Forum for the Future is an established leader in thought and actions. We operate at the cutting-edge of sustainable development, working with key decision makers on sustainability strategies and multi-stakeholder projects to transform entire systems. We've changed hearts and minds through our work and have been instrumental in shifting the way leading companies and commercial sectors operate. In the public arena we have assisted governments, cities and public service providers in developing and delivering services which offer a better way of life to the people they serve.
We've helped transform entire sectors
The retail sector has a huge influence on the behaviour of both suppliers and customers; and it has shown real leadership over recent years with Forum for the Future playing a key role in many progressive initiatives. Our work with retail giant Marks and Spencer in developing Plan A, for example, has helped ensure the scheme’s profound impact on wider business behaviour today, while our Which? Consumers in 2030 and Retail Futures projects have helped both retailers and branded manufacturers, in the UK and globally, plan for a more sustainable future.
In Fashion Futures 2025 we worked with Levi Strauss and Co using futures techniques to develop global scenarios for the fashion industry. In 2009, we piloted a module based on the scenarios with students from the London College of Fashion’s MA Fashion and the Environment. Since then it has been used by more than 300 fashion colleges around the world. The scenarios we created were later updated and adapted to help the global cotton sector create a vision for a sustainable cotton supply chain as part of the Cotton Futures project.
Our Sustainable Shipping Initiative is still making waves in the global maritime sector, helping ship owners, charterers, shipbuilders, engineers, service providers and financiers work together to transform an industry which is responsible for around 3% of the world’s carbon emissions. To date, the SSI has brought sector leaders including Maersk, Rio Tinto and Cargill to the table, and was established as an independent charity in 2013.
Our Tourism 2030 project saw us working with some of the world's biggest travel organisations - including British Airways, TUI Travel and Thomas Cook - to sign a joint pledge that by 2023 they will have created a strong and profitable industry which benefits and protects the environment.
We have also established a lasting effect on the UK agriculture and dairy sectors through our Dairy 2020 project, which has directly influenced the National Farmers' Union dairy strategy, and through the multi-award winning Farming Futures, which supports agriculture in tackling climate change and promoting positive behaviour change. Our ongoing Farm Power project involves a collaboration with Farmers’ Weekly and Nottingham Trent University to explore the potential role that farms and rural communities could and should play in a sustainable energy system.
We've got a reputation for effective, long term partnerships
Since the outset we have worked with the Board of Directors of some of the biggest names in business, including Pepsico, Sony, Skanska, Nike, AkzoNobel and Telefonica O2. With this unrivalled access to top-level decision makers, we act as critical friends advising - as well as challenging – our partners on how to bring the sustainability agenda to the very hearts of their companies.
One of our longest standing partnerships is with consumer goods giant Unilever, and a key part of this relationship has been the Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), an ambitious project aimed at doubling turnover whilst halving the business’s environmental impact by 2020. Supporting the global delivery of the USLP has become the core focus of Forum’s long-standing partnership with Unilever. Founder Director Jonathon Porritt sits on the Unilever Sustainable Development Group and provides high-level strategic advice to the organisation, on all aspects of the plan. As an organisation, we provide advice and support on key challenges to teams across Unilever.
We've helped public bodies to deliver better services
Public sector organisations spend vast amounts of money every year, and with that spend comes the ability to deliver sustainable outcomes through purchasing more sustainable products and services. We have worked with many public sector organisations to provide training, advice on policies and develop practical tools to help them put sustainable public procurement into practice. Our Buying a Better World toolkit, for example, has been used by the United Nations and recommended by the UK's Audit Commission and the National Health Service to help public sector buyers create real change. We’ve also helped major public sector suppliers play their role, including encouraging Cap Gemini to be as ambitious as possible in their successful bid for what was dubbed ‘the greenest government IT contract ever’ for the UK’s Environment Agency.
