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Innovation Around Sustainability Issues

December 11, 2013

Generation Investment Management is an independent, private, owner-managed partnership with offices in London and New York. The firm was co-founded in 2004 by Al Gore and David Blood. Generation’s investment approach is based on the idea that sustainability factors—economic, environmental, social and governance criteria—will drive a company’s returns over the long term. By integrating sustainability issues with traditional analysis, they seek to provide superior investment returns.

Gill Ringland was asked to run a workshop session at Generation’s recent CEO Summit event in London. The topic was Scenario Planning for Long Tail High Impact Events Triggered by Global Resource Constraints. We used the global scenarios first developed for “In Safe Hands” ( ‎ ) and the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Risk Review ( ‎) to stimulate innovative thinking.

The risks highlighted were those of scarcity driving geopolitical conflict. The specific risks and the corresponding opportunities seen were as follows:

  • Cyber attack: security forces expanding into resource management to protect wider range of services and facilities
  • Severe income disparity – civil unrest – failure of global governance: opportunities for rebuilding cities as self-sustaining mega-communities
  • Climate change – water shortages: crops have been developed to grow in salty water – could animals or humans be genetically modified to use salt water?
  • Food scarcity – implications for energy & food: rethinking of food supply chain, vertical farms in cities.
  • Ocean governance – conflicts in Arctic, Antarctic, Falkland Islands, Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands —: we could not see an upside
  • Energy use as leverage point – low price or free energy underpins eg education (ability to study out of daylight hours), health (keeping warm/cool), waste reduction (energy intensive to recycle): opportunity to find game changer in energy


The group were clear on two things:

  1. That innovation happens within the context of an informed population, since it often comes from two different fields intersecting

Written by Gill Ringland

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