For our annual trends outlook, we reviewed our own ongoing issue tracking and interviewed two dozen global sustainability experts on their expectations for 2016 and beyond, honing in on key issues and opportunities that will define the field, and on signals for companies and others to watch.
The conversation is now about the best way to achieve the goals and the speed at which it can be done.
By all accounts, 2015 was a pivotal year in sustainable development. From adoption of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the year that started with uncertainty and anticipation culminated in historical achievements and hope that the international community is finally uniting in pursuit of ambitious, long-term solutions to our most significant challenges. Among key leaders in business, government and civil society, there is growing consensus and a new feeling of certainty about the future direction of climate action and the need for more systemic responses to poverty, inequality, resource scarcity and other linked issues. The conversation is no longer about the direction and the ultimate destination – instead, it is now about the best way to achieve the goals and the speed at which it can be done.
However, the feeling of certainty and consensus is evolving in parallel with the sense of rapidly growing complexity of the global business environment and the sustainability field. As the global affairs and sustainability agendas become increasingly interconnected, a growing array of issues – from falling oil prices, terrorist threats and geopolitical instability to rising inequality, enduring corruption and the migrant crisis – pose increasing risks for business and sustainability alike, underscoring the need for more collaboration and systemic responses.