Over the past 30 years, the world has seen huge social improvements and technological progress. We have experienced unprecedented economic growth and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We’re benefiting from a life-changing digital revolution that could help solve our most pressing social and environmental challenges. Yet despite these successes, our current model of development is deeply flawed. Signs of its failure and imperfections in today’s markets are everywhere. Natural disasters triggered by climate change have doubled in frequency since the 1980s. Violence and armed conflict cost the world the equivalent of nine percent of GDP in 2014, while lost biodiversity and ecosystem damage cost an estimated three percent. We continue to invest in high-carbon infrastructure at a rate that could commit us to irreversible, immensely damaging climate change. Social inequality and youth unemployment is worsening in countries across the world, while on average women are still paid 25 percent less than men for comparable work.
Achieving the Global Goals opens up US$12 trillion of market opportunities in the four economic areas examined by the . These are food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. They represent around 60 percent of the real economy and are critical to delivering the Global Goals. To capture these opportunities in full, businesses need to pursue social and environmental sustainability as avidly as they pursue market share and shareholder value. If a critical mass of companies joins us in doing this now, together we will become an unstoppable force. If they don’t, the costs and uncertainty of unsustainable development could swell until there is no viable world in which to do business. This is new territory. Moving business to a sustainable growth model will be disruptive, with big risks as well as opportunities at stake. It will involve experimenting with new “circular” and more agile business models and digital platforms that can grow exponentially to shape new social and environmental value chains. Knowing how to move first and fast is critical; so is reducing exposure to the risk of assets being stranded by the shift to low-carbon, more automated economies.