The world is increasingly looking to businesses—and business leaders—to chart a path forward on a range of topics, from diversity, to climate action, to the changing nature of work as automation reshapes our world and our economy. One of the more inspiring stories so far in 2017 has been the large number of CEOs who have stood up publicly to support progress on these topics, which are central both to the business agenda and the public’s priorities. Advocacy for a just and sustainable world is more important now than ever.
As many of us prepare to gather in New York this month for Climate Week and the UN General Assembly, we are also focused on how to translate this important talk into action. That’s why we are excited to continue the momentum of these efforts and work with you to define the future of sustainable business during our 25th annual BSR Conference in Huntington Beach, California.
This milestone arrives at a time when looking ahead in a rapidly changing world is essential. While we will be taking stock at the Conference of where we have come from—not just BSR, but the wider sustainability community—we will be focusing even more attention on redefining business in a world where it is said that the pace of change will never again be as slow as it is today. As we know, it is already mind-bendingly fast.
In our times of change, it is no longer enough to look to “integrate” sustainability into business strategy. Our changing demographics, disruptive technologies, economic dislocation, shifting culture, and natural resource scarcity are not just sustainability issues; they are business issues. The best companies we work with are the ones who know that women’s empowerment, climate resilience, the changing nature of work, and new production and consumption models aren’t topics only for the sustainability report: They are crucial conversations for the board room.
In our view, this means a new agenda for business, new tools for sustainability leaders, and, in a world of political volatility, a new approach to business leadership.
At the Conference next month, we will be highlighting changemakers who are embracing the need to redefine business for an era of change. We will be featuring a special track, “FastForward 25,” that will feature conversations on topics like “Harnessing New Technologies for Supply Chain Sustainability,” “The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence,” and “Redefining Sustainable Business.”
We will explore how leading businesses are embracing new technologies; helping to reshape the social contract, navigating the intersection of technology and human rights, and many other cutting-edge topics. We will also be introducing BSR’s Sustainable Futures Lab, which we are launching this year as a new way for us to integrate futures thinking and methodologies into our collaborative and one-on-one work with our members.
We will hear from prominent voices who are looking ahead with a keen understanding of where we have come from. Al Gore will kick us off on Tuesday. He has focused on the future throughout his career. He has the perspective of someone who was involved in the earliest U.S. Congressional hearings on climate and was a powerful representative for the U.S. at the first Earth Summit in 1992, the same year BSR was launched.
BSR’s earliest leaders, including my predecessor Bob Dunn and BSR’s longtime Chairman Mats Lederhausen, both of whom possess a clear vision of what it takes to make business truly sustainable, will join us. We are also delighted to showcase some great BSR alumni: Kara Hurst of Amazon, Michael Kobori of Levi Strauss & Co., and Wei Dong Zhou of The Sustainability Consortium, great leaders of whom we are immensely proud.
The 25th BSR Conference will be a fun and stimulating opportunity to encounter old friends and new ideas. We are excited to redefine sustainable business, recharge our wonderful community of leaders, and recommit to building a just and sustainable world.
I hope you will join us by the ocean in Huntington Beach as we meet our moment with passion, creativity, and commitment.