When we planned a special report on sustainability for this issue, it was too early to know that it would follow closely on the heels of the latest — and most alarming — assessment report yet from the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The news from the IPCC includes the unequivocal scientific consensus that human activity has caused the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere. The extreme weather and wildfires wreaking havoc on communities all over the planet are among the effects of surface temperature increases that will be irreversible for centuries, if not millennia — and that’s if we act with urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half within this decade, and to net zero by 2050. Not doing so will unleash even greater catastrophe.
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Humanity has never needed as much creativity and innovation as it does now — nor as much collaboration across all spheres of endeavor. Making headway on this existential crisis will require the majority of business leaders to join governments, policy makers, nonprofits, and ordinary people in contributing to a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
When I think of MIT Sloan Management Review’s readers, I think of leaders who thrive on difficult challenges, drive innovation, and hope to make a positive impact on their businesses, the people they serve, and the planet. The articles in our special report on sustainability lay out opportunities where others might see intractable problems and suggest ways to leverage creativity to thrive, not merely survive.
But we will need more than energy, initiative, and new ideas in order to lead efforts to salvage a planet we’ve pushed out of balance. We will need courageous hearts and wise souls, and a new approach to strategy that is rooted in deeply held values. Exactly such a new prescription for strategy-making is offered in our lead feature article by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, “Strategy as a Way of Life.” Over the course of their long careers, these authors’ groundbreaking work on knowledge creation, innovation, and product development has had wide-reaching influence, including laying the foundation for the Scrum agile software development framework. We hope their article will inspire leaders to think deeply about how to guide organizations that can profit while making a positive difference in the world.