The French government recently proposed a regulation requiring businesses and office buildings throughout the country to turn off their lights between 01.00 and 07.00. Such a regulation addresses a long-unanswered question: “Why leave the lights on when no one is using them?”

In fact, the French government is embracing resilient dynamism: bold vision and action to adapt and meet critical goals. The goals here are to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020 and to change culture. I would go one step further and say that France is also trying to change behaviour, which is incredibly difficult to do and requires just this kind of bold action and example-setting. Despite the push-back, I bet that the French will see the “turn out the lights” regulation as a point of pride in a few years because they took the first step.

I use this example to illustrate what we (the global society) are up against when it comes to engaging people in sustainability. If we cannot even convince people that having businesses turn out their lights when no one is using them is a good thing to do, we are in trouble.

My team at the World Economic Forum runs a project called Engaging Tomorrow’s Consumer, which looks to understand how to engage people in sustainable consumption, especially the millennial generation.  This generation’s purchasing power will only increase in the coming years, particularly in Asia.

In 2013, we are asking some big questions to ensure that we all shift our mindsets and behaviours to address constraints:

  • How do we get people to see sustainability as a benefit rather than a sacrifice?
  • How do we shift our definitions of success so that consuming no longer equals status?
  • How do we change business models so companies still profit while encouraging people to consume differently?
  • How can companies work together to meet the challenge of sustainable consumption?
  • What will shock us into finally changing our consumption behaviors?
  • What are some pilots we can use to test our ideas?

To answer these questions, we will need to be “resiliently dynamic” and think differently about consumption, working together in ways that may not be comfortable at first. The great thing is that humans are actually quite adaptable, but sometimes we need a push to get us there (like a proposed regulation that gets people talking or role models that change what “cool” means).

We have a closing window of opportunity to change current behaviours and influence emerging ones. So tell us, how do you think we should move ahead?

About Resilient Dynamism
To be resilient is to be able to adapt, withstand shocks and recover from them. Future growth in this new context requires dynamism – bold vision and even bolder action. As the theme of 2013′s World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Resilient Dynamism refers to these combined attributes as fundamental concepts for leadership in coming years.

Author: Tiffany West is a Director at the World Economic Forum where she manages relationships with companies across the consumer value chain and runs the Engaging Tomorrow’s Consumer project.  

Image: Pictured Halogen inserts for low-energy consumption light bulbs REUTERS/Vincent Kessler