Image: Gucci Off The Grid 2020 Campaign
Since the pandemic hit the world at the end of 2019, the whole structure of our society changed, and with that also the meaning of what we used to call sustainability.
More than 17 months later, we look at the world through a different lens. There is some good news around us – one that sustainability is being talked about by every single business, and another that we have a huge opportunity to reinvent the wheel. Everything we thought was “normal”, is in fact no longer, and we can re-think the system completely, produce a much better new one.
But, with this good news, we also have a confusing scenario: sustainability is confusing, there are way too many initiatives and certifications and frameworks and so much greenwashing that the landscape is actually pretty foggy.
At Eco-Age we have been working on sustainability, and leading the sustainable movement in fashion for example, for years. We feel a bit like the “old parents” who know it all. We have never separated the “environmental” from the “social”, knowing full well that when you take care of humans you automatically take care of the environment where they live. We have been cutting through the noise for a very long time – and today we are excited. As among the various CSR initiatives and frameworks – the SDGs, the GRI’s, the ESG’s and so on – and the million certifications which are hard to keep track on – we now have a very strong and clear way forward: The Future-Fit Business Benchmark.
The Future-Fit Business Benchmark, and the Future-Fit Foundation that developed this benchmark, was co-founded by Martin Rich and Dr Geoff Kendall and it means pretty much what it says. It’s a tool that helps businesses respond to the challenges we face and create a Future-Fit society that is:….
(to which we also add “Technologically Balanced”).
These four pillars should be the foundation of every single business that wants to be still operative and profitable in 10 years time.
Why we feel so strongly about this new way forward? Because, if you look around, it makes so much sense.
Kenneth Pucker, former CEO of Timberland, wrote a brilliant article in the Harvard Business Review about what he calls “Sustainabilty Inc” – “Overselling Sustainability Reporting” gives the perfect scenario of where we are at today and also makes the perfect case for the fact that “reporting is not a proxy for progress. Measurement is often nonstandard, incomplete, imprecise and misleading. And headlines touting new milestones in disclosure and socially responsible investments are often just fanciful ‘greenwashing’. Worst yet – the focus on reporting may actually be an obstacle to progress – consuming bandwidth, exaggerating gains, and distracting from the very real need for changes in mindsets, regulation and corporate behavior”.
Auden Schendler, author of “Getting Green Done” says it best: “Measurement and reporting have become ends to themselves, instead of a means to improve environmental or social outcomes. It’s as if a person committed to a diet and fanatically started counting calories but continued to eat the same number of cheeseburgers”.
With his experience, Pucker also has seen it all – from the fact that CSR reports are rarely validated by third parties, to the fact that supply chains have disappeared from view or that carbon measurement means little or a lot depending on the methodology used. For him, cutting through the noise would mean large interventions that actually move the needle but that would not be too popular in the corporate world, “because they require changes in the rules governing companies’ behaviour, a repricing of resources to address market failures, and a reorientation of how public assets are allocated and how power is distributed”.
Can you imagine this happening? Yet “a sustainable system will ultimately require a paradigm shift from the prevailing goal of wealth creation to one of well-being, and a shift in focus away from GDP and towards something akin to the OECD’s Better Life Index”.
For us at Eco-Age here enters Future-Fit Foundation. In a recent article on Linkedn, co-founder & Executive Director Martin Rich says “We collectively understand what business needs to do to play its part in creating a world without poverty, hunger, climate change and injustice. We must move swiftly to enable the former to empower the latter, in complete honesty and transparency. The cost of failure is unthinkable, it upside of success is (almost) unimaginable”.
We don’t have much time to make it all right for our children to still have a planet to live on must be the phrase we hear most. And the truest, and scariest. So shall we cut through the noise and finally get the job done? Let’s go.