To rethink how we do business, we must rethink how we value business. The idea of measuring extra-financial performance is nothing new: more than a hundred sustainability ratings and indices claim to do just that. But they’re not sending the right signals to drive a change in behaviour, for three reasons:
- Current metrics measure relative improvement, not absolute progress.
- Current metrics don’t recognize long-term ambitions and bold actions.
- Current metrics fail to give companies the actionable insight they need.
We need a new approach, one which shifts the focus away from today’s bestpractice toward tomorrow’s required practice: The Future Fit Business Benchmark
“The Future Fit Business benchmark is the next step in assessing truly sustainable business performance. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we understand and report corporate progress toward a sustainable society by shifting our focus from today’s best practice to required practice to be future-fit. I’m extremely happy to be part of the Release Council and support the development of the benchmark on behalf of The Natural Step teams around the world.” Richard BlumeRichard Blume
”Being a sustainable company is not about being better than last year, or slightly better than your peers. It is about doing enough to safeguard the possibility that humanity can flourish on planet earth forever”Geoff Kendall
NEWS AND MORE ON FUTURE FITNESS
NEW SUPPORT TOOL TO HELP ORGANISATIONS FUTURE-PROOF THEIR BUSINESS STRATEGY.
The Natural Step has recently launched a new analysis tool and accompanying service to assist organisations explore what Future-Fit Business means in practice. The service integrates the Future-Fit Business goals into our well-developed coaching services to help build capabilities inside an organization to future-proof business strategy and manage the transition toward required practice. Download the flyer for more info!
HOW SUSTAINABLE ARE SWISS COMPANIES?
The Natural Step’s representatives in Switzerland, together with management consultancy HPO, have recently completed a CEO study based on the Future-Fit Business Benchmarks’ goals and definition of required practice for sustainable business. The findings are striking: While Swiss entrepreneurs have recognized the importance of sustainability, the potential is still largely untapped. The study looks at where Swiss manufacturing companies are today on sustainability, what obstacles need to be overcome and the future outlook. The report is available in German.
BLOG: BACK TO THE FUTURE
Current ways of measuring sustainability either exaggerate achievement or utterly fail to capture real progress. We need a new kind of metric that connects businesses with the scientific context surrounding their actions, and gives them a clear and compelling destination, says Geoff Kendall of the Future-Fit Foundation. Read the complete blog
FUTURE FIT BREAKFAST SEMINAR
Dr Geoff Kendall, CEO of the Future-Fit Foundation was our invited guest at a breakfast seminar in Stockholm to introduce the Future-Fit Business Benchmark to Swedish business partners.
You can watch a recording of the seminar here: Goto recordings.
OTHER NEWS ABOUT FUTURE FIT
- Interview with Geoff Kendall for Sustainable Brands
- Blog by Bob Willard (co-founder) from July 14, 2015
- Blog Tyler Seed from March 16, 2015
- Future Business Fitness: ‘Less Bad’ Isn’t Good Enough (interview with Bob and Geoff)
- Changing the Way Non-Financial Performance Is Measured, and Thus Managed, in Pursuit of Future-Fit Businesses
What is the Future-Fit Business Benchmark?
The Future-Fit Business Benchmark is all about challenging the way sustainable business performance is being defined and measured. The need for a new approach stems from a growing recognition that the current way we value business performance is not supporting environmental protection and social progress in the way that it should. More and more voices are speaking up now about the need to move away from incremental improvement to be ‘less bad’ and that there is a problem with talking about best practice in isolation from the global crisis and existential threat of un-sustainability. It is simply not enough if we are really serious about creating a thriving future. In the words of John Elkington, pioneer of the concept of the triple bottom line, ‘the Future-Fit Business Benchmark is an idea who’s time has come’.
Why do we need a different approach?
Existing indexes and measuring systems are not sending the right signals to drive the necessary change in corporate behavior, perhaps even leading us to think that incremental change is a substitute for the sometimes necessary transformation in business models. At the crux of this problem has been the lack of a clear picture of where science tells us we need to aim. That’s where The Natural Step has something to contribute.
So what does it mean to be future-fit?
It’s rather obvious that we all need to do better if we want a thriving future. The window of opportunity is closing as business risks are increasing, so there’s clearly a business case to all this. The real question we need to ask is whether the sum of our activities is still part of the global problem or truly part of the solution, and how do we tell? The starting point is to define the full intent. A future-fit business is one that in no way undermines the possibility than humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever.
What is the new perspective future-fitness offers (and what is backcasting)?
