Opinion
Economic Growth

It is time to create an economy that works for all

Transitioning from the existing economy into sustainomy necessitates an integrated, holistic and collaborative approach.

Transitioning from the existing economy into sustainomy necessitates an integrated, holistic and collaborative approach. Image: BRANDi and Companies

Piyachart "Arm" Isarabhakdee
Chief Executive Officer, BRANDi and Companies
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Economic Progress

  • 62% of the world’s population live on less than $10 a day and will never get the chance to escape poverty.
  • Demands on the earth’s resources exceed its annual capacity to regenerate by 1.85 times.
  • It is time for a new economic paradigm, one that allows for more equitable and sustainable growth. We call this new paradigm “sustainomy”.

Since 2020, around two-thirds of newly created global wealth has gone to the top 1%. Now, some might argue, “if you work hard, you succeed.” But working hard is not enough. Capital – in the form of education, infrastructure, and other enabling resources – are essential. With 62% of the world’s population living on less than $10 a day, it’s no surprise that some people never get the chance to escape the poverty trap.

At the same time, many of the practices that create so much of this wealth do so in ways that push the environment towards breaking point; demands on the earth’s resources exceed its annual capacity to regenerate by 1.85 times.

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How is the World Economic Forum ensuring sustainable global markets?

It is time for a new economic paradigm, one where world orders and values are reengineered to strengthen the existing economy and make it more equitable, restore the environment, and propel ecosystem growth. Under this new paradigm, rather than focusing solely on how we collectively generate wealth, we would also focus on the ways in which we do so. We call this new paradigm “sustainomy” and it is built around three pillars.

Pillar 1: Focus on growing three forms of capital

Sustainomy advocates for holistic growth by focusing on three interconnected forms of capital, which we refer to as the 3Ps: prosperity, people and planet. It prioritizes human-driven wealth generation over excessive reliance on technology to ensure “authentic” rather than “artificial” intelligence. This means using technology as a tool while maintaining human oversight. As humans become more adept, productivity – and, as a result, wealth – flows towards them.

To attain this desired state of authentic intelligence, individuals must be relieved of concerns related to basic necessities such as food and shelter. Achieving this will require governments to prioritize social well-being, moving from providing only available resources to providing essential ones, and enhancing the Consumer Price Index instead of focusing on unsustainable direct financial assistance. Such a shift would empower individuals across socio-economic backgrounds to pursue aspirations, leading to enriched lives.

As people gain stronger foundations and have more educational opportunities, positive knock-on effects for the planet will emerge organically. Increased mindfulness of natural resource use will lead to reduced environmental harm, paving the way for regenerative solutions. This interconnectedness highlights the importance of nurturing all three capitals for a sustainable future.

Figure showing the steps involved in transitioning to “sustainomy.”
The existing economic paradigm must make way for a new one - "sustainomy" Image: BRANDi and Companies

Pillar 2: Build Fit-for-the-Future portfolios

Sustainomy acknowledges inherent fluctuations within volatile industries where growth and decline can be rapid and significant. This contrasts with longer-established industries that are mostly consistent in the way they rise and fall. Therefore, sustainomy believes it is important to get the balance right by crafting Fit-for-the-Future portfolios that will create a net positive impact overall. This can be achieved by:

1. Maintaining the “infrastructures” that are still required to serve fundamental needs, such as natural gas coupled with carbon capture and storage/carbon capture and utilization.

2. Ensuring the “volatilities” are closely monitored and controlled, e.g. wind and solar PV.

3. Phasing out the “negatives” that are no longer necessary, e.g. oil and coal.

4. Promoting the “positives” that support the 3Ps, e.g. clean hydrogen and nuclear energy.

Sustainomy recognises that Fit-for-the-Future portfolios could create a net positive impact overall.
Sustainomy recognises that Fit-for-the-Future portfolios could create a net positive impact overall. Image: BRANDi and Companies

Pillar 3: Don’t forget the middle, in sustainomy

Sustainomy emphasizes the crucial role of the global middle — developing countries, small and medium enterprises, and middle-income citizens — with their relatively untapped potential. Developing countries constitute 79% of all countries and contribute 60% of global GDP. SMEs represent 90% of businesses globally and provide 70% of global employment. Middle-income individuals, comprising 45% of the global population, contribute two-thirds of global spending.

To unlock this untapped potential and achieve the future that sustainomy sets out to, it is important to understand not only the role of the global middle or those in the middle level, but also others.

Top level (developed countries, large enterprises/multinational corporations, high-income citizens): as the level with the most readiness across various dimensions – whether that be in terms of capital or competency – the top level can grow by collaborating with stakeholders to create new markets that favour the 3Ps. Market creation equals value chain creation.

Middle level (developing countries, SMEs, middle-income citizens): they need to scale so acknowledging that the 3Ps market serves as an opportunity is an imperative step, but so is being able to provide solutions that will bring value (beyond business growth) to these markets.

Bottom level (under-developed countries, livelihoods, low-income citizens): they must focus on building up competencies, which will in turn increase their readiness to grasp and contribute to opportunities arising from the middle level.

Sustainomy emphasizes the crucial role of the global middle — developing countries, small and medium enterprises, and middle-income citizens.
Sustainomy emphasizes the crucial role of the global middle — developing countries, small and medium enterprises, and middle-income citizens. Image: BRANDi and Companies
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To facilitate the transition from the existing economy into sustainomy and implement the new roles, here are some suggestions on what should happen:

1. Create enabling regulations and finance-related mechanisms to support the growth of the global middle.

2. Foster collaboration between each level to ensure the equitable distribution of opportunities and the provision of financial support.

3. Educate people about the significance of the global middle through an inside-out approach, e.g. for countries, being able to identify their uniquenesses.

Transitioning from the existing economy into sustainomy necessitates an integrated, holistic and collaborative approach. Beyond change at the economic level, changes at the market and organizational levels are also required. For the former, we must evolve traditional markets focused on transactions into ecosystems that develop all stakeholders. For the latter, organizations must invest in their own systematic transformation, covering everything from strategy and operations to communications, to become future-ready brands that are resilient, impactful, responsive and adaptive.

Changes at the market and organizational levels will be needed.
Changes at the market and organizational levels will be needed. Image: BRANDi and Companies

Finally, it is important to emphasize that transformation itself rests not on the shoulders of a select few but is the collective responsibility of every individual, organization and government. By harnessing the collective power of individual action, everyone can transform the new economy from a compelling vision etched on paper to a lived reality, ensuring that future generations inherit a world characterized by shared success. This is how we create the kind of economy that works for us and something bigger than ourselves — everyone around us, our community and the place we call home: earth.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Economic GrowthFinancial and Monetary Systems
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