Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Sustainability


The Cambridge English Dictionary defines sustainability as: ”the quality of being able to continue over a long period of time”. Although commonly used to refer to environmental sustainability, it also encompasses economic and social sustainability.

For businesses, sustainability means measuring an organisation’s success according to more than immediate financial return. As well as a key performance indicator for business, sustainability is beginning to influence how countries assess success. New Zealand, for example, now publishes a wellbeing budget with five priorities: a sustainable and low-emissions economy; a thriving nation in the digital age; lifting Maori/Pacific wages; reducing child poverty; and supporting mental health. Bhutan has long been known for its emphasis on Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product.

Any long-term look ahead must confront the climate emergency and the need to reduce greenhouse gases to restrict global temperature rises. 2021 has followed preceding years with a succession of extreme climate events including record snowfall in Madrid and Texas, exceptional temperatures in Mediterranean countries, the Pacific North West and Russia, and flooding in New York, Germany, China and London. The World Meteorological Organisation has reported a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters over the last fifty years. António Gutteres, the UN Secretary General, described the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report, on the urgency of combatting the effect of human activity on the climate, as “a code red for humanity”.

The Glasgow UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is resulting in commitments from governments, investors and businesses to take action including protecting forests, halting fossil-fuel developments overseas and aligning investments with net zero emissions.

The drive for sustainability and combatting the climate emergency will accelerate change across the world, driving technological development and influencing travel and transportation. The internal combustion engine is being replaced by battery-power and other fuels such as hydrogen power. The environmental impact is curtailing travel in the short term, but it may not be long before low-impact air and sea travel and sustainable land transport change behaviours once more. Technology will play an important role in both a shift to wind, tidal and hydro (and possibly nuclear, including nuclear fusion) and to more energy-efficient goods. Global renewable energy capacity doubled over the last decade and is increasing at an ever faster rate that promises to accelerate further.