Then, Now & What's Next:

Sustainability 1987:2047

By Jonathan Sim

As we reach the 30th anniversary of SustainAbility’s formation, we look back and reflect on how the western world has changed over those years and how it could change, for the better, over the next 30 years.

Through an infographic we have taken a look at then, now and what’s next. Back 30 years and forward to 2047 we look at how people and our innovations have changed the world and are continuing to change it – from our landscapes and physical world to the economy and society; from changes in climate, lifestyles and workplaces, to how we use energy, how we are connected, and how we move about the world.

We’ve seen some uplifting transformations between 1987 and 2017 that continue to make the world a better place. Education levels have increased, presenting new opportunities for people. The global middle class has doubled, signifying an improvement in average livelihoods. Gender equality in the workplace has improved. And people are more connected than ever, increasing the speed of communication, commerce, and giving more people a voice.

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To ensure a common better future for us all we must continue to harness human motivation and ingenuity so that 30 years from now we will be able to look back and once again say that we have made progress as a society.

Looking towards 2047, we explore a few possible future scenarios and highlight opportunities that will be crucial in helping us to achieve a sustainable and just society. On the one hand we can hope that global action and collaboration will enable us to meet, or even exceed, the 2030 Global Goals. On the other, we recognize that we face significant hurdles, many apparent today, which can be compounded into worse situations if left unaddressed.

Gender equality in the workplace has improved, but some estimate it will take until 2095 to achieve - we must lead the change in corporate culture and fight for greater equality. Technology has given us powerful computers in the palms of our hands, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, but threaten to leave some jobs obsolete – we must implement policies of inclusion and push for updates to education. And we’re fighting the clock on climate change as we’re seeing the real impacts it can have on human life and property – we must be at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy.

To ensure a common better future for us all we must continue to harness human motivation and ingenuity so that 30 years from now we will be able to look back and once again say that we have made progress as a society.

About the author

Jonathan Sim

linkedin.com/jonathansim1

Analyst in New York City focusing on research & analysis and development of sustainability strategy. Background in marine biology and environmental science.