Natural Systems Mean Business

The Earth is home to complex living systems that work for and against each other, evolve, adapt, and innovate, to sustain life. The balance of health and stress in these systems allows for resilience, and the conditions for complex life. We exist because these systems exist. All value—in culture, enterprise, finance, and science—rests on this foundation.

  • Since the 1960s and 70s, we have talked about planetary boundaries—the limits of human consumption of resources, defined by the resilience of these systems.
  • Since at least 1988, when Dr. James Hansen testified before the United States Congress, the powers that be have understood that disruption of the climate system poses a grave threat to these life-sustaining systems.
  • Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was agreed in Rio in 1992, 195 nations have had a legal commitment to stop climate disruption.

The stakes are high.

  • 1 million species are projected to go extinct in the next few decades.
  • Biodiversity is a critical driver of the resilience of natural systems.
  • Mainstream agriculture and the human food supply are at risk.
  • People don’t invest in luxuries, trends, or technology, when they cannot find food and water affordably.
  • Without the efficiencies achieved by healthy natural systems, local and regional economies break down.
  • The sustainability of human development is at risk.
  • Our financial system is not designed to deal with this level of uncertainty and nonlinear interacting, multiscale risk.

We can no longer wait for the world around us to evolve; we must design and deploy the future we want. The UN Global Compact and a network of partners are now supporting the Science-Based Targets initiative. Companies can formally decide to align their operations with the need to keep global heating to 1.5ºC or lower—an ambitious target, based in science, on which a great deal of natural, human, and financial capital depends.

Working toward that target, companies can plan ahead to innovate and realign investments at the rate necessary to ensure their way of working is informed by what science tells us about the health of Earth systems. There are benefits to doing this that cannot be quantified by outmoded bottom-line thinking. By building Earth systems intelligence into your operations, you can reduce risk, innovate faster, and achieve a stronger bottom-line outcome.

We need systems designed to work this way:

  • We need energy that is lightweight, distributed, smart, clean, and renewable.
  • We need locally rooted investment vehicles that put actionable value in the hands of far more people, to leverage local insight to secure foundational value.
  • We need new kinds of networks that respect ownership and sovereignty of individuals and communities, while integrating science into decision-making.
  • We need affordability to align with higher performance on human and environmental health metrics.
  • We need consumers to have the knowledge they need to refuse to fund activities that harm them, their children and their communities.

Through systems like DECIDE, and an emerging array of science-for-sustainability indices, Liberate Energy and partners are developing both commercial and not-for-profit tools to inform decision-makers and accelerate the race toward science-informed sustainable enterprise.

The Whole-Earth Active Value Economy global knowledge graph reveals how some institutions are better connected to resilience-building knowledge networks, and so better positioned to compete in a clean economy. ResilienceIntel.org/gkg

As we learn to integrate supply-chains, corporate charters, consumers’ values, and macrocritical resilience principles, it is becoming evident that human industry cannot game natural systems. We can be smarter than we are; we can innovate in ways never before possible, but we cannot degrade natural systems while increasing overall value.

Climate intelligence, sustainability priorities, and green finance, are moving us quickly to a world where business practices that ignore science and undermine resilience will no longer be viable. Science-informed sustainable enterprise is the future.