Sustainable Development

To create a 'sustainomy' businesses must focus on the ecosystem, not just the market

Creating a 'sustainomy' requires a perspective shift from markets to ecosystems.

Creating a 'sustainomy' requires a perspective shift from markets to ecosystems. Image: Unsplash/Paula Prekopova

"Arm" Piyachart Isarabhakdee
Chief Executive Officer, BRANDi and Companies
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  • Top-level and market-level changes are required to make a sustainomy a reality.
  • We must shift from 'markets' to 'ecosystems' to change our focus from 'how can we offer to the market?' to 'how can we grow the ecosystem for a longer-lasting market?'
  • Developing this ecosystem requires more than just business success; it demands a holistic growth mindset aligned with sustainomy principles.

In a previous Agenda article, I discussed the need for a new economy and 'sustainomy' to re-evaluate global systems and values for everyone's benefit. A common question is how such a macro-level shift impacts the micro-level. Changes can be prompted by unavoidable threats, like COVID-19 lockdowns, or through 'adoption', where individuals choose change based on perceived benefits or beliefs, collectively referred to as 'values.'

Sustainomy's success hinges on this voluntary change and mutual understanding. Transitioning to sustainomy involves redefining roles and contributions to align with its goals, ensuring all parties understand their part in fostering a sustainable economy, leading to successful adoption and long-term positive impact.

Sustainomy's success hinges on this voluntary change and mutual understanding.
Sustainomy's success hinges on this voluntary change and mutual understanding. Image: BRANDi and Companies

Sustainomy proposes new roles and contributions

We often associate each entity with specific roles: the private sector excels at making money, the public sector ensures citizen welfare, and NGOs focus on social or environmental missions.

However, achieving such goals has become increasingly difficult due to the rapidly changing landscape. Businesses face legal constraints, governments struggle with debt management, and NGOs can't address issues alone. Progress remains elusive because entities are trying to solve new problems while clinging to outdated roles.

Sustainomy proposes new roles and contributions to achieve significant impact. For instance, governments should transition from being regulators to facilitators, embedding this mindset in policy creation. Policies that support good businesses and penalize harmful ones are fundamentally different. Moreover, such policies can encourage consumers to support eco-friendly products through subsidies.

Intergovernmental organizations also play a role. The UN, for example, is crucial in pushing for the SDGs. However, these goals remain challenging without a clearly defined role for the private sector.

By acknowledging the mindset that allowed the private sector and capitalism to grow in the past, we will understand that another crucial mechanism to facilitate a smooth transition is to adopt a new perspective on the market.

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From markets to ecosystems

The term 'market' traditionally refers to a space where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services. In a capitalist system, profit often overshadows the impact on people and the planet. To transform the market within sustainomy, we must shift from 'markets' to 'ecosystems.' This changes our focus from 'how can we offer to the market?' to 'how can we grow the ecosystem for a longer-lasting market?'

In an ecosystem, relationships extend beyond business operations. The goal shifts from a one-to-one equation to a many-to-many equation, meeting diverse stakeholder needs. With traditional marketing falling short, we must connect varied needs with diverse demands.

In sustainomy, 'matching' is proposed as an alternative approach. Businesses like Airbnb and Microsoft showcase this, uplifting the ecosystem. Developing the ecosystem requires more than just business success; it demands a holistic growth mindset aligned with sustainomy principles. Let’s delve into the four hows of this:

1. How to think (above the ocean strategy)

In an increasingly complex landscape, constantly chasing market needs (value capturing) is challenging. Instead, businesses can position themselves 'above' these changes. The key question is: how can businesses minimize the impact of this changing landscape and thrive?

Historically, businesses were operation-centric. To grow through value creation or new markets, two factors are essential: mindset and communication. The right mindset determines suitable tools for tackling challenges. Effective communication with stakeholders, particularly within the value chain, fosters understanding of the business’s methods, leading to optimal operations and enhanced resilience.

For example, Coca-Cola focuses on creating a positive impact through waste management. Its World Without Waste programme fosters shared values within its ecosystem, demonstrating how businesses can thrive by creating value.

Once values are established, designing an 'Above the Ocean Strategy (AOS)' for each entity involves three characteristics:

Rules within the market or ecosystem

Define what can or can’t be done to create uniqueness and value.

Role determination

Identify the business’s role in uplifting the ecosystem.

Way of thinking

Develop a mindset that supports these strategies.

This approach enables businesses to navigate and thrive in a constantly evolving landscape.


How is the World Economic Forum contributing to build resilient supply chains?

2. How to measure (better world index)

Unlike traditional progress metrics focused solely on profit, sustainomy advocates for impact measurement based on the triple bottom line. Organizations and initiatives, like the SDGs, SBTi, ISSB and GRI, have gained popularity for addressing this very component. Reflecting on above the ocean strategy, the mindset is the crucial starting point. Measuring the impact on people and planet isn't about quantifying success but assessing progress — determining if we are doing better.

This measurement should be driven by intrinsic motivations, rather than regulatory reporting requirements. With this perspective, BRANDi’s Better World Index was created. It’s not merely another index, but a tool that integrates existing indices to establish a new taxonomy. The aim is to provide a template for organizations, cities or even countries to select relevant parameters and align them with their corporate goals.

3. How to manage (collaboration blueprint)

Collaboration is more crucial now than ever, yet the world isn’t accustomed to it. The question is: how do we increase each entity’s ability to collaborate — what we call 'collaborativeness' — to manage effectively? Collaborativeness unlocks the ecosystem’s potential for impactful actions and business opportunities. Under sustainomy, every stakeholder, even competitors, can become a customer.

A prime example is Vitality's insurance premium model linked to healthy behaviour. Healthier individuals pay lower premiums, benefiting all involved. This approach accelerates business growth, diversifies portfolios and enhances resilience. Following the continued growth and popularity of the Vitality model, major players such as AIA, a leading pan-Asian life insurance group, have formed partnerships with Discovery, the parent company of Vitality, to launch programmes like AIA Vitality across their markets.

Successful collaborations focus on enlarging the pie, ensuring everyone gets a larger share, rather than fighting for a bigger slice. This mindset shift fosters effective partnerships and drives sustainable innovation.

4. How to scale (decentralization of sustainovation)

Engage users through decentralization to create sustainable innovations aligning with sustainomy principles—sustainovation. Users must actively develop these innovations, fostering understanding and ownership. This approach highlights the innovation's values and ensures continued development beyond fleeting trends.

The key is to quickly create a new culture, because whenever something becomes a culture everything connects naturally. By empowering local communities to think creatively and innovate independently, we cultivate true sustainability. Ultimately, self-supporting communities exemplify sustainability, as they embody the essence of independent innovation and resilience.

In the transition from capitalism to sustainomy, the primary driver of change at the necessary size and scale is the private sector. This shift requires a new mindset that prioritizes prosperity, quality of life and environmental health. Impact measurement must evolve from focusing solely on profit to embracing the triple bottom line. This transformation is ultimately essential for turning businesses of profitability into businesses of positive impact and markets into ecosystems that uplift all.

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Related topics:
Sustainable DevelopmentEconomic GrowthStakeholder Capitalism
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