A safe and sustainable future

These are truly exciting times. The coming decades will present humanity with potentially graver and bigger challenges than anything previously encountered. We have a unique opportunity to shape a future where the planet thrives, where human creativity and collaboration can flourish and where society is equal, stable and prosperous. But we must act.

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Business outlook: Where are we headed?

There is growing scientific evidence that the world is in serious trouble. Critical resources are nearing exhaustion, the earth grows steadily less habitable, an expanding population puts an ever larger strain on nature, and a large portion lacks access to basic amenities.

Environmental damage is reaching a scale at which it is beginning to threaten both growth prospects and the progress achieved in human development. Without ambitious policies, human activities will continue to degrade the environment and deplete resources critical to economic growth and the welfare of current and future generations.

In our Safe and Sustainable Future report, we describe what the future may look like – the future we are currently heading towards - if we do nothing to change our current ways. We have mapped the most significant trends impacting how the world will look in 2050 and described the possible implications of our activities.

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Our vision: For a safe and sustainable future

DNV GL believes it is possible to create a thriving economy where growth is decoupled from environmental destruction and material consumption. We believe it is possible to stay within the limits of the planet while still enjoying a decent quality of life. And we believe it is possible for a society of nine billion people to live well, enjoy universal access to the basics needed to live a healthy, safe and flourishing life.

The transition to a safer and more sustainable future should not primarily be driven by the need to avoid disaster or achieve incremental progress. It is a matter of realizing opportunities emerging from the pursuit of a new model for society and the economy – one which brings about a more prosperous and fulfilling future.

The challenges we face are great; having to balance the need to solve the troubles facing the world today, whilst at the same time taking preventive measures to avoid future risks.

Should we choose not to act, we are heading towards a world of new uncertainty, complexity and risk.

In our report we present a vision for an environment in balance, a stable and prosperous society and a green and inclusive economy.

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We know that we are headed towards a future we do not want. We also know many of the things we need to do to change course. However, despite this knowledge, we are not doing the right things at the right scale and with the right speed. The transition to a sustainable future holds many daunting obstacles. To overcome these barriers we must define and understand them.

In the report, we analyse the barriers to change that we must overcome in order to achieve a safe and sustainable society in 2050. We have identified 36 important barriers grouped in 5 categories:

  • Cognitive and behavioral 
  • Policy and governance 
  • Economic and market 
  • Technology and innovation 
  • Societal
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Our future is defined by the choices we make every day. Changing course will depend on our ability to work together, to act quickly and to harvest opportunities both today and tomorrow. We can develop an economy that is sustainable and regenerative, we can rejuvenate our ecosystems, and we can build the stable, equitable and thriving societies that we desire.

We are at a moment in time where there is a great opportunity to shape the future we want – if we make the right choices, and if we make them now.

In our report, we connect the dots between the economy, the well-being of society and good governance through the lens of sustainability. We outline three broad pathways for change we believe are central to accelerating progress and to enable a shift towards a safe and sustainable future:

  • A green and inclusive economy: Reorienting the economy and the functioning of the markets 
  • Good governance and decision-making: Governing for a sustainable future 
  • Stable and prosperous societies: Building resilience, equity and well-being

For each pathway, we outline essential building blocks – enablers - that will contribute to changing course.