It’s been hard to write or think about much else this week besides America’s profound racial divide and political dysfunction. Whatever your perspective on the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case, it’s clear that the racial fault lines in this society still run painfully deep, and the political fault lines aren’t doing much better. We’ve all gotten very good at taking sides, and at processing any and all evidence—whether of criminality or climate change—through intense preconceptions that will not yield to anything as inconvenient as “facts” or open-mindedness.

What does this have to do with “business and sustainability?” While US energy and economic policy are immobilized by gridlock (and political-finance-lock), other countries are investing in the next economy. “Germany, the champion of austerity,” writes Tim O’Reilly, “is driving down its unemployment rate by making massive investment in repairing and upgrading its infrastructure”—while the US infrastructure shortfall will reach $3.6 trillion by 2020. China is aggressively pushing renewable energy and a “circular economy” (though with entirely debatable seriousness and consistency, given its version of “all of the above.”) Brazil emphasizes its massive hydroelectric and sugarcane-to-ethanol resources (though it’s happy to aim for the #3 petroleum producer title, too.) And a growing roster of food products sold in the US are banned in other countries as unsafe.

What impacts will this have on US competitiveness and balance of payments, and the competitiveness and market access of US companies? Be sure your board is at least asking those questions—and thinking about how to futureproof your company from trends and “inevitable surprises” that  you can’t control.

(How mature—and how embedded—are your company’s sustainability initiatives? How valuable to your stakeholders? Take this quick 5 minute sustainability self-assessment for an instant evaluation—and my recommendations for the next moves you need to make. And let’s consider together whether your company is ready for a deep, powerful business systems design and innovation process that will challenge your value proposition, business model and future prospects.)

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