The concept of backcasting – planning from a future position of success – is at the core of our work. The definition of future-fitness is all about beginning with the end in mind, defining the desired future state for sustainable business that we all need to achieve. It’s an entirely different reference point and one that is critical when trends are part of the problem and when we need a better way to accelerate true performance toward sustainability.
So how can we define the desired future state?
A science-based systems view of sustainability helps us to understand the drivers to today’s challenges and how society should look in future. The system conditions for a sustainable society (sustainability principles) promoted by The Natural Step are a peer-reviewed definition of where we need to aim. Many businesses we’ve worked with over the years have translated these into ultimate objectives and goals that are specific to their organisation. The Future-Fit Business Benchmark looks at a generic business and how it interacts with stakeholders to define a set of universal goals.
What does it mean to move from ‘Best Practice’ to ‘Required Practice’?
To become future-fit, every company – no matter what its size or sector – must reach specific thresholds of performance across a range of social and environmental issues. The Future-Fit Business benchmark includes 21 goals that when taken together define the social and environmental break-even point that any company must reach to gain its entry ticket to a sustainable future.
How does the work of The Natural Step and the Future-Fit Business Benchmark relate to Planetary Boundaries?
The principles and framework promoted by The Natural Step are grounded in systems thinking, consensus on upstream causes and the science of what we need to do to create a sustainable society. The Planetary Boundaries research has identified 9 key parameters that currently risk destabilizing the Earth system and pushing it out of the Holocene period into a state that is less favourable for humans. By aligning with the system conditions for a sustainable society, one can avoid tipping the planet and running into the issues identified in the planetary boundaries research. Since the Future-Fit Business goals define what a business needs to do to align with these system conditions, one can conclude that Future-Fit Businesses do not contribute to tipping the planetary boundaries.
How does the work of The Natural Step and the Future-Fit Business Benchmark relate the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 objectives that almost all nations on the planet are committed to achieving by the year 2030. Since the Future-Fit Goals are cross-referenced with many different indicators and frameworks, it offers a way for companies to demonstrate their contribution to the global agenda. We must also recognize that the process of sustainable development continues beyond the year 2030 and that aligning with the scientific requirements for a sustainable society is a journey that will continue beyond that point.
How does the Future-Fit Business Benchmark relate to concepts like Net Positive?
Some companies have begun talking about becoming ‘net-positive’ – going beyond zero harm to become restorative – but there is a risk that claiming to be net-positive in one area can come at the expense of another or be selected as a way to draw attention away from other problems. We need to meet thresholds for sustainability across the board and all use the same yard-stick! It’s therefore critical to have a credible and independent way to measure and compare performance, even past the break-point. That’s what the Future-Fit Business Benchmark offers.
How does the Future-Fit Business Benchmark relate to the Framework promoted by The Natural Step?
In essence, the benchmark provides new metrics for a proven planning framework that The Natural Step has been developing and testing since the launch of The Natural Step in 1989! For us, this is a great new opportunity to go further and integrate the learning as this will enrich our overall approach. We are already breaking new ground by connecting it with our experience in managing the sustainability transition within organisations. We also believe that those wanting to become Future-Fit will benefit more than ever from using our framework to guide their journey, engage personnel, go deeper into the meaning of sustainability principles, develop inspiring visions and create customized roadmaps to get there.
How should those who’ve worked with The Natural Step relate to the Future-Fit Business Benchmark?
Thousands of organisations around the world are already applying the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development and its sustainability principles to define their own unique and positive place in a sustainable world and navigate towards it. What the Future-Fit Business Benchmark adds to this is a set of universal goals for all businesses to interpret sustainability principles, as well as a new way to assess and compare progress in a consistent and meaningful way. If you’ve worked with our framework, you’ll now benefit from having a way to cross-reference your own sustainability goals with the universal goals in the benchmark and a way to measure progress that is comparable with others. You’ll also recognize that ‘backcasting from success’ involves much more than meeting the universal performance benchmark and that’s where our framework continues to be of use.
How is The Natural Step involved with the Future-Fit Foundation?
Future-Fit Business Benchmark began as an initiative co-led by The Natural Step Canada and 3D Investment Foundation. The Future-Fit Foundation was born out of that collaboration and tasked with developing the Benchmark as an open source tool. The Natural Step has entered into a strategic partnership with the Future-Fit Foundation to promote mutual objectives related to accelerating change. The Natural Step teams around the world have experience working with the Future-Fit goals and have been combining the concept of Future-Fitness with or experience guiding change initiatives within organisation.