Christina Marule owns a spaza shop — the equivalent of a corner store — in rural South Africa. Five years ago she was forced to keep her young son out of school while she traveled to the nearest market, a half day’s trip away, to purchase products to sell in her store. Today, she manages inventory via text message from a mobile device. Her son is back in the classroom.
Her story is one of personal determination, but also of real progress.
Fueled by innovation and the determined ambition of a whole new generation, stories like this are transforming business models and entire value chains. To the world’s future leaders, sustainable behavior is as much about educating Christina’s son as it is about protecting the world’s supply of drinkable water. It’s up to today’s leaders to connect those dots.
In a recent survey 84 percent of Millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 1993) said they care more about making a positive difference than workplace recognition. These young professionals are the very same consumers who care more about purpose than packaging or price. They are concerned, creative and impatient for opportunities to make a difference. Their terms are crystal clear: innovate business models around making the world run better and improving people’s lives — or be left behind by those that do.
During the recent annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, I joined some distinguished panelists to talk about the world’s resource crisis. Many statistics are simply beyond dispute.
Today, the United Nations reports that 870 million people worldwide are undernourished. More than 10 percent of the world’s population can’t access a safe water supply and more than 2 billion people lack adequate sanitation. While we discuss these challenges, the world’s population is on course to grow from today’s 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. Despite these and other compelling figures, many organizations still believe that sustainability is little more than an appendix in the annual report.