A changing (business) world
Constant change is the new normality. The future is full of them: products that do not exist today will be marketed, services unimaginable, we will need new professions, some of today’s strongest markets will disappear, we will have to face new environmental dangers… It may sound apocalyptic, but it is not: the dizzying movement of our times and the almost daily technological advances make being prepared for continuous adaptation the only way to live and do business.
Much of this change comes from environmental change, which influences everything. If it changes the planet and its needs, it changes the way of life and, with it, the way of working of the corporate environment. The key is to balance the interests of the planet with those of the company. We will give a few brushstrokes on the most striking changes.
No one (or almost no one) doubts climate change caused directly or indirectly by human activity. Human beings have been modifying their environment to adapt to it and take advantage of it since the beginning of time. But since the Industrial Revolution, the speed of consumption of raw materials and energy, pollution and mountains of waste have been unbearable for our planet. Today we can say that the balance has been broken.
One of the consequences of all this is the climate crisis, accompanied by extreme climatic phenomena that have repercussions in millionaire losses for companies. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has already released data in 2017 that should put us on alert. In the Declaration on the State of the World’s Climate, it is warned that more than 892,000 people emigrated during that year for causes related to drought and all this population must be assimilated and sustained by other territories.
For its part, the Munich Re insurance company has evaluated the losses resulting from these climate disasters and the figure leaves no room for doubt: some 260,000 million euros in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, due to the domino effect of the economy, insurance companies are already openly expressing their concern about the premiums they will have to face.
An end to fossil fuels
We will have fewer and fewer highly polluting fossil energy sources. Their supply will become more irregular, their prices fluctuating and legislation will limit their use. The Paris Agreement lays the groundwork for reducing the use of these energy sources (CO2 reduction) and sets the pace at which the use of clean energy must be implemented.
In the supply of clean energy highlights the wind, hydro, solar and biomass. According to Eurostat, Austria, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark and Latvia have worked most in this regard.
New professions, and not always “human”
We’ve already lost track of what technological revolution we’re living through. The fourth? The fifth? The pace of technological progress is dizzying and this has a direct influence on the role that workers will play. Already in 2014 it was pointed out that 75% of the professions of the future do not yet exist or are being created and most of them will be related to information technologies. A few years later, it should be added that the role of these technologies means that some machines will end up doing the job that until now was a human task. In January 2019, the Report of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented in which companies were called upon to make a responsible transition and ensure the positive social and environmental impact of incorporating technological advances.
Times for corporate transparency
The company must already provide more information than purely financial and this includes data on sustainability. This is one of the demands of investors and consumers and forms part of the recommendations for information on financial risks related to climate change.
It is essential to understand that the company of the future must be competent in sustainability and legislation moves in this direction. This is a global requirement, which must incorporate the famous ESG (environmental, social, and good governance). Undoubtedly, companies that forget these aspects will be penalized in their assessment.
Time to use and throw away is over
And it will end the use of plastic as we know it. The environmental damage caused by the indiscriminate use of this material has been such that legislation has taken action to limit its use. More and more companies are abolishing its use and becoming aware that it is one of the most valuable issues for public opinion.
Within the approach of limiting waste, the industrial world must take the necessary measures so that all products are designed at source to be reused or recycled. This closes the circle of the circular economy in which there is no room for the concept of “worthless waste”.
There is no doubt that in the near future both individuals and companies will be required to take greater responsibility for their waste. Proof of this is that many companies are already organising their waste collection circuits (Ikea, Nespresso, H&M…).
Cover image: Mads Schmidt Rasmussen.