Future Forces That Will Disrupt Sustainable Business

Future Forces That will Disrupt Sustainable Business

A full-spectrum thinking approach to building sustainability, 2019–2029

Future Forces That Will Disrupt Sustainable Business examines the challenge of doing business in a rapidly changing world, where the definition of ‘sustainability’ is broadening and every business wants to build and maintain a ‘sustainable’ business model.

Prepared for GEMI by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), this report examines four future forces that are external drivers of change with the power to upend today’s business models over the coming ten years. Readers are asked to grapple with these forces and to consider how each might disrupt their organization—as well as open up new opportunities. They are meant to provoke new conversations outside of today’s traditional sustainability considerations.

To help you navigate this increasingly complex business planning environment, the report introduces a full-spectrum thinking approach to building sustainability as well as tools to help draw our your own foresight—whether you agree with the forecast or not.

This report is the output of a 2019 project supported by the members of GEMI, the Global Environmental Management Initiative, and prepared by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), the world’s leading futures organization. It follows a forecast GEMI commissioned from Institute for the Future in 2007. We encourage you to visit that forecast to see how the ecosystem of sustainability has evolved over the past decade.

Overview of Content Available

  • GEMI / IFTF Project Introduction Video. This 6-minute video provides an overview of the GEMI / IFTF project and how to use the information contained in the following documents.
  • GEMI / IFTF Future Forces Executive Summary. This 3-page PDF Executive Summary describes IFTF’s forecast of four external drivers of change with the power to upend today’s business models over the coming ten years. Each force has “signals of change”—existing initiatives that provide examples from today and hints as to how these forces may play out.
  • *GEMI / IFTF Future Forces Resource Library*.  This 62-slide annotated PPT Resource Library outlines in detail the four future forces identified by IFTF, including key “signals of change” and items to consider related to each, with notes explaining each slide in more detail.
  • *Original Graphic Recordings from 2019 GEMI / IFTF Workshop*. This 4-page PDF includes the original graphic recordings capturing key takeaways from an April 2019 workshop with GEMI member participants at IFTF’s offices in Palo Alto, California.

*complete the accompanying download form to access the full free report. 

Video Introduction


Please complete the following form to receive access to the report. A download link will be sent to the e-mail address provided below.


GEMI would like to thank the GEMI-IFTF project participants for their contribution and engagement in this project, including American Forest & Paper Association, Carnival Corp & plc, CBRE, ConocoPhillips, Dell, The Dow Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, FedEx Corp, Gannett Fleming, Ingersoll Rand, Lockheed Martin Corporation, SABIC, Schlumberger, Sealed Air Corporation, Smithfield Foods, and Waste Management.

About GEMI
The Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) is a global leader in developing insights, networking, and creating collaborative sustainability solutions for business. For over 25 years, GEMI has captured the vision and experience of global corporate environmental, health and safety, and sustainability leaders from diverse business sectors through the development of a wide range of publicly-available, solutions-based tools designed to help companies improve the environment and their operations, and add business value.

  • Kellen Mahoney, Project Director
  • Steve Hellem, Executive Director

About IFTF

Institute for the Future is the world’s leading futures organization. For over 50 years, businesses, governments, and social impact organizations have depended upon IFTF global forecasts, custom research, and foresight training to navigate complex change and develop world-ready strategies. IFTF methodologies and toolsets yield coherent views of transformative possibilities across all sectors that together support a more sustainable future. Institute for the Future is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California.  www.iftf.org

  • Quinault Childs, Research Director
  • Daria Lamb, Ambassador to the Future
  • Robin Bogott, Art Director
  • Kelsey Kamm, Designer
  • Gabe Cervantes, Research Assistant
  • Mark Frauenfelder, Developmental Editor
  • Jean Hagen, Executive Producer
  • Tito Jankowski, IFTF Affiliate
  • Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow
  • Bradley Kreit, Research Director