The ten main messages are concrete takeaways to inspire leaders in business, civil society, and politics to start turning global risks into opportunities for collaborative action. Each main message has its roots in the opportunity chapter, where you will find its supporting data.
The survey shows that leaders from different societal groups look optimistically at our ability to pursue systemic change across five sectors and nine regions.
Our survey shows that business is perceived to be among the top advocates for all 15 opportunities. Only civil society is perceived as a stronger advocate.
The business sector in general is perceived to be an actor pushing for sustainable change. It is also evident that business and civil society are on the same page regarding the opportunities they can be expected to advocate most strongly for. Hence, we can expect new forms of solution alliances to emerge between business and civil society for collaborative actions to change societies from the bottom up.
In four out of the top five opportunities, technology will play a significant role in enabling private and public leaders to act in an effective manner.
The survey has tested the capacity to pursue all 15 opportunities across three dimensions – technology, economy, and political will power. Of these three dimensions, technological capacity is consistently perceived to be the lowest barrier to change. Hence, technology is a strong driver of all 15 opportunities. However, the data shows that it tends to be a weaker driver in lower Human Development Index (HDI) regions, pointing to a need for technology transfers for a number of opportunities to be realised.
Sustainable and more efficient production of food using technology and digital solutions is the top opportunity in 2016. Business believes that the world is willing and able to change how we produce food by making farming smarter. It is a mature opportunity, adaptable across geographies and scale, and with readily available solutions in the market. This year’s top opportunity shares similarities with last year’s number one: water-efficient agriculture. Both are driven by a mix of resource scarcity and digital solutions, encouraging farmers to use technology to target inputs.
The survey shows that all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hold potential for business as business leaders see opportunities across the full list of SDGs.
SDG number eight, on decent work and economic growth, is the highest rated in terms of business potential, followed by SDG number three on good health and well-being. These are also the SDGs that are perceived to hold the greatest potential to direct societies onto a sustainable development track; hence, what is good for business is also good for society.
The SDGs with the lowest potential business opportunity are those concerning inequality – both in terms of gender and income – as well as the goal on partnerships for the SDGs. The survey also revealed that the knowledge about the SDGs is lower in high HDI countries and in the lower levels of corporate management.
Globally, civil society can be expected to fight hardest for changes to the current food system. The survey shows that the top three issues for civil society out of the 15 opportunities are all related to how we produce food.
At the top of the advocacy agenda of civil society is food waste reduction, followed by a transition to smart farming and then antibiotic-free food production. Of these opportunities,
political will power is lowest in relation to antibiotic-free food making it an advocacy agenda civil society may find to be an uphill battle.
Across all 15 opportunities surveyed, women are more positive than men, the young are more positive than the elderly and than respondents in lower HDI countries are more positive than leaders in high HDI countries. This year’s ‘opportunity manager’ is an Asian female leader under age 30. She works in the service or manufacturing sector.
Chinese respondents in general stand out from all other regions with a consistently positive outlook both on the ability of the region to make systemic change happen and the positive benefits to society of these changes. Chinese women are the most positive of the survey respondents.
Leaders in private and public sector are most concerned with societal risks across the world according to the risk ranking this year.
From all corners of the world, private and public sector leaders echo the same message. Unemployment calls for urgent action, as it is rated the most pressing risk this year as well as last. The good news: the opportunities addressing youth unemployment dominate the top four on the opportunity ranking this year. In addition, the top three opportunites ranked for new business initiatives are all opportunities to address youth unemployment. The message is clear: leaders are ready to pursue opportunities to address the most pressing risks.
SECURING FOOD AND GETTING YOUTH INTO WORK DOMINATES THE TOP FOUR OPPORTUNITIES
From the three dimensions of capacity tested – political will power, technological capacity, and financial capacity – political will power consistently scores low across all nine geographical regions, except China.
Looking at which of the four surveyed stakeholder groups is perceived as most likely to advocate for change, the same trend repeats itself; respondents do not expect that politicians will actively advocate for change to the same extend as the other stakeholders.
Answers from governmental sector respondents reveal that even they do not believe government has the capacity to pursue many of the opportunities. In addition, all of the respondents in the government sector show the largest gap between the perception of being affected by the opportunities and their expressed likelihood to pursue the same opportunities. Hence, it paints a picture of a public sector that sees opportunities, feels affected by them, but does not have the capacity to act on them.
The combination of perceived low capacity and limited political will power underlines the need and benefit of collaboration across sectors where global and systemic change is needed.
South America is the region with the largest gap between its belief in positive change arising from the opportunities, and its capacity to pursue opportunities. The survey reveals that South America’s low level of capacity to pursue change is due to a general perception of a lack of political will. It points to a large positive effect if the trust is restored in the political system.
The MENA region consistently rated opportunities significantly lower compared to last year. The same goes for the belief that change will be beneficial to society. It is only in relation to the opportunity to reduce food waste that the MENA region has a more positive outlook than the world average. However, another food related opportunity; antibiotic-free food is the opportunity the region rates lowest of all 15.