Last week I began a conversation with you (and my Inside Sustainability subscribers)
about “What’s beyond sustainability?”—and promised to continue this week what I’m thinking now.

It’s this: The best of “sustainability”—for all the momentum, progress and enthusiasm of the past decade—just isn’t good enough. But the problem is not just with the word (though I’d like to go on a fast and just stop using it for a month).

No, what if the entire “sustainability” conversation is misconceived? What if we’re asking the wrong questions, in the wrong ways? What if we’re setting our sights far too low, settling for what’s reasonable, familiar, predictable, when the challenges of the both the human prospect—and economic success for both businesses and nations—require something far bolder and more disruptive.

If the International Energy Agency is correct, and we need to leave 70-80% of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground to have a reasonable chance against the worst of climate change, what’s the future of the global energy industry? (And a global finance industry that will have to figure out how to strand those assets.) Will you be a winner or a loser?

If some of the most significant companies in the world didn’t even exist a decade or so ago, what will your industry look like a decade from now? Will some upstart disrupt the ground out from under you? Or will you burn your own bridges, and reinvent your own future?

If a planet moving toward a population of nine billion by 2050 demands unprecedented breakthroughs in how we do everything—to sustain that population in health and freedom, and in ways that restore and renew the living systems that sustain us all—will you be able to find and execute the business models that enable you to thrive economically?

Here’s the biggest challenge—one Natural Logic faces nearly every day: Most people—including many of the best executives at many of the world’s best companies—still act as though they have to choose between making money and making sense, as though there’s a necessary tradeoff between economic success and environmental well being. In fact, the growing body of data—from both our own direct experience with our clients and the trends we are tracking around the world—points to some of the biggest business opportunities of the century. As a 40+ year veteran of this field, I am staggered again and again at the scale of the financial opportunity—and the opportunity to make a difference—for the companies, entrepreneurs and investors willing to embrace it.

While some cite “fiduciary duty” to justify their reluctance,fear or resistance to change, others—from Interface to Unilever—see fiduciary duty as one of the very reasons to drive change, as a partner to vision, innovation and courage.

Where can you find these opportunities? How can you capture them? We’ll explore some specific examples in coming weeks.

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