Managing Sustainably: The pathway to 2050

Our world is changing at relentless pace. It is difficult to comprehend the changes that have taken place over the past 20 years, but it is even more of challenge to project ourselves into the future.
We know (roughly) what the global population will be. We know there are significant energy constraints compared to projected demand. We know our environment cannot sustain future based on our existing economic measures of success. For New Zealand and New Zealand business, the future we all want is very attractive, but won’t happen without plan.
Vision 2050 – the key project for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) in 2011 – will put New Zealand business in this space and identify the opportunities that the transition from now to 2050 will present.
This is no easy task. We have engaged 30 of New Zealand’s ‘future leaders’ to help articulate the vision and the pathway. This group crosses the spectrum of New Zealand industries and comprises future leaders of their organisations.
Our first workshop with this group was held in July and created huge excitement about the opportunities, but also stark awareness of the challenges we are facing.
How do we fund our retirement when the ratio of working age population to retirees more than halves by 2050? How do we ensure our agricultural sector finds its place in world which will be demanding more food, and where environmental sustainability and transport modality issues are paramount? What does tourism look like when it can deliver higher incomes for New Zealanders?
These and many other challenges were touched on during the course of the day. An aspirational vision for New Zealand was agreed: “Eight million people, living well, and within the limits of the planet.”
Whether the New Zealand population is six or 10 million by 2050, we will be living in more populated country with significantly different social and demographic make-up than we have today. This vision is also couched in the context of global population of nine billion and all that means for resource use and availability.
The group was split and charged with exploring the challenges of the following pathways:
• People’s Values • Agriculture • Marine • Cultural Diversity • Human Development • Mobility
• Economy • Forests • Buildings • Energy & Power • Materials & Waste • Tourism
The first stage in this process involves understanding the current state of each pathway element and the associated trends and projections. This can be mind-blowing. There is so much information out there it is hard to digest. Our future leaders found it challenge to pick out the key elements relevant to understanding the here and now and to contextualise the future.
From these discussions, the interactions between each pathway quickly became apparent. For example, if we want our forests to supply significant proportion of our energy needs this has implications for people’s values, the structure of our economy, our agricultural profile and our energy mix.
Imagining each pathway in 2050 was key part of the workshop process. The team quickly realised the mental stretch required to “put yourself in the future” was significant. We naturally extrapolate from what we know and it is difficult to articulate future when the pace of change is exponential. As Einstein is often quoted:
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Our teams will reconvene in early August to flesh out the pathway design and key milestones. These will be presented at Chief Executive forum on 30 August.
There is much work needed to help clarify the vision and milestones and we need your help. We are encouraged by recent initiatives such as Pure Advantage which is pushing for New Zealand to realise the opportunities of Green Growth – key element of our positive vision for New Zealand. There are number of ways you can get involved with the project:
• Visit us on the web –
• Come along to one of our breakfast Visioning sessions (see web for details)
• Attend the Chief Executive summit on 30 August
• Conduct your own “Vision 2050” exercise and feedback your key findings. M

Contact Vision 2050 project manager Jamie Sinclair on 09 363 3460 or [email protected] to discuss Vision 2050, our progress and how you and your organisation can get involved.

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