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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

16 January 2019 – A new report, Linking planetary boundaries to business, produced in collaboration with Kering explains how the Planetary Boundary (PB) framework can be applied in the context of corporate sustainability.

A significant challenge for businesses striving for sustainability is in determining the best actions to take in order to reduce their impacts on the environment and mitigate climate change risk.  However, without any real knowledge of what is actually sustainable in our finite global system how can sustainability practitioners understand how their individual companies’ impacts contribute to natural resource limitations at a global scale, or, indeed, whether their sustainability efforts will create positive outcomes more broadly.  The nine Planetary Boundaries, developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, provide the parameters for the planet to maintain a stable state, fundamental to supporting contemporary society.  The Planetary Boundaries presents a framework that a business can apply to decision-making through the lens of thresholds and limits that are inherent to an ecosystem of any size, either local or global. 

To highlight the importance of linking Planetary Boundaries to business, Kering and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability (CISL) have published the first White Paper in Kering’s series on Planetary Boundaries for Business today.  The report outlines how incorporating the Planetary Boundary framework into business decision-making would help companies to understand the consequences of their environmental impacts at a global level and presents valuable opportunities and pathways to creating a new, more robust agenda for managing and mitigating environmental impacts.  As a comprehensive overview, it underlines the value of the Planetary Boundaries framework and explores how it can help inform business decision-making and enable companies to stay within their business ‘boundaries’.

Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer and head of international institutional affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu, concurs and states, “The Planetary Boundaries framework is a fundamental element to include when designing the agenda for managing and mitigating our global environmental challenges. As businesses we need to go far beyond our single, individual issues and contribute to meaningful change at a global level.”

A key recommendation is the importance of companies considering the opportunities and limitations of ‘downscaling’ and ‘upscaling’ the framework to enhance their sustainability strategy and decision-making. ‘Upscaling’ the impacts of a company in a given location would encourage companies to shift towards activities that focus on doing “more good” rather than just incremental changes to do “less bad”.

Helen Ford, CISL’s Natural Capital Programme Director, says “We are delighted to collaborate with Kering to understand how businesses can use the Planetary Boundary approach to help them work towards a sustainable future”.

Speaking on behalf of the scientific community in the paper, Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre says, “Businesses increasingly call for science-based targets to guide investments, innovation and performance indicators along the value chain. I hope that the Planetary Boundaries framework and the rapidly advancing science on global sustainability can assist in providing Business with the science it needs for responsible business prosperity in the Anthropocene.”

Ultimately, as companies increasingly seek to reduce their environmental impacts, improve resource efficiency and mitigate risks from climate change, the framework offers a new approach for the business community to set science-based corporate targets and make meaningful decisions to help restore a well-functioning planet.

Read the white paper: Linking planetary boundaries to business: Part of Kering’s series on planetary boundaries for business