sustainability for the next decade

Bjørn Kjærand Haugland is the Chief Executive Officer of SKIFT Business Climate Leaders. SKIFT is a business-led climate initiative. Our mission is to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and support the government in delivering on its national climate commitments by 2030. The coalition hopes to demonstrate, to businesses and the government, the business potential that exists in the low-carbon economy and help drive the transition. He is the former Executive Vice President and the Chief Sustainability Officer in DNV GL Group. In his capacity as CSO for DNV GL group he oversees the groups sustainability performance and drives company-wide sustainability initiatives.

Looking back, a lot has changed over the last ten years. The smartphones have transformed everything and artificial intelligence and automation have begun to take hold. Brexit, President Trump and wider geopolitics have overwhelmed decision-making–there’s a lot to reflect on.

While technology was definitely the game-changer in the 2010s, the next decade requires a new focus for business leaders around the world: #Sustainability. Going forward, sustainability will touch every part of a company, from its supply chain operations to its talent practices, to the physical workspace itself. In the next decade, shifts to sustainable business will take shape in several major, transformational ways.

In order to meet the 2030 sustainable development goals and fight climate change, ten transformative shifts will be crucial for boardrooms and business leaders to execute on.

Some are developments I expect to see emerging, others are hoped for, as we enter the next ten years of creating a sustainable future – and leave no one behind.

sustainability in 2020 buzzonearthSHARING

Too many good stories are never told and too much experience is not shared. In the coming years, we will turn into a sharing economy where sharing best practices will become the norm, as businesses realize that everybody wins when we share knowledge, insights and network.


Customers and employees will be more informed and powerful. They will pressurize and inspire businesses to become more sustainable. In the coming years we will see corporate sustainability moving into the core of modern human resource management as businesses use their sustainability performance as a tool in recruiting and in employee and other stakeholder relations.


The next generations of leaders and employees are world citizens that will be attuned to sustainability in a very different way than today’s executives. They will not need to un-learn that business is solely about shareholder value. The next generation will bring a new set of values and skills for holistic leadership that will move mountains. What Greta Thunberg and her followers have done in 2019 is just the beginning.


The world needs transformative changes, and to drive that we need bold, visionary and principled leadership. Sharing ideas and creating platforms for collaboration is vital. The various business collaboration platforms will have an important role to play in starting the dialogue, forming policy, building trust, and bringing about real change.


In times of transformation, lifelong learning is essential – at all levels. From executive MBAs to primary education, sustainability will have to be included in the curriculum and the good news is that it has started ettin included in some way or the other already. Education in itself is one of the most powerful tools in sustainable development toolkit and this new decade with usher in it.


Businesses will have to increasingly see themselves as part of the solution and want a level playing field. While a lot of them have already started advocating progressive and smart regulation, they will have to further seek to embed the principles of sustainable business in regulations and standards.


We will need to be better at measuring the impact of doing business sustainably. Businesses will need to demonstrate a positive impact for themselves, but also for society and the environment. Creating meaningful and transparent metrics will be crucial to engage a wider group of businesses, investors and academia.


Transparency and sustainability go hand in hand. Commitments to responsible behaviour are worth little if stakeholders don’t trust you to keep your word. Rapid development in communication technology and reporting will create a hyper-transparent business environment, where real sustainability will emerge.


Sustainable development has a strong stabilizing effect on potential conflict, but responsible businesses also can play a role. When different factions are at odds, businesses can keep up daily relations, weaving strands of commitment and trust.


Last, but most definitely not least, the power of hope. It is a resolute belief that doing the right thing – for the right reasons – actually matters.

The angry Australian summer has demonstrated what climate change looks like. The catastrophic fires raging across the southern half of the continent are largely the result of rising temperatures For the board rooms and executive leadership teams, the 2020s will be the years that sustainability and the fight on climate change must be brought out from the darkness and into the light.

It is the only way to stay in business in the long run.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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