With the BSR Conference 2016 just around the corner, we can learn a lot about where we are by looking back to this time last year.
In the last months of 2015, the world had set its agenda on sustainability: The Paris Agreement defined an ambitious goal on climate, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined a pathway for human progress to 2030. These are achievements to be celebrated; great breakthroughs like these are always the product of a combination of hard work and visionary leadership.
But as Christiana Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said as COP21 concluded: “That was the easy part.”
Her wise words remind us that while the Paris Agreement and the SDGs tell us the direction of travel, it will take an ongoing dose of bold leadership—vision and commitment—to translate these objectives into reality.
Achieving the ambitious results envisioned in 2015’s bold targets requires a change in approach within our companies, as well as dynamic partnerships on a big scale. In other words, bold leadership in today’s world requires not only top-down direction within individual organizations, but also the ability to leverage diverse people, perspectives, and institutions for systemic change on human rights, climate change, women’s empowerment, and inclusive economic growth.
At the BSR Conference 2016, we will hear from leaders in business and other sectors who think big, set ambitious goals, and inspire others to join their efforts, such as Ken Powell, Chairman and CEO of General Mills, who created bold climate goals that are moving his company and its many supply chain partners.
Bold leadership also means tackling new questions. At our Conference in November, we will present leaders who are making new models a reality, like the circular economy, which envisions new business models that create opportunities to move away from a “take, make, dispose” production system to one that restores the environment and generates value from “waste.” We will also dive into one of the biggest challenges sustainable business leaders face: how to connect with consumers’ core values to create long-term loyalty and engage them in choices that deliver positive outcomes for them and the wider world.
We will also discuss how business can approach systemic racism, a topic that has received considerable attention in 2016. We have seen CEOs, from Nike’s Mark Parker to AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, speak out about the injustice of racism, equity for the LGBTQ community, and the things business can do to help build fairer societies. The BSR Conference will provide a platform for enabling further discussion and progress on these issues.
Leadership in the 21st century is different. No single actor can get us where we need to go on her own. In our networked world, the ability to move systems is crucial. The good news is that the sustainability community is already ahead of the game when it comes to working collaboratively to make a big vision a reality.
So, please join us in New York to learn from and collaborate with a global array of leaders from business, civil society, government and other communities to show how together, we can exert bold leadership to unlock new ways for business to create value for better, fairer, healthier societies. And join us to exert your own leadership to keep us moving toward that powerful vision.
The "Bold Leadership" track at the BSR Conference 2016 is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch InBev.