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The Decisive Decade

Welcome to the Decisive Decade

The 2020s will be the decisive decade as the new climate for business brings fundamental changes to the operating environment for companies. It will also be the decisive decade in terms of meeting the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), shifting the economy to achieve the aspirations of the Paris Agreement, and achieving a fair economy that works for everyone.

Our collective ability to achieve a world in which everyone can live a prosperous and dignified life within the planet’s natural boundaries lies in the balance.

This decade will be about creating resilient business strategies as companies move beyond integration of sustainability and truly redefine business and the role of the company in society, which will enable them to navigate profound change and deliver value and positive outcomes for the world.

What impact can your company have in the next decade?

Hear from BSR Members on how their companies will make an impact in the decisive decade of the 2020s:

Big Disruptions...and Opportunities

Business action is essential to achieving the SDGs by 2030. At the same time, companies everywhere are confronted with a vast array of disruptions that are reshaping the business landscape in fundamental ways. As our President and CEO Aron Cramer explained in his first Annual Letter and as we discussed extensively at the BSR Conference 2019, companies are facing a New Climate for Business. Sustainability can deliver both resilient business strategies and progress on the SDGs.

The factors shaping this new climate present companies with both challenges and opportunities. Businesses that anticipate the pace and nature of change, think holistically, and address them in a comprehensive and future-oriented fashion will be uniquely positioned to thrive through the 2020s and beyond. You can read more about these factors in Aron’s letter, as well as in his recently published blog post from Davos.

Among the key issues we’ve highlighted:

Creating More Widely Shared Prosperity

Over the coming decade, business should promote more widely shared economic opportunity while also partnering to create an equitable pact between citizens and employees, business, and government that spreads prosperity and well-being more widely.

Aligning New Technology with Human Rights and Ethics

Business has both a responsibility–and an opportunity–to realize the full potential of new technologies by ensuring they are developed in a manner that is consistent with human rights and ethical principles.

Decisive Action on the Climate Crisis

We’re experiencing the impacts of climate change sooner, and with more ferocity, than predicted. Meanwhile, emissions continue to grow, and we remain off-track to achieve peak emissions by the end of this year. It is essential that business set–and work towards–ambitious climate targets, including science-based targets, to align their business strategies with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C objective, on the way to net zero emissions.

Aligning Business Purpose with Societal Objectives

A sustainability agenda that is not supported and reinforced by valuations, targets, and accountability will never reach its full potential. Boards must begin to design corporate purpose, business strategies, lobbying efforts, and incentive systems in order to tackle the challenges of this new climate for business.

Ensuring Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces and Societies

In spite of important and meaningful steps forward, harmful narratives and stereotypes continue to exist in society and in our workplaces. Corporate action on diversity and inclusion, as well as the need to defend equality and fairness, has never been more important. Companies should be clear on their commitment to diversity by reinforcing corporate values and making it clear where they stand on equal rights and inclusion. The business case is clear: Companies embracing diversity and inclusion will benefit from increased innovation, enhanced business performance, and improved talent attraction and retention.

Combatting Threats to Open Societies

Business has always supported open markets, which in turn depend on open societies. At a time when many leaders are promoting division and xenophobia, business must use its voice to preserve open societies that enable creativity, connection, and trade to flourish. The challenge for business is to understand how, and where, to defend and support the institutions upon which open societies depend.

Are you ready for the new climate for business?

How BSR Can Enable Business

BSR helps companies turn sustainability into a strategic advantage. We support the creation of business approaches that unlock new opportunities and contribute to the achievement of global sustainability goals.

In 2020, we will expand our work with companies to develop, strengthen, and implement business strategies across several key areas, including:

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Setting Ambitious Goals to 2030

To meet our moment, new approaches to goal setting are needed. Incremental improvements in sustainability, while still relevant, are no longer enough. Business can use a range of approaches to set bold goals on core priorities, such as using ambitious targets, context-based goals, and “backcasting” from an ideal future state. BSR can help your company to identify ambitious goals in line with corporate values and purpose and clearly defined business objectives.

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Setting–and Achieving–Ambitious Climate Targets

More and more companies are committing to ambitious targets, with science-based targets becoming a norm and net zero objectives rapidly becoming more common. To help make these essential objectives a reality, BSR is working with its members to apply the TCFD recommendations, develop and implement Scope 3 emissions targets, and build other collaborations to work with value chain and industry partners to make the transition to a clean energy economy.

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Future-Proofing Sustainability

Resilient business strategies will succeed only to the degree that they anticipate the many changes reshaping our world. One part of this is monitoring signals of change, the emerging trends that presage transformations to the business environment. BSR’s Sustainable Futures Lab is poised to help your company identify these issues and navigate a turbulent and rapidly changing world.

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Meeting Rising Investor Interest in ESG

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing has moved rapidly from a niche to the mainstream. This creates new opportunities for companies that understand and stay ahead of market expectations. BSR can work with your company to strengthen your understanding of the ESG investing landscape, to successfully navigate proxy season and shareholder resolutions, and to engage with internal investor relations teams and impact investors in a more effective manner.

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Applying Human Rights to Emerging Issues and Technologies

Disruptive technologies and shifting social norms are transforming the circumstances in which business is expected to meet its responsibility to respect human rights. BSR works with companies in both tech and non-tech industries to help them develop policies and practices which respect the human rights impacts arising from the use of innovative new products and services.

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Promoting Policy Efforts to Advance and Support Sustainable Business

Governing bodies, from local to national to international, will play a key role in sustainable business to 2030 and beyond. In 2020, BSR will be working with more companies to ensure that the work of their sustainability teams is supported by corporate efforts to influence public policy so that the positive impacts of purpose-driven business strategy are magnified by the actions of government and society.

Individual company action to advance the decisive decade agenda is important, but it’s insufficient for the scale and scope of the task at hand. Ambitious collaboration, led by the private sector and involving important stakeholders, will be at the heart of our ability to navigate the new climate for business and tackle the systemic challenges related to the SDGs.

BSR has more than 25 years of experience in designing and scaling high-impact partnerships. These partnerships engage the capabilities, ingenuity, knowledge, reputation, networks, and financial resources of the private sector on issues ranging from green freight to the well-being of women in global supply chains to fighting corruption in the maritime industry. In 2020, BSR’s CoLab will continue to work with companies from multiple sectors throughout the world to develop new collaborative initiatives which deliver value to business and positive impacts for the environment and society.