieving Vision 2050.
Individuals & consumption
Businesses can contribute to empowering individuals to become agents of positive change by providing them with incentives and options that promote sustainable choices, accelerating transformation towards a sustainable future.
Policy & regulation
The policies and regulations establish a fair, predictable, and stable environment for businesses to compete, invest, and prosper. Therefore, businesses must actively participate in shaping policies that promote sustainable transformation.
Time for Leadership
What kind of leadership is required to take us forward?
By adopting a Vision 2050 leadership model based on a shared vision, mindset shifts, and systems thinking, multinational companies can influence positive change and drive transformative change across value chains, cultures, and geographies.
Adopting the three core elements of Vision 2050 will foster new forms of leadership centered around a shared vision, a disruptive approach, a strong commitment to action, and accountability for progress toward a sustainable future for everyone.
Vision 2050: Unlocking Business Potential for a Sustainable Future through Social Responsibility and Positive Action
The updated Vision 2050 presents a significant opportunity for businesses to fulfill their social responsibility, achieve their full potential, and accelerate the transformation toward a sustainable future.
The report is not a strict plan but a flexible framework that can inspire positive action and accelerate transformation. It offers a shared understanding of the urgent transformations needed, a common narrative for business leaders, and a valuable resource for sustainability planning and business strategies.
References and Further Reading
WBCSD. (2021). Vision 2050: Time to Transform. How Business Can Lead the Transformations the World Needs. [Online]. World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Available at: https://www.wbcsd.org/contentwbc/download/11765/177145/1