Businesses around the world are struggling to prepare for a sustainable future, especially in times where all well-known paradigms seem to be shifting. There is much uncertainty, little confidence, but most commonly little practice in cross company cooperation. That is where TomorrowLab comes in. Building bridges and guiding with domain expertise, consultants show the way forward.

How can I develop a sustainability strategy? How should I adapt my business model to meet future demands? How can I harness the essential knowledge? These are some very real questions that keep business leaders awake at night. The prospect of having to transform may even have a paralyzing effect. To a certain extent that is understandable, but it does not need to be so. Of course, you need to know where to start, and where you are heading. The ultimate destination? Nobody knows exactly, but the important thing is: you will be part of it.

Future scenarios

In tumultuous and uncertain times like these, business leaders are understandably seeking some foothold moving forward to a sustainable future. However, being futureproof is not about predicting the future. It does not mean that you know what the future will bring and that you are readying yourself for it, equipped with your technology to gloriously be victorious as the sole survivor on the battlefield. Actually, it is the contrary. It is exploring and discussing a variety of ‘what ifs’ with all your stakeholders. And yes, with competitors too.

The key to achieve this are well-founded and plausible future scenarios. We advise companies on their sustainability roadmap, but even more than that, we promote and facilitate discussions with all stakeholders: customers, suppliers, regulating authorities, umbrella organisations, industry federations... we encourage companies to look beyond their own borders, to break away from the island mentality and develop a mindset for innovation and sustainability.

Insight to foresight

By stimulating to exchange visions through forums, workshops, trainings and scenario planning exercises, all stakeholders are encouraged to build an ecosystem in which they will find some common ground. In such an ecosystem, all parties that actively engage will ultimately thrive. As opposed to going alone, where you will never know if you are on the right track.

You will keep developing on your own product level, but as the required system innovations will not follow, this eventually will lead to a dead end. As part of an ecosystem, you will gain insight into the context, the bigger picture. And consequently allowing foresight to arise: based on future insights, you explore strategic options and create your future mission. Challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone in order to make the right transformation decisions. From there, you set your goals on the local level. Ask yourself: where and how can I have sustainable impact? Often, it doesn’t even mean huge effort or sacrifice: it is about what can you do now, with your limited means, always in relation to what is needed from the broader perspective.

Agree to disagree

Fear for transformation and loss of comfort zone are negative dynamics that disappear when companies acknowledge the context, and find that their role is not all that daunting. In addition, there are many misconceptions on the definition of sustainability. Obviously, some members of the ecosystem will be further developed than others. Therefore, benchmarking will be critical to deliver that common frame of reference that business leaders now so desperately lack and need.

In determining that benchmark it is crucial to be able to agree to disagree. You do not have to have the same mental picture of what the world will look like. That is why we explore different angles and scenarios, and eventually you will find that common challenge to embark upon. With the extra benefit that you will not just be fixing crisis problems but finding opportunities. The peak of the crisis is the best time to identify them. And then innovation will begin at system level, trickling down to your own process and product level. That kind of innovation will make sense.

From base camp to top

Companies are not likely to share knowledge? True, but you don’t have to share company secrets right off the bat. You can start by sharing non-business critical things such as waste management or mobility packages. But it is certain that when you turn away from what you need to do, playing catch-up will get more difficult with each crisis. Whereas if you tackle the challenge as an ecosystem, you will be better prepared each time. Exactly why sustainability is about the long term, and continually double checking your vision.

For many companies, getting a grip on sustainability is like climbing Mount Everest: it seems insurmountable. But let’s not forget that climbers acclimatize for weeks, in stages. At base camp, they discuss various potential routes to the summit, even joining forces with other climbing parties. Likewise for sustainability, you need partners who face the same challenge and have complementary skills. It allows you to learn from others to stress test or refine ideas, and to discover new opportunities. In the end, your sustainability strategy will coincide with your business strategy.

Concretely: building tomorrow

An example of the above is the current transformation of the construction sector. Apart from materials getting more sustainable in terms of production and composition, smart buildings need to become more circular (adaptable) on its own and will use data to create a ‘digital twin’, enabling you to monitor and reuse separate products in future buildings after their present life cycle.

In collaboration with TomorrowLab, Living Tomorrow has designed future scenarios of the building sector incorporating these trends and underlying future uncertainties. Through various co-creative workgroups, round table discussions and workshops, these scenarios are being refined and translated in to actual
‘visions’ displayed in the innovation campus of Living Tomorrow. This creates on its turn an atmosphere where people can meet, become inspired and ecosystems are actively nurtured.

If you are a producer of, say ventilation ducts, you will benefit within the ecosystem of all other parties involved in that building (other producers of the building’s components, but also the architects, urban planners,… ), to be part of the next step, called Living as a Service (LaaS), where residents pay for use, not for ownership of products, systems or installations. The focus is on circularity. That requires a longer-term strategy, a so-called circular-by-design mindset across various stakeholders.

Eager to know more?

Get in touch and we are happy to guide you through your sustainability transformation.

Our experts in this domain

Willem-Jan Jacobs
Willem-Jan Jacobs Sales Director
Isabel Vermeulen
Isabel Vermeulen Domain lead