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  • Sebastien Van Laere

Future Digest - September 28th

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

Chanel AW10 via W Magazine

Last week was another tipping point for sustainability as big commitments were made by some of the largest countries and companies in the world. As talks between the EU and the UK are coming to a close, the reality of a no-deal, or worse a bad deal agreement, is coming ever closer. In China we explore different technologies and that help businesses embrace the fourth industrial revolution. Meanwhile in the US a professor at Cornell examines how inequality is evolving and how technological progress might shape it in the future. Finally, with political tensions still abound, countries are looking to decrease their dependence on other markets - especially for rare resources. 


  • More difficult times ahead for the UK as Brexit and the COVID19 health crisis collide. The FT warns its reader to prepare for the worst Brexit - a bad deal - and the UK could have 50,000 Covid cases a day by mid-October, say scientific advisers.

  • Last week luxury house Chanel issued a bond linked to climate change and raised €600 million. Earlier this September, in a similar move, Burberry issued a £300 million sustainability bond while in November last year Prada signed a loan which interest rate can be reduced if they achieve their sustainability targets.

  • Amazon announced a range of new hardware products, the most concerning one being the Ring Drone that flies around your home and films everything. 


  • The World Economic Forum held its Sustainable Development Impact Summit last week bringing together global business leaders, government officials and experts to discuss how the world should tackle the environmental challenges we face. Discussions focused on waste as a valuable resource and opportunity for progress, business leading the way as policy lags behind, restoring biodiversity and climate change resilience.

  • Simultaneously at Climate Week NYC some of the world’s biggest businesses such as AbInbev, L’Oreal, Unilever, Amazon and Estee Lauder convened in order to discuss further measures to tackle climate change. Headline of the week was the world’s biggest retailer Walmart committing to becoming a regenerative business by 2040.

  • Europe wants to be a global leader with its green transformation. Oslo aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 while Denmark wants to achieve this goal by 2025. The Guardian analyses proposals from different architectural firms on how to redesign cities for a better, post covid19 world. While the designs vary considerably in their proposals, they all lead to similar results, a bigger focus on local and community. 

  • New technologies such as spatial mapping through satelite imagery and block chain are bringing transparency to the environmental impact businesses have, giving impact investors additional data beyond what companies report to assess a company's footprint.

  • Jing Daily covers three tech start ups that hint at how fashion businesses might operate differently in the future. They envision more digital designs being used from the point of design concept to manufacturing as well as in sales material for buyers and marketing assets for consumers. 


  • Chinese President Xi Jinping made the unexpected announcement that China plans to become totally carbon-neutral by the year 2060. Doing so would be an incredibly ambitious — and unprecedented — move for a country that currently burns more fossil fuels than any other on Earth, Bloomberg News reports. 

  • The president of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen announced last week the "new European Bauhaus" to help Europe move to a circular economy with a distinctive style that sets it apart from the rest of the world and to help shape the cultural change needed to achieve this transition.

  • Professor Ravi Kanbur this week wrote a column discussing the evolution of inequality and the challenges we face for the future. He argues that technological progress is increasingly displacing basic labour in favour of skilled labour and capital, across borders, and widening the wage gap. The international nature of our economies and technologies makes this problem particularly difficult to solve.

  • With political tensions still high globally and the pandemic showing the fragility of supply chain systems, businesses and countries are further exploring how to decrease their dependencies on one market for critical components. This week, the US announced it would invest in its domestic rare metals industry, while the EU also continues to develop its materials strategy that aims to wean its domestic industry off their dependence on China. 



  • Companies move from planning to executing their transformation towards becoming a sustainable, or even better regenerative, business as the world’s largest countries and companies commit to significant action on sustainability and climate change, financial investment becomes linked to sustainable business operations and new technologies are used to asses a company’s impact on planet and people. Now is the time to plan how you will transform your business in order to remain relevant and mitigate future risk.

  • The fourth industrial revolution is evolving at an exponential rate and disrupting almost every industry. Explore now how digital technology such as AI, VR, blockchain, can transform your business from design concept to sales and marketing assets. 

  • The debate around privacy and consumer data continues to be a focal point in the media and new technologies such as the Amazon Ring drone further raise consumer concerns. As a consequence, brands will need to focus even more on building trust with their consumers in order to avoid a potential backlash. (Unsurprisingly, trust is Facebook’s biggest focus for its AR glasses.)

  • Increasing inequality has broad consequences and businesses should monitor if and how governments can collaborate to tackle this problem. Easy-to-access measures here are the Gini coefficient and Mean Log Deviation (MLD). 

  • A more diversified market for raw materials will enable businesses to build resilience into their supply chain. Beyond the pandemic, the future holds other disruptive forces and therefore it would be wise to start investigating how to diversify your supply chain. 


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