GEMI Sustainable Disruption Project

Vision / Mission

The GEMI Sustainable Disruption Project (SDP) brings together corporate sustainability leaders from across sectors to identify, understand and develop strategies to prepare for a wide range of possible future global disruptions that may challenge short to mid-term business sustainability goals, while creating new opportunities for leading organizations to position themselves for greater resiliency and success in the long-term.

The GEMI SDP mission is to create a cross-sector forum to identify and understand many different conceivable short-, mid- and long-term disruptions that may impact business sustainability (e.g. extreme weather, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, resource scarcity, changes in political administrations, infectious diseases, and many other possibilities) and develop strategies and processes to help corporate sustainability leaders to prepare their organizations to rapidly respond, lead and prosper through such disruptions.


What every company has faced in 2020-21 shattered complacency. We do not know what our world will look like going forward, but we know it will be different than before, and fraught with more disruptions, both those we anticipate and those we don’t. Those organizations that prepare and create effective strategies for long-term operation today (beyond the career spans of individual people) which anticipate and prepare for disruption will be the ones that are most likely to weather increasingly complex and volatile global systems and will be best positioned for long-term growth.  

This recent experience is consistent with longer-term trends, not an anomaly. In 2019, GEMI worked together with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to explore various external drivers, or new spectrums, of change that are likely to challenge companies as they strive to meet their business and sustainability goals over the next decade and beyond. The resulting report – Future Forces Disrupting Sustainable Business – forecast a scrambled future of powerful new technologies, radical visibility/transparency, rising global turbulence and rapid social change where it will be increasingly risky for business leaders to force-fit new threats, or new opportunities, into old categories of thought. While the exact nature and timing of such emerging disruptions is impossible to predict, we can agree that new disruptions are on the horizon and that those relating to sustainability are likely to come much more rapidly and with greater impact than some might have anticipated in the past. 

Business leaders will need to begin looking at their business and sustainability strategy through various possible lenses to be ready to navigate an increasingly complex, uncertain, and rapidly changing future environment. Those leaders who are able to identify and understand multiple, possibly divergent, implications of future disruptive events and who are prepared to act on those implications with clarity will likely be best positioned to lead their organizations through the challenges to come.

What will the GEMI Sustainability Disruption Project Do?

Today, corporate sustainability leaders face two distinct but related challenges: how do you keep your sustainability program going through disruptions, and how do current and emerging disruptions inform and alter your corporate sustainability program going forward. To help companies work through these challenges, we will lead project participants through a process via facilitated, interactive virtual workshops to be scheduled throughout 2021.

The three workshops will focus on:

  1. Lessons from maintaining sustainability programs DURING disruptions. – what changes, what has been maintained without change, what has been leveraged with or by disruptions. What mix of resiliency (withstanding disruption to return to prior state) and adaptation (making fundamental changes for prepare for a different present and future) did companies rely on?
  2. Implications for corporate sustainability PROGRAMS for the FUTURE. Looking at the program you have and lessons from the previous workshop, how should your sustainability program be the same or different going forward? What would be substantively different? What would be unchanged, but priorities or “packaging” might be different?
  3. Developing practical approaches. Identify and develop practical and usable approaches to help corporate sustainability leaders identify, understand and shape business strategies to address short, mid and long-term disruptions, from whatever the source. Identify potential future tool development to support these approaches.

How does the GEMI SDP operate?

The GEMI SDP is led by GEMI members and supported by GEMI’s staff with the support of Scott Nadler, Nadler Strategy LLC. The Project began in June of 2021 and will be led and supported through virtual sessions throughout the year.

How to get involved?

To learn more about how to participate, please contact Steve Hellem at shellem @ or Scott Nadler at senadler @