How can your organization become future-proof in a rapidly changing world?

1 march 2024

Becoming a future-proof company in a rapidly changing world

By Maurits de Munck and Leontine Gast

As Albert Einstein once said: The only thing we can count on is uncertainty. Today, amidst escalating challenges – accelerating climate change, dwindling biodiversity and deepening inequality – this quote resonates more than ever. But, parallel to this, there is an increasing determination within companies to become future-proof. This drive towards future-proofing isn’t solely born out of social urgency; it’s propelled by an intrinsic motivation to do good. Future-proofing also fosters resilience, attracts talent and enhances employee satisfaction.

By implementing sustainable and responsible business practices, organizations are empowered to become a force for good. But, as Einstein would say, How does one embark on this journey? Well, feareth not, because we’ve got you covered. Just follow the 5 guidelines we’ve outlined below, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a future-proof company.

1. Define your common purpose

What gets you and your colleagues out of bed in the morning? Your purpose is your North Star, guiding your actions and decisions. Get everyone on board with a purpose that’s about more than just profits—it’s about making a difference. This sets out who you are and what you are striving for as a company.

Start by asking yourself the question: What is the most beautiful thing your organization can do? The most beautiful thing for your customers, your employees, your suppliers, your shareholders, for the world and for Mother Nature. Engage your stakeholders to understand their diverse perspectives and values: open dialogue and collaboration will enable you to identify shared goals and values, aligned with societal needs. Crafting a clear and inspiring purpose statement that resonates with all your stakeholders helps to unify efforts toward collective action.

2. Evaluate your impact

Every business leaves an impact on the world; the question is whether it’s positive or negative!

Begin by assessing your operational impact on environmental and social factors. Tools like carbon footprint calculation, environmental management systems and biodiversity analyses offer the environmental insights you need, while examining wage gaps and conducting a supply chain due diligence analysis shed light on your societal impact.

Armed with this knowledge, you can begin setting goals towards becoming future-proof. Think of CO2 emission reduction, offsetting remaining emissions through verified long-term carbon capture, fully switching to renewable energy or introducing fair wage policies. By setting Science-Based Targets, you ensure that your pathway is in line with the newest insights on climate science.

Sustainability reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) offer structured, unified approaches for assessing your impact. Meanwhile, certification frameworks like B Corp and EcoVadis go beyond, providing regular evaluation for continuous improvement in your impact.

3. Reimagine your business model

Your business model isn’t just there for profit; it’s your guide in making positive change. Embrace innovation, circularity and regeneration in your business model, to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape, while contributing to a better world.

To innovate your business model, you can ask yourself some of these questions:

  • How do I make the best positive impact in the world through my business?
  • How can I give more back to the world than I’m taking?
  • Are sustainability and social responsibility principles integrated in my business model?
  • Is my business model circular? Are my products for instance recyclable, made from recycled materials, and designed for repair, refurbishment, or reuse?
  • Is my business model regenerative? Are the materials for my products for example sourced through regenerative agriculture practices, or are my products captured in a close-loop system to minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency?

4. Get everyone on board

You’re not alone in this world, neither are you on this journey. Employees, customers, end-consumers, suppliers, shareholders… You’re all in it together. Becoming a future-proof company is therefore not just something that your board can decide to do – it needs to be shared and lived in and around your company, with all of your stakeholders in it to win it. So, get them involved! For instance, your employees should be empowered to find their own purpose within the company’s mission, and cultivate a culture of shared responsibility. Ultimately, your board should want to become a future-proof company and should ensure a holistic sustainability approach.

5. Keep it real

Last but not least: be honest, open and transparent about your journey towards becoming a future-proof company – it’s paramount. Given the current state of our Earth and the challenges we are facing for the decades to come, collaboration between companies, governments and all other stakeholders is more important than ever. Communicating openly builds trust and opens doors for collaboration. It can even result in help from those who you least expected it from.

An easy guideline is to communicate about the good, the bad and the promising:

  • Celebrate your wins: what is going well already and are you proud of?
  • Own up to your mistakes: what could you do better?
  • What looks promising for the future?

Thus, becoming future-proof isn’t merely a strategic imperative; it’s a moral imperative, a commitment to creating value for all stakeholders while safeguarding the future for the generations to come. By adhering to the five principles mentioned above, you’ll not only secure your company’s relevance and competitiveness but also contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable and purpose-driven world.

Going from theory to practice!
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