The Sustainability Project: giving fresh impetus to the decade of action

November 30, 2021


The Sustainability Project: giving fresh impetus to the decade of action

November 30, 2021

Martin Koehring

Senior Manager for Sustainability, Climate Change and Natural Resources & Head of the World Ocean Initiative

Martin Koehring is senior manager for sustainability, climate change and natural resources at (part of The Economist Group). He leads Economist Impact's sustainability-related policy and thought leadership projects in the EMEA region. He is also the head of the, inspiring bold thinking, new partnerships and the most effective action to build a sustainable ocean economy.

He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the UN Environment Programme’s Global Environment Outlook for Business and is a faculty member in the Food & Sustainability Certificate Program provided by the European Institute for Innovation and Sustainability.

His previous roles at The Economist Group, where he has been since 2011, include managing editor, global health lead and Europe editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

He earned a bachelor of economic and social studies in international relations from Aberystwyth University and a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations from the College of Europe.


Discover a new kind of platform for engagement, analysis and debate, convening and engaging global stakeholders with the power to effect real change in challenging times. And this real change is urgently needed. The time to act is now. Economist Impact's Martin Koehring explains the new platform’s transformational opportunities.

The Economist Group has announced a new corporate mission: the pursuit of progress for individuals, organisations and the world. We are excited to launch as a new kind of platform for engagement, analysis and debate, convening and actively engaging global stakeholders with the power to effect real change. And this real change is urgently needed.

A new sense of urgency

The 2020s are the decade of action: we have  and make decisive progress on the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals. Action is required on many fronts.

In August 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its starkest warning yet about climate change. Its latest  found that the Earth is already 1.1°C hotter than during pre-industrial levels. Without unprecedented commitment and coordination across governments, businesses and society, keeping warming below the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target (let alone the more ambitious 1.5°C target) will be unattainable. Moreover, there is still a  in measures to boost adaptation and resilience.

Meanwhile, biodiversity loss is accelerating. The monitored population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians declined by an average of , according to the World Wildlife Fund. The  on the Economics of Biodiversity has called nature “our most precious asset."

Beyond the intertwined challenges of climate change and nature loss, the world also faces a growing need to build resilient and equitable economic systems. Unprecedented levels of investment in the post-Covid economic recovery offer an opportunity to shift investment into sustainable development. However, fully circular economies are still aspirational—for example, only .

The social dimensions of sustainability are increasingly in the spotlight, but they remain neglected. Climate impacts are felt most acutely by  to economic, health and related risks. However, there are serious doubts about whether the necessary climate-adaptation finance is actually , and whether there’s enough local input to make it truly effective.

Accelerating progress

To help address these challenges, we need to create new models for partnership and collaboration that leverage our collective strengths to create the sustainable future we all believe is possible. Enter The Sustainability Project. 

The Sustainability Project comprises five pillars. Progress on these pillars—individually and in an integrated manner—will be central to achieving true transformation during the decade of action.

  • Net-Zero & Energy: How to achieve ambitious pledges and goals

  • Resilience & Adaptation: How to get ready for environmental and social change

  • Circular Economies: How to create sustainable economic systems

  • Ecosystems & Resources: How to regenerate ecosystems

  • Social Sustainability: How to strengthen the social fabric, trust and inclusiveness

Realising net-zero by 2050 requires scaling technologies for low-carbon energy, efficiency, industrial-process emissions and , as well as  in areas such as skills, green finance and business models.

Climate change and environmental degradation are already a fact of life. Investing in , nature-based solutions and capable warning systems can help the world adapt to a changing climate today, while managing rising instances of extreme weather.  are required annually by 2050 to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Earth’s resources are precious and finite. Reusing, repurposing and recycling materials takes the pressure off natural systems, while reducing pollution and waste across supply chains. In sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods (FCMG), a circular economy could create  globally per year. Innovation will be key, for example in areas such as . Smart cities and intelligent business practices will also be critical to closing the systemic loop. 

Climate change and  are disrupting the ecosystems that underpin human existence. Protecting the environment and regenerating ecosystems contributes to healthier lives and makes possible the innovations needed for a thriving future economy. Business and finance will have a critical role in closing the  by 2050.

Tackling the social dimensions of the climate and biodiversity crises will be crucial to generate the wider support needed for transformative change. Ensuring trustworthy institutions that prioritise accountability, inclusivity and a fair distribution of political and economic power will help shape a healthier, equitable—and ultimately more prosperous—world.  will be vital in accelerating this shift, as will  that can address social inequalities.

Levers of change

Finance: The funding required for the decade of transformation (and beyond) is significant. However, the business opportunities in terms of creating new products, services, partnerships and jobs are huge, too. The finance sector must play a major role. The , chaired by Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, is just one example of an initiative already unlocking the funding that is needed.

Governance: Policymakers have a crucial role to play in establishing the framework for progress. Setting ambitious targets is one thing, but providing a conducive policy and regulatory framework is equally important. We can see this in a complex area such as , where governments must do more to incorporate climate change into agricultural policy and dietary guidelines. But there are also opportunities, for example through better public-private sector partnerships. Meanwhile,  also needs to be strengthened to ensure that boards are able to develop robust and credible sustainability strategies

Innovation: With the right governance frameworks and financial incentives in place, innovation will be able to thrive. But for that we need bold innovators in areas such as advanced recycling technologies and the . We know from initiatives such as our very own  that there is a multitude of exciting ideas to solve sustainability challenges while also providing commercial opportunities, but the challenge is bringing the right people together at the right time.

Based on our five pillars and three levers of change, we are bringing together a community of leaders in business, finance, policy and civil society to effect the real change we need to see in this decade of transformation and beyond. From our research and reports to our events and advisory boards, we will be harnessing Economist Impact’s unique capabilities to bring The Sustainability Project to life.

Join the community. Lead the change. The time to act is now.


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