Possibilities are all around us.
Planetary Possibilities builds on the pioneering planetary boundaries framework first published in 2009 by Rockström et al.
Planetary Possibilities uses the science of the planetary boundaries model as a jumping board for a deep dive into the new business possibilities.
Is your company ready to embrace the sustainability revolution and craft your business opportunities beyond break-even sustainability?
Beyond the boundaries lie endless of possibilities.
POSSIBILITIES IN THREE LEVELS
Planetary Possibilities is a toolkit based on cutting edge science for the private sector to rethink sustainability.
The purpose is to see beyond limitations. To have the courage to imagine a sustainable future for business–one that uses the planetary boundaries to create new Planetary Possibilities.
The toolkit is divided into three dimensions.
Boundaries explains the science of the planetary boundaries model, introducing you to the nine planetary processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system. Within these boundaries, we can continue to do business. Outside of them, we live in a low-potential and highly risk-prone world.
Regulation identifies the current and future state of the regulatory landscape connected to each planetary boundary. While rarely seen in this light, regulation can act as a bridge to business innovation, creating a space for novel ways of doing things by closing the door on the old ways.
Innovation opens up a world of sustainable business opportunities connected to each planetary boundary. Through exploration of success stories, we discover how companies become profitable by contributing solutions to some of our biggest global challenges, enabling a future within the planetary boundaries.
More about planetary boundaries
1. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion
The first planetary boundary, stratospheric ozone depletion, is one whose history shows the power of global, transformative change.
When international organisations realised the damage chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had on the ozone layer (think hairspray and refrigerants in refrigerators and AC units), they mobilised and showed the potential for both businesses and Earth system processes to adapt and regenerate. By 1995, CFCs had been completely banned through the Montreal protocol. Now the ozone layer is on its way to recovery, and the companies that made early investments in less damaging alternatives came out ahead. Scientists consider the world to be well within this boundary today.
2. Biosphere Integrity
Biosphere integrity is one of the most crossed planetary boundaries. This boundary refers to biodiversity loss and species extinction.
According to WWF, we have lost 68% of monitored vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016. Ecosystem services–meaning the benefits and resources provided by healthy ecosystems to society–are worth approximately $125 trillion USD a year. Put simply, biosphere integrity is essential for both life on planet Earth and business success. Modern agriculture is currently the main driver of losses in biosphere integrity. If companies, for example, within the food value chain embrace regenerative production systems and incorporate them into their business models, we can ensure biosphere integrity is protected for both environmental and economic success.
3. Chemical Pollution and the Release of Novel Entities
The third planetary boundary, chemical pollution and the release of novel entities, was recently quantified by scientists.
This boundary deals with issues such as the effects on our living environment from synthetic organic pollutants, radioactive materials, genetically modified organisms, antibiotic resistant bacteria, nano-materials and more. Scientists estimate that this is one of the most severely crossed planetary boundaries. Defending this planetary boundary means reducing emissions from toxic compounds and protecting living organisms.This is fundamental for current and future public health and a cornerstone for well functioning societies and businesses.
4. Climate Change
The fourth planetary boundary, climate change, is likely the boundary most people are familiar with. The science is clear – climate change is happening now and it is accelerating in all regions of the world.
An existential threat that impacts all facets of society and life, addressing the climate crisis is fundamental to success and survival in the Anthropocene. Setting science-based targets in line with the 1.5° climate goal is necessary for everyone. Is your organisation ready to stand up to make necessary, science-based changes for the climate through creating new business opportunities?
5. Ocean Acidification
The fifth planetary boundary, ocean acidification, is a planetary boundary directly connected to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from industrial activity.
Rising oceanic acidity negatively impacts sea creatures whose growth is stunted and survival threatened. If this trend continues, ocean ecosystems will be further imperilled and food security, carbon storage, and protection from natural disasters will be severely harmed. However, the business world has the power to reverse this trend. Saving the climate means saving the oceans; accelerating a company’s movement towards net-zero, climate-positive operations will help both our climate and our oceans.
6. Freshwater Consumption and the Global Hydrological Cycle
The sixth planetary boundary, freshwater use, is a planetary boundary closely connected to the planetary boundary for the climate.
As industrial land management–particularly global agriculture–increasingly impacts global freshwater cycles, understanding the urgency of protecting this critical planetary boundary is key. As freshwater becomes more scarce due to disruptions of ancient cycles, catalysing businesses to mobilise their resources to protect this life-critical substance is essential for avoiding the crossing of this planetary boundary.
7. Land System Change
The seventh planetary boundary, land system change, is a planetary boundary closely related to the boundary for the climate.
“Land system change” refers to the destruction of forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other ecosystems for industry and agriculture. Severe damage against this planetary boundary has resulted in critical losses in biodiversity and negative impacts on water and biogeochemical flows. If businesses take bold, science-based steps towards protecting land and understanding its boundaries, we can build a prosperous planet for both ecosystems and the businesses that rely on them.
8. Nitrogen and Phosphorus Flows to the Biosphere and Oceans
The eighth planetary boundary is nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans.
The biogeochemical cycles of the elements nitrogen and phosphorus have been disrupted by industrial and agricultural processes, leading to eutrophication of lakes, rivers, and coastal waters with severe consequences for their ecosystems. Businesses can ensure this planetary boundary is not further crossed by adopting alternative industrial and agricultural processes and protecting vital ecosystems, such as wetlands.
9. Atmospheric Aerosol Loading
The ninth planetary boundary, atmospheric aerosol loading, is a planetary boundary that refers to aerosols’ impacts on cloud formations and patterns of atmospheric circulation, such as monsoon systems in tropical regions.
Industrial activity changes aerosol loading through pollution and land-use changes that produce dust, smoke, and haze. Businesses have a key role to play in the defence of this planetary boundary by reducing pollution and ensuring land-use changes avoid excess pollution.
Read the original planetary boundaries article to dive even deeper: