Our greatest sustainability problem is a leadership that doesn't lead

Karl-Henrik Robèrt
Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH), Sweden

The typical leader of our times does not know how to define sustainability at an operational level. The CEO/President/Manager does not know how the myriad sustainability problems are in fact rooted in a limited number of basic mechanisms for destruction, nor how those mechanisms can be used as exclusion criteria for strategic redesign of communities and organizations. Professor Robèrt will present a 25 year peer-reviewed consensus process to develop a unifying Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD). This long lasting international effort is a cooperation between scientists on the one hand, and decision makers in business and municipalities/cities on the other. The driver has been the need for a framework that does not compete, but supports and creates cohesion with, all the good concepts and tools out there. And such a framework should logically guide the:

  1. Definition of  purpose; any sustainable scenario should comply with a robust, commonly understood principled definition of sustainability, just like a check mate scenario must comply with the principles of checkmate (although it can look in many different ways).
  2. Setting of spatial, temporal and functional system boundaries; starting from the largest needed perspective, i.e. civilization in the biosphere. All aspects needed to make a particular effort comply with sustainability principles must be taken into account. A unifying framework should help by putting any topic/organization/region/sector in the above context of purpose, i.e. defining a position when it is no longer contributing to violating the basic sustainability principles of civilization.
  3. Step-wise approach towards the goal; ensuring that each step can feed into the next towards the scoped purpose. This is an intuitive and logical way for step-wise progress, includingthat each step creates enough resources to take the next step towards the scoped purpose.
  4. Selection and development of tools; to increase the value of various tools and concepts for sustainable development, i.e. explaining how tools relate to the scoped purpose, and to each other, and how they can help monitor and bridge the gap to sustainability.
  5. Merging of the seemingly un-mergeable small and large scale, short and long term, ethics with bottom lines, and sectors/disciplines with each other.
  6. The calculation of sustainable resource potentials, until investments are decided and, finally,
  7. The rational management of multidimensional trade-offs, responding to the question: “how do you take the good with the bad in each decision”?

The story, logics and current status of these developments will be presented, and explained by use of concrete case studies.

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