Sustainable Business Can Unlock at Least US$12 Trillion in New Market Value, and Repair Economic System
New report shows next decade critical for companies to open 60 key market “hot spots,” tackle social, environmental challenges, and re-build trust with society.
More than 35 CEOs and civil society leaders of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (the Commission) today reveal that sustainable business models could open economic opportunities worth at least US$12 trillion and up to 380 million jobs a year by 2030. Putting the Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, at the heart of the world’s economic strategy could unleash a step-change in growth and productivity, with an investment boom in sustainable infrastructure as a critical driver. However, this will not happen without radical change in the business and investment community. Real leadership is needed for the private sector to become a trusted partner in working with government and civil society to fix the economy.
In its flagship report Better Business, Better World, the Commission recognises that while the last few decades have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, they have also led to unequal growth, increasing job insecurity, ever more debt and ever greater environmental risks. This mix has fueled an anti-globalisation reaction in many countries, with business and financial interests seen as central to the problem, and is undermining the long-term economic growth that the world needs. The Commission has spent the last year exploring a central question, “What will it take for business to be central to building a sustainable market economy—one that can help to deliver the Global Goals?” Better Business, Better World—the release of which is timed with the World Economist Forum in Davos and the U.S. presidential inauguration—shows how.
“This report is a call to action to business leaders. We are on the edge and business as usual will drive more political opposition and land us with an economy that simply doesn’t work for enough people. We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, chair of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. “Better Business, Better World shows there is a compelling incentive for why the latter isn’t just good for the environment and society; it makes good business sense.”
At the heart of the Commission’s argument are the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals)—17 objectives to eliminate poverty, improve education and health outcomes, create better jobs and tackle our key environmental challenges by 2030. The Commission believes the Global Goals provide the private sector with a new growth strategy that opens valuable market opportunities while creating a world that is both sustainable and inclusive. And the potential rewards for doing so are significant.
The report reveals 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in just four key economic areas could create at least US$12 trillion, worth over 10% of today’s GDP. The breakdown of the four areas and their potential values are: Energy US$4.3 trillion; Cities: US$3.7 trillion; Food & Agriculture US$2.3 trillion; Health & Well-being US$1.8 trillion.
“Global Goals hot spots” identified in the report have the potential to grow 2-3 times faster than average GDP over the next 10-15 years. Beyond the US$12 trillion directly estimated, conservative analysis shows potential for an additional US$8 trillion of value creation across the wider economy if companies embed the Global Goals in their strategies. The report also shows that factoring in the cost of externalities (negative impacts from business activities such as carbon emissions or pollution) increases the overall value of opportunities by almost 40%.
“At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and a commissioner. “Many are now realizing the enormous opportunities that exist for enlightened businesses willing to stand up and address these urgent challenges. But every day that passes is another lost opportunity for action. We must react quickly, decisively and collectively to ensure a fairer and more prosperous world for all.”
While the opportunities are compelling, the Business Commission makes it clear that two critical conditions must be met to build these new markets. First, innovative financing from both private and public sources will be needed to unlock the US$2.4 trillion required annually to achieve the Global Goals.
“As stewards of long-term capital, the investment industry and its clients can support the achievement of the SDGs by creating simple, standardized sustainability metrics integral to the investment process,” said Hendrik du Toit, CEO, Investec Asset Management, and member of the Commission. “We also need new streamlined partnerships with governments and communities that can reduce risks for everyone and bring more private investment at lower cost into sustainable infrastructure development.” Read more