Experts explain: how to prepare your business for the future

  • SMEs are key drivers of the global economy and of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The Future Ready SME Forum report focuses on an overall assessment of future readiness and identifies key success factors.
  • Members of the Forum’s Emerging Champions community have taken a wide range of approaches to building future-ready businesses.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an integral part of the global economic and social fabric. It is therefore important to understand how these companies can build resilience to external shocks, while establishing themselves as generators of long-term value that benefits society as a whole.

After in-depth analysis of more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and dialogue with more than 300 CEOs and SME founders, a report published by the World Economic Forum established three pillars of readiness for the future: sustainable growth, societal impact and adaptability. SMEs can also assess their business readiness using the World Economic Forum assessment benchmarking tool.

The World Economic Forum Community of new champions is a group of medium-sized companies that champions new models, emerging technologies and sustainable growth strategies. These organizations are leaders in using the three pillars to prepare for the future.

We asked some of their CEOs to share their thoughts on how to be ready for the future:

1. Sustainable growth

Digital strategy drives growth

Mohammad Akoojee, CEO, Imperial LogisticsSouth Africa

As an Africa-focused integrated market access and logistics solutions provider, we are becoming a bigger player in our industry. We face challenges such as intermediation and the entry of new competitors with highly innovative and disruptive business models.

Our digital strategy is fundamental to our ability to seize new opportunities, become data-driven, amplify value, differentiate ourselves, meet and anticipate our customers’ needs, and innovate.

R&D at the heart of the company

Zhao Yan, CEO, Bloomage BiotechChina

We are a company that applies biotechnological inventions for better health, with fundamental research and development at the heart of our concerns for more than 20 years. In 2011, our scientists invented enzymatic digestionwhich helps control the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid and opens up more opportunities for industrial adoption.

We believe there are two essential elements to being ready for the future: we are continually developing our innovation capabilities while maintaining a strong operating profit. These two aspects combined are the main drivers of our continued vitality and growth as a company.

Identify and reduce the risks of market gaps

Joost Zuidberg, CEO, Cardano developmentthe Netherlands

As an incubator, developer and fund manager of large-scale financial risk management solutions and pioneers in frontier markets, our services and products aim to absorb risk and remove barriers preventing domestic or international investors from participating. to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

We believe that well-developed and resilient financial markets are essential to ensure the future preparedness of local businesses and society. Our work focuses on managing the urgency of closing the SDG funding gap, which is estimated at $2.5 trillion and has grown by around 70% since the start of the pandemic. Improving these capital flows is essential for long-term inclusive growth.

“We believe that for Internet businesses, it is by anticipating change and innovating that we stay ahead and grow.”

—Ben Crawford, CEO, CentralNic Group

Driven by innovation, stay ahead and keep growing

Ben Crawford, CEO, CentralNic GroupThe United Kingdom

We’ve been at the forefront of the digital revolution, helping businesses, governments and even countries achieve their online aspirations. We believe that for Internet businesses, it is by anticipating change and innovating that we stay ahead and grow.

The very nature of innovation is to do things differently from the way they have been done in the past. One strategy to improve the culture of innovation is to recruit from other industries such as fashion, an industry that reinvents itself every season. I see this as an ongoing opportunity to drive innovation.

2. Societal impact

Integrate SDG goals into strategies, culture and operations

José Carlos Junqueira S. Meirelles, partner, Pinheiro Neto AdvogadosBrazil

We are a Brazilian law firm committed to social responsibility initiatives. As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, we have maintained our commitment to 10 universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption alongside the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This has improved our preparation for the future by integrating practices, values ​​and the SDGs into our strategies, culture and operations, while increasing the transparency of our corporate social responsibility actions and generating value at long term for our company and society as a whole.

“We believe that focusing our activities on a major global challenge allows us to be ready for the future.”

—Zhang Xiangdong, CEO, Organic & Beyond

Focus on a key issue of carbon neutrality

Zhang Xiangdong, CEO, Organic and beyondChina

We are the pioneers of organic farming in China. Agriculture is one of eight key areas to achieve carbon neutrality, with about 21-37% total greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the food system.

Challenges to the development of organic agriculture include a lack of awareness of the sector’s contribution to carbon neutrality, a lack of structural big data, and unscientific carbon emissions calculations. At the same time, the opportunities abound. Organic farming makes up for the shortcomings of traditional agriculture in terms of protecting biodiversity, improving soil quality and preserving water quality. We believe that focusing our activities on a major global challenge allows us to be ready for the future.

3. Adaptability

Think long term and act fast

Henrik Ekelund, Founder and CEO, BTS GroupSweden

In times of crisis, the default approach may be to think short-term but still act too slowly. When COVID-19 first hit Italy in February 2020, I knew that our business – a global consultancy for which in-person workshops accounted for 70% of our business – would be facing a survival crisis with huge long-term impacts.

Our action plan surprised many people and was different from our competitors. We pledged to keep 100% of our 1,200 people employed without a pay cut, we pivoted our business to digital, changed our sales strategy and built up a large cash reserve by deferring dividends, bonuses and taking loans. While we initially lost 70% of our revenue, 2021 became another record year, with a 20% increase in revenue and profit compared to 2019. Agility and resilience have been key to our adaptability and prepared us for the future.

Measuring the impact companies have on society and the planet is essential to managing practices and making improvements.

To promote alignment of existing environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks, the Forum, together with partners such as Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, drew on existing frameworks and identified a set of universal disclosures – the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics.

At the 2021 Sustainability Impact Summit, the Forum announced that more than 50 companies have begun including ESG stakeholder capitalism reporting metrics in their key documents, including annual reports and management reports. sustainable development.

contact us for more information on how to get involved.

Using technology as a force for good

Stanislas Bocquet, CEO, PALO IThong kong

We are a global innovation consulting and agile software development firm dedicated to helping organizations embrace technology as a force for good. The last two years have been a huge challenge for most companies, but crises are always an accelerator of history

I think what makes us unique is our market position at the intersection of two megatrends: digital transformation and the circular economy. By changing our own priorities and skills, we began to inspire others with much larger footprints. What was initially a challenge has led us to a greater long-term opportunity to become a game-changer in the area of ​​much-needed transformation..


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