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Disruptive trends for global sustainability goals

RISE collaborates with companies and organisations seeking to make a difference in the world by finding new, uncharted approaches. In order to achieve the 17 global sustainable development goals, we need to make major changes. SDG TrendScanner – and the soon-to-be-launched Climate Solution TrendScanner – utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to identify disruptive trends which have the potential to facilitate or undermine a sustainable future. AI typically uses large volumes of data, but so far there is a pronounced lack of data on disruptive trends, which necessitates new ways of utilising AI.

Many companies and organisations want to make a difference and play a part in creating favourable conditions for a sustainable world. But in order to help bring about the major changes needed for global sustainability – and not just achieve marginal improvements in unsustainable systems – we need to take a step back and ask: ‘What is our contribution to society? And what do we want it to be?’

– “Around 95 percent of companies and organisations work on sustainability from a risk perspective,” says Dennis Pamlin, expert at RISE. “They seek short-term solutions and marginal improvements, but it’s not enough. We are therefore working more and more with companies and organisations looking to make huge leaps and who want to be part of the solution, instead of just reducing their negative impact. Sustainability thus becomes an integral part of their business model. They are opportunity-oriented – not product-oriented – companies, and they are trying to find new solutions to their customers’ needs, not just improve their current offerings. In the automotive industry, for example, it’s not about making a better car, it’s about achieving globally sustainable mobility. In the food industry, it’s not about carbon offsetting, but rather providing nutrition for a planet with a population that will soon reach 9 billion.”

The purpose of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 global sustainable development goals is to eradicate poverty and hunger, realise human rights for everyone, achieve equality and empowerment for all women and girls, and ensure lasting protection for the planet and its natural resources. The global goals are challenging but also afford companies and organisations opportunities to position themselves and play a role in creating change.

Major changes are needed now

By examining the needs of society instead of the products we use today, completely new ways of providing solutions can be found. Once the underlying needs are understood, such as nutrition, mobility, warmth, etc., new trends can be linked to the need in order to identify new transformative solutions.

– “Major changes must be implemented now,” says Pamlin. “The development we have seen over the last hundred years in, for instance, the automotive industry, can’t hold a candle to what’s still to come. Operators in the automotive industry must understand that these major changes do not concern vehicle designs, batteries, or lightweight composites, but rather mobility. The need that exists has to do with being able to move from one place to another. And how this can be accomplished more efficiently and sustainably in a world of digital meetings, 3D printers, drones, new urban planning, and an increased need for physical movement?”

TrendScanner is unique amongst its peers

AI identifies disruptive trends

TrendScanner utilises artificial intelligence to identify disruptive trends.

– “The disruptive always lies in the future, and frequently occurs when different trends converge,” says Pamlin. “It often gets exciting when there are gaps in the dataset. A good example of this is mobility. We will soon be seeing major changes with regard to how we move around in cities, but there is no data for it yet since many of the technologies, business models, and values that will form this society are still in their infancy. AI cannot predict what mobility will look like in the future by parsing the data we provide it. This only allows us to optimise existing systems. On the other hand, AI can identify converging trends and see where they are headed.”

It started at Davos 2015

Following the World Economic Forum (WEF) climate summit in Davos in 2015, disruptive trends and sustainability issues truly began to reach board and management team levels. This is when the WEF clearly affirmed the fourth industrial revolution as a disruptive force to which everyone would have to adapt. The question was no longer whether we would see disruptions, but rather when and how far-reaching they would be. Competitive intelligence and trend analysis thus were no longer simply ‘inspiring’ but became vital. People and companies became genuinely interested in what was happening in the world, and many companies saw opportunities to position themselves as leaders of transformative development for global sustainability.

– “TrendScanner is unique amongst its peers and has not been created as a sales tool. We want to show that we are a credible player that understands the real challenges in society. We are relatively alone in the field and don’t work as consultants but rather in partnerships with companies and organisations who want to make a difference, such as various UN bodies and the World Economic Forum, as well as with incubators in India and the EU Commission,” says Pamlin.

We saw an opportunity to identify new transformative solutions for the major challenges of our time

Showcasing companies at the forefront

RISE collaborates with the WEF and others to showcase tomorrow’s companies and those at the forefront who are working towards a sustainable world.

The team working on RISE TrendScanner is made up of only five members, but about 50 individuals from various disciplines in RISE are involved as part of the extended team.

– “The idea for TrendScanner was born in a meeting with several companies who asked important questions about the role they could play for the planet and for the future. We saw an opportunity to identify new transformative solutions for the major challenges of our time by working with the latest technologies and trend analyses in strategic areas from across the globe. Shortly afterwards, we had a meeting with different sections of the UN who were immediately interested. Our starting point is the 17 global sustainability goals, and we have just started on an in-depth area concerning climate solutions and how they relate to disruptive trends,” says Pamlin.

Sweden is well-known for and has historically been good at bringing together new technologies to the benefit of society, and we have favourable conditions for balance between business and politics.

– “There is a good capital confidence in Sweden as a country that combines technology with social and environmental responsibility. A lot of this confidence, however, is based on end-of-pipe solutions from the ‘70s, where Sweden was a leading nation. To ensure Sweden remains a leader, we must produce globally sustainable solutions. RISE is a neutral party which, unlike most other operators involved in trend work, doesn’t sell consulting services or provide specific solutions, but serves as a dialogue partner with a clear mandate from the Swedish government to contribute to global sustainability. This enables us to work with tailored trend analyses for leading operators across the globe and with companies seeking to create sustainable and scalable innovation,” concludes Dennis Pamlin.

Dennis Pamlin

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Dennis Pamlin


+46 10 516 60 07

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