Do you pretty much ‘get’ sustainability, but still struggle to know what the implications are for your business, and how to make it part of normal business planning? You’re far from alone. If you’ve followed our work with the Technology Strategy Board and Aviva, you’ll be familiar with the Sustainable Economy Framework (SEF for short) – a tool that sets out planetary boundaries and social conditions for a sustainable economy.
And we’re not alone in trying to help people navigate their way through the complex data and ideas. Kate Raworth at Oxfam has been working on something similar called the ‘Doughnut’; which defines a safe and just space for humanity. But we’re both increasingly being asked: ‘How can we put it into practice?’ And this is exactly what we’ve been attempting to do.
With the Technology Strategy Board we’ve been using the SEF to embed sustainability into key areas of their business. It helps them to identify sustainability risks so that in turn they can also spot the opportunities. The ultimate goal is to deliver better businesses for the UK economy. As Richard Miller, TSB’s Head of Sustainability puts it:
“The sustainability challenge that the world economy faces represents a fantastic opportunity for smart and innovative businesses to create new products, services and business models that will generate long term wealth for individuals, businesses and society. Bringing sustainability thinking into mainstream business activities is the most important thing we can do to make that opportunity real.”
For example, the framework is feeding into the work of Catapults (centres driving innovation in key areas like satellite applications) and has helped to shape a responsible innovation framework for new technologies like synthetic biology.
A sketch of the developing prototype, showing some of the cards
So far so good. But now we want to scale up this approach, and we’re going digital to help us reach a wider audience. An SEF digital tool is currently in development and we have high hopes for it. It will turn a complex conceptual framework into something accessible that can be directly applied to businesses. It will inspire people with clear illustrations of why these issues are important and stimulate important discussions that take a systems approach and so lead to sound decisions. We want to close the gap so that considering social and environmental factors becomes as routine as examining market and financial trends.
A prototype will be ready soon and it will be available publicly early 2013. We’re excited at the prospect of combining creative digital solutions with a powerful way of breaking down what we mean by sustainability. We think it has a lot of potential so please get in touch (SEF@forumforthefuture.org) if you want to learn more about it.