Pooran Desai OBE, our guest blogger for this week, is the Founder of OnePlanet.com, a sustainability framework and digital platform that allows stakeholders and collaborators to share and connect on outcome-based natural and social capital data reporting.
‘We are facing the most consequential fork in the road. We have to halve our carbon emissions by 2030. We can choose a path of reconstruction and regeneration. For our children, it will be too late. So this is the decade and we are the generation.’
Christiana Figueres. Former Head of the UN Climate Change Convention, 2020
We live in a new reality. Leading scientists are now saying that unless we change course drastically we are heading for a planet, within the lifetime of people alive today, which will only support a billion people. It will take courage and humility to invent a new future. It will also take new thinking and new tools. The stakes are high. The opportunity is great – particularly in the wake of the economic crisis created by coronavirus – what the World Economic Forum have called The Great Reset.
As a global society, we are now consuming resources at a rate almost twice as fast as the planet can sustain. If we all lived like Europeans we would need three planets. If we all lived like North Americans we would need five planets. The result is ecological problems from climate change, increasing wildfires, sea level rise to loss of coral reef and loss of species described as the Sixth Mass Extinction.
Should we get depressed or bury our heads in the sand when confronted with this reality? Both are completely understandable and common responses. But there is another option: to rise to the challenge, however big that might be. Technologies such as renewable energy and electric cars will be part of the answer, but we require new approaches through an innovative mindset.
I have been working in sustainability for thirty years. It has been a fantastic journey and so many great solutions and initiatives have emerged – from certifying sustainable forestry in the 1990s to promoting the circular economy in the 2010s.
In 2002, I coined the term ‘One Planet Living®’ and described our challenge as creating a future where we can lead high quality lives within the resources we can harvest sustainably from our one planet. In the intervening years, the concept and framework developed to support it, has been used by leaders in cities, real estate developers, the hospitality industry, manufacturers and retailers around the world. The ten One Planet Living principles were an inspiration for the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all UN member states in 2015. We are delighted that One Planet Living is also being taught in schools.
‘One Planet’ projects are truly inspiring. Not least are those I have had the privilege to support in partnership with Milton Group – introducing and helping implement world-leading sustainability strategies to landscape-scale conservation and development projects in Africa.
However, today, given the climate and ecological emergency, we need to scale solutions rapidly and collaborate as never before. Like many others around the world we have been working hard to offer solutions to this problem of rapid scaling. That is why, supported by partners such as Milton Group, we have harnessed the latest in database technology to create a new digital platform – OnePlanet.com.
For me now, sustainability is all about understanding, managing and measuring the connections. For example, making the connections between what we build and how dependent that makes us on cars; and if those cars are powered by internal combustion engines which create pollution, how that damages our health, but also how that contributes to climate change and supports the oil industry, which also creates single use plastics, which end up in the oceans and are filling up fish with plastic; and how if we eat those fish we are filling ourselves up with plastic with unknown health effects; and how, anyway, single use plastics in the oceans are killing penguins. Interconnections are the very core of the sustainability challenge. They are also, in my view, at the very heart of the solution.
OnePlanet.com is harnessing the power of network database (or ‘graph’ databases) which enable connections and relationships to be mapped, tracked and analysed. It is enabling our pioneering customers to plan, manage, collaborate and report in a completely new way. One Pioneer is the Karingani project in Mozambique where OnePlanet is helping structure the data in such a way that it can be organised more accurately, and communicated and reported more easily. We see particular opportunities for asset managers in a new category of what we might call ‘planet-fit’ assets: assets which are designed to build natural and social capital in the economic ecosystems in which they sit. We are also very pleased to be starting trials of OnePlanet with national governments, applying our thinking to whole nations.
This is our thesis: when we can see the connections, we will think differently. We will see ourselves as part of the fabric of our one living planet. We will collaborate to bring together the solutions that will enable us to create a thriving economy to also regenerate the Earth’s degraded ecosystems – the ecosystems on which we ultimately depend for our own survival. In the wake of coronavirus, let us take the opportunity to make The Great Reset.
We have a long way to go but we could not be more excited. We have this decade to get sustainability done. Join us.
Pooran Desai OBE, Founder One Planet
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