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Two people building a miniature sustainable city

Highlights from Vision 2045

  • 09 November 2021
  • Digital Transformation Social Responsibility

We were thrilled to be in Edinburgh at the Vision 2045 Leadership Summit alongside an inspiring group of business leaders, government officials and United Nations delegates to discuss the most critical challenges facing the future of human civilization.

The three-day summit was organized around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including Climate Action, Quality Education, No Poverty and Reduced Inequalities. The need to engage in these conversations has never been more critical, and we were grateful for the opportunity to contribute our perspective. But we were been even more eager to listen. 

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Day 1 highlights

1. It's important to celebrate the wins

There's clearly extraordinary work to be done in securing a sustainable future. But as Co-Founder of Global Optimism Tom Rivvett-Carnac reminded us during the summit's opening address, we shouldn't lose sight of the progress that’s been made. For example, with the price of renewable energy now lower than fossil fuels, it is at-last cheaper to address climate change than to make it worse.

UN-led Commitments like Race to Zero are also taking into account the systemic nature of these challenges.


2. Some of the biggest problem areas are hiding in plain sight

Particularly in terms of carbon emissions and environmental impact, some aspects of modern life and even entire industries can be overlooked as attention remains fixed on emission contributors like air travel and energy production. 

The construction industry is “one of the most underrepresented in the Race to Zero,” and has “the most catching up to do.” In fact, 50% of a building’s carbon footprint occurs during the construction process, and construction waste makes up about 30% of landfills around the world. 

Tim Coldwell, President of the B-Corp Certified Chandos Construction, shared how the company plans to lead by example, through sourcing from net-zero raw material suppliers, and even including carbon-per-unit cost in the company’s pricing operations. 

In terms of the challenges to sustainable urban living, Techem CEO Mattias Hartman underscored how a lack of measurability makes some carbon-heavy aspects of everyday life nearly invisible to most people. Hartmann said our cars actually provide a simple model to follow in terms of real-time data: 

“When we step on the gas, we know how efficient our driving is. But most people have no idea how efficient their homes are. Digitization of buildings is necessary to achieve this.” - Techem CEO Mattias Hartmann

Regarding agriculture and the economics of transforming our food system, Karel Blockmans, CTO of Biobest group advocated for more transparency in the food supply chain. As Karel said, “Everytime you pick a product off the supermarket shelf, you are voting for a particular food or agricultural system.” 

All great reminders that sometimes global transformation starts with addressing problems in our own backyards.


3. There is still a carbon-intensive elephant in the room

In terms of common threads, digitization dominated the day – from supply chains to new agricultural tools and everything in between. No surprise — at Kin + Carta, we’re big believers in the power of digital tools. But one question that went unanswered, and largely unasked, continues to linger: 

What about the impact of those tools? 

How do we ensure that true sustainability lives at the core of solutions themselves, and not just the outcomes they aim to create? 

How can a systems-mindset help us avoid developing shortsighted products and experiences? Whether that’s prioritizing efficient technologies like cloud-native data platforms or taking an empathetic accessibility-first approach to design, evaluating the impact of every decision must become a force of habit. 

From the boardroom to the server room, lasting transformation is only possible when people, culture and technology all work in harmony. 

Like any ecosystem, nothing exists in isolation. 

Which is why these opportunities to come together, share ideas and challenge one another are so important. It takes everyone.

Day 2 highlights

Day 2 of Vision 2045 was full of energizing conversations, including a panel on Reduced Inequalities featuring our very own Client Director of Responsible  Business Jennifer Crowley, alongside BSH Hausgeräte, Novartis and Tikehau Capital. 

1. No impact can go unchecked

Across any of the 17 United Nations Sustainability Goals, we've never been able to measure the scope of our challenge so precisely as we can today. But as new digital solutions help us gather data and solve problems, we can’t forget the impact of digital solutions themselves. 

From the code we write, to the platforms we build on and the energy we use, it’s never been more important to understand the very real and physical impact of digital solutions. 

