Sweet spots for silver linings

Breakthrough Forecast
UK (London)

What if the darkest social and environmental clouds really did turn up silver linings? What if the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals could be turned into a market opportunity brief? What if doing the right thing for the world resulted in huge new market opportunities for business?

Such questions are at the heart of the Breakthrough Forecast, developed by John Elkington and his team at London-based Volans. Known for coining such terms as ‘Green Consumer,’ ‘Triple Bottom Line’ and ‘People, Planet & Profit,’ John has promoted the concept of Breakthrough Capitalism since 2012: “Communism collapsed mainly because it failed its people. Now capitalism risks following suit because it fails people and planet,” he says. “Breakthrough Capitalism drives towards a future where people, planet and profit align.”

In launching the Sustainable Development Goals in September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that business involvement will be make-or-break for the implementation of the 17 Global Goals. The Breakthrough Forecast begins the long, arduous task of turning them into a set of market forecasts. The main aim is to get business leaders to shift from their obsession with commercial risk to market opportunity and this is the first attempt to capture market forecasts and valuations. Volans have already flagged 21 ‘sweet spots’ across 10 critical sectors of the economy, from artificial intelligence to synthetic biology — with the value of the investment in such markets now running into trillions of dollars.

The Forecast was launched in 2015, alongside The Stretch Agenda, a dramatisation of a board meeting in which both the downsides and upsides of the sustainability agenda are discussed. Both projects have been supported by the Generation Foundation, linked to investment firm Generation Investment Management, co-founded by Al Gore and David Blood.

Volans have also partnered with the UN Global Compact to develop the Breakthrough Innovation Platform (launching in September 2016) – to drive radical new business models to advance the SDGs, by connecting traditional companies with innovators and entrepreneurs. Learn more here:

Written by

John Elkington (02 June 2016)


John is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable business. He is Co-founder of Environmental Data Services, SustainAbility and Volans Ventures, where he is Executive Chairman, and author or co-author of 19 books.

Project leader

John Elkington, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Volans

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