We've created new products and services
We spark innovation to create new products, services and professional standards. Our work with Telefónica O2, for example, saw the launch of the first eco ratings for mobile phones in the UK back in 2010. This has since been rolled out to Germany and fed into the development of a European Standard for public procurement of mobile phone equipment. Other projects have seen us working with AkzoNobel to develop Ecosure and Ecosense, award-winning paints that have low environmental footprints, and Pepsico in creating the iCrop, which increases agriculture production while reducing water usage. In 2013, we showcased Wandular, a state-of-the-art, one-for-a-lifetime mobile device, at the Design Museum in London as part of our work with Sony.
We've helped create more sustainable cities
According to the UK Local Government Association, our annual Sustainable Cities Index “has driven real change by inspiring cities to adopt more ambitious sustainability strategies and by providing a framework against which they can benchmark their efforts. Our Informal City Dialogues project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation is a global, multi-stakeholder project which aims to design innovations that create inclusivity and resilience in six future cities. In the UK, we worked extensively on a five-year project to deliver a sustainable city region for Bristol, which helped lead it to winning the European Green Capital Award.
We’ve brokered ground-breaking collaborations
We recognise the power of collaboration and build innovative coalitions of key decision-makers and stakeholders from across entire sectors. Using our position as an independent body we draw businesses and other organisations together in a non-competitive arena to work on the challenges that affect them all.. Our Tea 2030 project, for example, has brought together four of the seven companies responsible for 90% of the world tea market to help develop a sustainable tea industry for 2030.
In the UK, the Forum-led Community Energy Coalition is creating a powerful collaboration of more than 30 influential civil society organisations and energy practitioners to motivate and empower communities into owning, generating and saving energy together.
We’ve established organisations that have gone on to create greater impact
We have created a number of start-up enterprises and social charities that focus on particular sustainability issues, such as the Sustainable Shipping Initiative and Community Energy Coalition, already mentioned above. Once established, they have continued accelerating change to a sustainable world, leaving the Forum free to turn its attention to the next big sustainability challenge.
In 2008, we launched the London Sustainability Exchange, an independent charity focusing on connecting and motivating people to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable London. In 2011, our four-year Farming Futures project, also mentioned above, was handed over to the Centre of Excellence in UK Farming, where it continues communicating with farmers, land managers and other influencers to drive on-farm climate change adaptation and mitigation. Our work in making Bristol culminated in the second successful Bristol Big Green Week, an international festival of environmental ideas, art and culture with more than 120 events in nine days. The festival, developed by Forum and Big Green Capital, is now an independent Community Interest Company supported by Bristol City Council with ambitious plans for the future.
We’ve pushed sustainability into the classroom
Educating tomorrow’s generation about sustainability issues is an obvious step, yet surprisingly is often overlooked. The Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability Programme (HEPS) was set up to establish a pioneering partnership group of higher education institutions leading the sustainable development agenda. Eighteen universities and higher education colleges representing all the regions participated, and Forum managed and developed the initiative on behalf of the partnership. The HEPS was lauded by Charles Clarke MP, the then Secretary of State for Education, as an “extremely fruitful collaboration” that focused on practical tools and guidance and would “engage the hearts and minds of others”.
Similarly, Tomorrow Makers (previously known as ‘Engineers of the 21st Century’) was established with the support of government and the participation of 14 leading companies to work with younger engineers and their employers to raise awareness of the key role they could play in tackling sustainability problems. Established in 1998, the programme has had a long history working in collaboration with many major companies and organisations delivering both shared sustainability solutions and a unique learning opportunity for tomorrow’s leaders.
Spreading the good news
Our award-winning Green Futures magazine continues to lead the debate on environmental solutions and sustainable futures, while our widely-respected Masters course in Leadership for Sustainable Development is still delivering the sustainability leaders of the future. Previous alumni include the co-founders of Futerra (Solitaire Townsend and Ed Gillespie), Steven Hale (a director at Oxfam international), Matthew Gorman (sustainability director for Heathrow Airport) and Philip Douglas, Head of Energy Efficiency Strategy at DECC, the UK Government Department focused on energy and climate change.