For example, Microsoft’s new Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability tool is aiming to transform how organizations track their sustainability efforts. Gretchen O’Hara, Microsoft VP US AI & Sustainability Strategy, discussed the company’s ambitious net-carbon neutral target of 2030 and how accountability has been baked into every aspect of the organization to make it happen.

Sustainability accountability now also sits with the IT function and CTO, which is really exciting for me.

Gretchen O’Hara - Microsoft VP US AI & Sustainability Strategy

2. Inclusion means being proactive, purposeful and empathetic

In Ed Gillepsie’s opening keynote, he talked about the importance of thinking regeneratively, not just sustainably. Ed said we have to generate new life, new ideas, and new ways of connecting, not just make our current world last longer. 

Because for millions of people, the status quo is simply not good enough. This is why inclusive design is so critical, but also still far from common practice for most organizations. Unfortunately, economic policies, social attitudes and “business as usual” over the last 30 years have only ballooned the gap – the digital divide – between the marginalized and the privileged.

As organizations like BSH and Novartis both demonstrated alongside Jennifer during their panel discussion, vulnerability will also be key in closing this gap, particularly with regard to digital products and experiences. 

Whether it’s reducing the harm of algorithm bias, tracking diversity and inclusion in hiring processes, or designing experiences specifically for previously ignored populations, the growing momentum around inclusive design carries lots of useful answers to those wondering, “How do we do more than just reduce our impact?”

3. Private and public collaboration must be reimagined

The current moment demands a level of public-private collaboration that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen. COVID-19 exposed weakness and opportunities in the relationship between private enterprise and government agencies. It’s clear that overcoming climate change and transforming how the world works will pose an even greater challenge. 

What role must private capital play in reaching sustainability targets? How should government regulation affect production timelines and economic incentives? How can we adopt a mindset of experimentation, transparency and trust without getting slowed down by bureaucracy, politics and frequent transfers of power? 

Those are just a few of the questions still echoing through the halls of Vision 2045. For an optimistic way to answer some of those questions, Ed Gillepsie started the day with an invitation to the audience: 

In Ed’s words, we should “focus on ingenious collaboration over intense competition.”

 

Day 3 highlights

As Vision 2045 came to a close, we were inspired by the conversations and connections we made. We were excited by the opportunity they posed to build a world that works better for everyone. As we packed our bags to leave Edinburgh, here’s what stood out to us:

1. Strong relationships create revolutionary change

Not only was Vision 2045 proof of why forging new connections is so vital, but Day 3's Partnerships Panel demonstrated this power in practice.

Dr. Elodie Burgnicourt, Sustainability Manager at Graphic Packaging International shared a look into how strong relationships with NGOs, regulators and the Ellen MacArthur association has brought them closer to their sustainability goals.

Stefan Erdmann, CTO of Sustainable stainless steel manufacturer Outokumpu, also emphasized the pivotal role that partnering with Microsoft has played in the company’s impressive milestone of relying on 90% recycled material in their production processes.

Across any industry or challenge, nobody can go it alone.

We don’t need a few of us making sustainability perfect. We need millions of us making sustainability possible.

Dr. Elodie Burrgnicourt - Sustainability Manager at Graphic Packaging International

2. No two sustainability journeys are the same

Our final day of Vision 2045 was a great reminder that when comparing different industries, businesses or even departments within a single organization, we must bear in mind that every path to sustainable, purposeful and regenerative business is different.

From the Good Health & Well Being panel, leaders from AzkoNobel, Beeline, Ciel Textile, Sana and Ynsect were open about the vast range of challenges, opportunities and misconceptions they’re currently tackling. Whether it’s educating suppliers about their role in contributing carbon emissions, raising awareness that healthcare is responsible for 10% of global emissions, or ensuring that new digital health tools are designed to work for everyone, there’s clearly an exceptional amount of work to be done.

Understanding the unique circumstances that each challenge brings is a critical place to start. We’re ready to get to work. Are you?

What is Vision 2045 and why was Kin + Carta selected as one of the 50 global companies involved?

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