The Future Quotient
JWT and Volans have published a report exploring how businesses, governments and investors can move beyond pressure to focus on the short term and starting thinking about future generations. In the report, The Future Quotient: 50 Stars in Seriously Long-term Innovation, the establishment of a new measure for future-readiness is proposed. The Future Quotient (FQ) would be the world’s first measurement of an ability to both anticipate and create value in the future. The report also identifies 50 “stars” – individuals, teams, business and brands who we believe would have a high FQ. The report is part of an ongoing project designed to provoke a debate into the complacency shown in planning for the future. Evidence suggests that what passes for sustainability strategy very often ignores the pivotal concept in the sustainability agenda: the interests and needs of future generations.
Foreword Volans and JWT 1 An old order is coming apart, a new one— for better or worse—self-assembling. Volans spotlighted this trend in 2009 in the report, The Phoenix Economy.1 It was noted in that report that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, but as Volans and JWT drafted The Future Quotient it was clear that the opportunity had largely been squandered. 2011 so far: the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima meltdowns sideswipe the global nuclear industry and mainstream low-carbon energy plans; America’s debt rating was downgraded; Greece has teetered on the edge of default, with European political leaders scrambling to shore up other countries, indeed the entire Euro system. The UK has seen astonishing levels of violence in London, our home city, and elsewhere. Even normally peaceful Norway has been shaken to the core by an outbreak of anti-Islamicism that left scores of people dead. The central argument in The Phoenix Economy was that we were seeing not simply a great recession but the beginning of an era of creative destruction. History tells us that when these periods happen, those who are ill prepared and unwilling to reinvent themselves go to the wall. Eventually, of course, capitalism will mutate and evolve, but not uniformly around the globe. Over time, we will see a shift in understanding about the requirements for a ‘going concern’, as required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), with new methods needed for asset capitalization, depreciation, and amortization. Currently, a going concern is considered to be likely to exist into the distant future—which may prove an optimistic assumption when the forces of creative destruction are breaking loose—and when natural resource and environmental security challenges are pressing in. So do we trust to luck and allow a new economy to emerge wherever it chooses to do so, or do we seize the opportunity to create and shape the new order? Volans and JWT choose the second option. Now, more than ever, it is time for businesses and their brands, governments and civil society organizations to test and build their capacity to meet the needs of both present and future generations. We are profoundly grateful to our sponsors: Atkins, The Dow Chemical Company and Shell Foundation. These and other debts of gratitude are identified in our Acknowledgements on page 52. Our sponsors have given us a free rein on this project, so any failings should not be laid at their door—while our ability to get as far as we have has everything to do with their generous support. We would very much welcome any comments you may have on what follows. E-mail addresses are provided at the end of the report on page 44. John Elkington Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, Volans Charmian Love Chief Executive, Volans Alastair Morton Head of Ethos, JWT London