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The consequences of COVID-19 for the decade ahead. Vision 2050 issue brief

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 18 May 2020

The consequences of COVID-19 for the decade ahead. Vision 2050 issue brief. World Business Council for Sustainable Development. May 2020

This issue brief was developed as part of WBCSD’s work to update their Vision 2050. The issue brief was produced in partnership with Volans. 


In 2010, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released Vision 2050, a piece of work that laid out a pathway to a world in which nine billion people
are able to live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century.

In 2019, WBCSD decided to revisit its Vision 2050 work – 10 years on, we had not made as much progress against the Vision 2050 pathway as required. We would bring the pathway in line with the SDGs, we would update to reflect some of the great changes that had unfolded, and we would reprioritize the critical actions that business could drive during what the UN would dub as the “decade of delivery”.

40 members signed up to support this effort, led by WBCSD’s Executive Committee. A team was built with the support of member secondments. Workstreams were set up to investigate how systems transform, how best to update the pathway to Vision 2050, what the 2020-2030 operating environment would look like, what key enablers of transformation business would need to leverage, and how sustainability approaches and priorities varied in different parts
of the world.

Then 2020 began. COVID-19 now represents the worst public health crisis and certainly the
deepest economic downturn of the modern era. It is revealing terrible vulnerabilities in public health systems and economies around the world, as well as how major disruptions can rapidly snowball through interconnected systems.

We had already developed a picture of the 2020-2030 operating landscape - what the next 10 years might throw at business. Not just in terms of sustainability challenges: we wanted to explore more generally what the world would look like, and consider how that would
affect business’ ability to operate successfully. We wanted to identify the headwinds and tailwinds that business might experience over the next 10 years, and how those might affect our efforts to deliver on our Vision 2050, of 9+ billion people living well, within planetary
boundaries. We wanted business to be able to prepare for these trends and shocks that might
occur over the decade.

COVID-19, a single disruption, has triggered multiple shocks and accelerated many of the
macrotrends that we had identified. How we respond to it will undoubtedly shape the decade to come.

In this issue brief we will:

  • outline the vulnerabilities that COVID-19 is exposing
  • present the ways in which it will shape the 2020s: how it will interact with existing socioeconomic, political and cultural divides; how it may accelerate or decelerate existing trends; how it increases the likelihood of other major disruptions occurring; and how the recovery might unfold
  • explore the opportunity that it offers to reset the norms and rules of capitalism in ways that enable businesses and economies to become more resilient and regenerative.



1. Context 

2. Introduction: What color of swan? 

3. What COVID-19 has exposed 

  • Our dependence on economic growth 
  • High levels of inequality within and between countries 
  • The weakness of norms and institutions that enable coordination and collaboration 
  • Under-investment in healthcare systems, scientific research and preparedness |
  • Too much focus on efficiency and short-term value by businesses 
4. How COVID-19 could shape the 2020s 
  • How COVID-19 interacts with existing socio-economic, political and cultural divides 
  • Pressing fast forward on existing trends 
  • What COVID-19 makes more and less likely 

5. A question of fairness: learning lessons from history to inform a more equitable post-crisis recovery 

6. An opportunity to reset capitalism: the role of business

7. Conclusion 








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