Between now and 2020, the power of zero can – and must – help transform capitalism
LONDON, UK (21/05/12) — Do CEOs and other global leaders know what’s coming? A world of 9 billion people by mid-century will demand fundamental changes in our mindsets, behaviours, cultures and overarching paradigm. Today’s corporate responsibility initiatives, while a start, won’t get us to where we need to be. Just as previous generations broke the sound barrier and the 4-minute mile, how will ours break the ‘sustainability barrier’?
The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier, a new book by sustainability pioneer John Elkington, introduces a new breed of innovators operating at the leading edges of tomorrow’s economy. The book launches on 29 May at the Breakthrough Capitalism Forum in London, directly ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) this June. The first Zeronauts Symposium will take place on 5 June in Rotterdam. Hosted by Deloitte Innovation and Volans, the event will explore how and why a joint movement towards zero impact growth could help to break the sustainability barrier and serve as tomorrow’s new growth paradigm.
“I totally support the two overarching themes of Rio+20: the need both for a green economy and for new institutional frameworks to make this possible,” says Elkington. “But at a time when the world’s attention will be on what is happening in Brazil, the real answers are elsewhere. Zero is now the name of the game: zero carbon, zero waste, zero toxics and even zero poverty.”
The power of zero as a goal has long proven itself in management disciplines such as total quality management and health & safety. The Zeronauts are applying such thinking to fields as diverse as population growth, pandemics, poverty, pollution and nuclear proliferation.
Among the fifty Zeronauts spotlighted in the book are the late Ray Anderson (for Interface’s Mission Zero), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (for describing current economic models as a “global suicide pact”), Greenpeace International (for its Detox campaign, focusing on driving sportswear brands to zero emission targets), Martha Johnson of the US General Services Administration (who has said that “zero environmental footprint is this generation’s moon shot) and David Stubbs and Felicity Hartnett of London 2012 (who have pushed suppliers for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games towards zero targets).
For Elkington, The Zeronauts draws on decades of thinking, writing, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the fields of sustainable development and corporate responsibility. “My personal road to zero has been long, winding, and often instinctively followed rather than planned,” says Elkington. Says David Blood, senior partner & co-founder with Al Gore of Generation Investment Management, of the book: “A pioneer within the sustainability movement, John Elkington continues to inspire us, shifting the spotlight from change-as-usual to breakthrough innovation.”
“What we need,” says Elkington, “is breakthrough thinking – in business, finance, public policy and management education.” If we learn such thinking from the Zeronauts, the 21st century could be our best yet.
The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier is published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis on 21 May.
For more information, please see www.zeronauts.com and www.breakthroughcapitalism.com.
About John Elkington
John Elkington is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. He is the author of 18 books, including the million-selling The Green Consumer Guide with Julia Hailes (Gollancz: 1988) and The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World, with Pamela Hartigan (Harvard Business School Press: 2008). He is Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans (2008) and co-founder of SustainAbility (1987) and of Environmental Data Services (1978).
An author, speaker and serial entrepreneur, John’s first foray into the field was raising money for the newly formed World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961, aged 11. In 2004, BusinessWeek described him as “a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades.” In 2008, The Evening Standard named John among the ‘1000 Most Influential People’ in London, describing him as “a true green business guru,” and as “an evangelist for corporate social and environmental responsibility long before it was fashionable.” In 2009, a CSR International survey of the Top 100 CSR leaders placed John fourth: after Al Gore, Barack Obama and the late Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, and alongside Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank.
He blogs for China Dialogue, The Guardian and CSR Wire and tweets as @volansjohn and @zeronauts.