THE BLOG

Where Is Humanity Headed?

09/12/2016 11:30 GMT | Updated 08/12/2017 10:12 GMT

Where is humanity headed? The world is chaotic, turbulent and constantly changing. People pursue their own personal interests, playing to their strengths to forge a place for themselves in this dynamic matrix of intra-human productive relationships. But in such a globalised world, people seldom stand alone. Instead, they band together to form all manner of organisations, ranging from small non-profits to massive multinational conglomerates.

These movements, big and small, represent the mobilisation of human labour and ingenuity - and in the business domain, the biggest of these international bodies wield tremendous economic and political power. Although these powerful forces have traditionally seldom acted in unison, the unprecedented global challenges we face today have led businesses to begin to recognise the need for a coordinated effort.

Any problem can be approached in a variety of different ways. The solutions to such problems are a reflection of the culture, mentality and philosophical ideals of the individuals or groups acting in response to threat. Historically, the threat has been some manner of unwanted change to our society or our personal selves - be it resistance to war, industrialization, or the spread of communism. Today, the threat is radically different; rather than fighting change, we must embrace it, and adapt and evolve if we wish to survive as a race.

The most pressing of these issues are the on-going damages that are being caused to our environment. In 2009, Rockström and Steffen coined the notion of "planetary boundaries" as an indicator for levels of human activity and their impact on the Earth. Of the nine segments in this model, we have already exceeded safe levels of phosphorous and nitrogen emissions, changes to land systems, and losses of genetic biodiversity. Climate change itself is no small problem, but the environmental impact of climate change is dwarfed by species loss through deforestation and man-made chemical-based air and water pollution.

Poverty, gender equality, and access to water and education are also only a few of the many precipices we must traverse if we wish to reach the humanist ideal of a safe, fair and meritocratic society. This dream was the foundation of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, and now their revised, more narrowly focused Sustainable Development Goals. Having established our global goals - this vision, so to speak - the world has begun to shift its gaze away from our prevailing economic framework of laissez-faire free market liberal capitalism and begun searching for better long-run alternative.

Concerns for sustainable outcomes triggered the subsequent foundation of the WBCSD - the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a monumental and unprecedented attempt to organise the domain of business into a more effective channel for confronting societal challenges. Recognising the importance of the business world in shaping our future, the WBCSD seeks to provide a platform upon which knowledge can be shared and discussion can be promoted, between all manner of the world's biggest transnational firms ranging from energy providers and light-bulb manufacturers to national banks and risk advisory conglomerates.

What was the significance of the WBCSD's most recent conference in Chennai? Having earned the rare opportunity to witness the events of the summit unfold first-hand, I was able to learn more about the integration of sustainability into business practices, and gain a feel for the different mentalities and outlooks that converged as leaders from all corners of the globe came together to unite for a single cause.

Experts from a very wide range of fields brought their knowledge and experience to the table to advise on matters ranging from the scientific inquiry to financial support; CEOs of major banks and chemical engineers would often find themselves sat around the same table, co-ordinating their efforts to solve particular problems from every possible angle. To be able to see such radically different cultures banding together, and to see such contrasting characters and personalities working with each other in the same room was truly quite marvellous to behold. People were friendly and passionate; there was a real sense of hope and strength of spirit.

So where is humanity headed? Having seen the colossal collaboration that took place at this WBCSD event - not to mention the immense balance of political and economic power behind the representatives that attended - it is clear that this particular organisation is determined to drive for a cleaner, safer and fairer future for our planet.

Huge rival firms are teaming up to spearhead this critical change in the way that we approach business and sustainability. But we must remember that this is but one element of the entirety of the human collective; the central theme of this event was that this is only the beginning of a global movement, the first domino to be toppled in a long line. This is only the start of what promises to potentially be a revolution in the relationship between human commerce and human habitat.

The true inspiration to be drawn from this economic restructuring is the power of hope - the courage to dream and aspire to a better future, in what can only be described as a testament to the power of human will and determination, transcending all cultures and borders.

Time will tell if our tenacity and persistence will allow us to prevail.