The Sustainable Economy: The Next Decade's Biggest Shift
AESC conference keynote Gerd Leonhard explores how organizations must 'be sustainable or go away' in the next 10 years
Over the next 10 years, we will see more change than we have in the last 100 years: climate risk, geopolitical conflicts, and a rapid rate of technological change. Although such change comes with inherent challenges, it also offers opportunities for a greater future.
AESC Managing Director Clare Mahon sat down with futurist Gerd Leonhard ahead of his keynote session at AESC's Global Conference in London on November 15, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the next 10 years, the sustainable economy, and Gerd's upcoming discussion with leaders and leadership advisors.
Below is the full transcript.
Greetings, everybody. I'm Clare Mahon, Managing Director for Europe and Africa for the AESC. I'm really excited that we are having our in-person AESC Global Conference coming up on the 14th and 15th of November in London. This year, our theme, sustaining growth is a key focus for executives across the globe. As a sustainable economy it's creating a demand for talent and causing businesses to reframe their strategies. We have a really great agenda lined up for us, and we're focusing on different things like private equity and sustainable value creation, addressing climate risk at the board level, and why productivity is the key to sustainable growth. And I want to give you a little quick teaser about our keynote. Our keynote focuses on the next 10 years and why and how we can be optimistic about the future. And I'm delighted to be joined today by Gerd Leonhard, Futurist from Zurich. Gerd, let me ask you to introduce yourself.
Hey, everybody. It's really my great pleasure to be here at this event with you. I've been talking about work and the future of work and skills and talent for a long time. And I think it's pretty safe to say that we're seeing sort of a global reset on what that all means in the future. I mean, the next 10 years will bring more change than the previous 100 years. And I think most of it will be very exciting, but also quite demanding in terms of understanding it all and getting ready for it. So it's a great pleasure to be with you today.
Great. Well, we're very excited to have you with us and we're always an optimistic profession and your title and your session is intriguing and timely for us. So what are some of the big issues over the next decade that you see?
Well, I think we're going into a world that's characterized by what I call the DDR, digitization, decarbonization, the big green, and reformation, which is a rethinking of what we want in the global context. So first, of course, everything is becoming technology. That's clear, and that is both good and bad. But generally speaking, it's kind of like warp drive into working remotely, working online, the metaverse, virtual reality.
The second one is that everything has to be sustainable or go away. That's kind of the bottom-line scenario. So that goes for computing, for traveling, for energy, for cars. That's all the next decade, basically. And that is the biggest shift in our lives. We grew up in the fossil fuel economy, the gas economy, and now it's the sustainable economy. So everything is circular, everything in a sort of more holistic view.
And the third part is that our economic logic has to change from this obsession with just profit and growth, and now has to have a wider purpose, the purpose economy, big topic, and this whole discussion about people, planet, and profit. And that's coming up everywhere now. Just yesterday, the founder and CEO of Patagonia, Yvon, a Swiss-French guy, gave away the company into a trust, all $3 billion of it, to address climate change and essentially gave the company into a trust. So we're seeing this happening everywhere. And I think it creates amazing opportunities also because, after all, people are not going to be useless when we have smart machines. We're just going to find better things to do with our talents. So I think it looks better than most people think as far as the future is concerned.
It's interesting what you're saying about the reformation and sustainable or go away. That could be quite daunting for some people to look at it like that. And I'm sure when we think about leaders and organizations, I mean, that's either sustainable or we go away. What are your thoughts?
Well, I think we are approaching a climate emergency. I think that's clear to everybody. On the other hand, we have all the tools to solve it. We have battery technology, we have solar technology, and we have next-generation nuclear. We have all the technology and the science, and we also have the money to bring this all about, but we have to make tough decisions. So that probably means more carbon taxes, cutting down on unnecessary travel, things like that.
But on the other hand, we're creating an entirely new economy, a green economy, which will be larger and bigger than anything we had before. It's the shift moment, that's the tough part, to shift from the old to the new. But we're not going into a world that is not growing. I think it's natural and human to grow, but within reason. Sustainable growth means giving back and replenishing what you take. And this is a new agenda that's taking place all over the world in various permutations, but that's going to ask a lot from executives to balance what is needed now and what's needed in the future.
So at our conference on the 15th of November in London, I know you're going to be touching on a lot of these topics as we go through your session. What really do you think are kind of the key things that our participants will get when they come and listen to you?
Well, first I say the future is better than we think. So one thing we have to remember is, as we see the future, so we act, and as we act, so we become. We have to cultivate a positive outlook, a strong narrative.
The second one is humans and what humans can do will not be an old hat or discarded just because machines get smart. That's important to remember. Machines will get smart and we're going to work with smart machines. A lot of routines will be done by machines, including driving, handling customer accounts, financial transactions. But things that are human, what I call the algorithms, the human things, empathy, compassion, understanding, deeper understanding, wisdom, purpose, that's mission impossible for machines for the foreseeable future. So the good news is that we have new roles coming up.
The third step is we must work on our skills to get ready for this future. And the skills are not just going to be understanding technology. They're going to be about becoming more of an awesome human, as I call it. So I mean, the future ticket, I talk about that at length at the event, is awesome humans on top of amazing technology, not the other way around. And clearly humans should stay in charge of that amazing technology. That's another thing.
Well, thank you. I think this shows us you're going to have a really exciting keynote for us on the 15th of November in London. We really look forward to having you. I look forward to an in-person event with everybody there. So I encourage you all to register now because registration's open. Thank you.
Thank you. And if you want to know more about the future, check out my film, thegoodfuturefilm.com. And of course, my YouTube channel at GerdTube, which is a shortcut for YouTube. Thanks very much, and I hope to see you there.
Join Gerd Leonhard and other experts in London on November 15 for AESC's Global Conference. Expand your knowledge and leave with new ways to become a game changer.