By David Fregonas, Accenture Song Lead across Middle East.
Sustainability issues have prompted countries worldwide to recognize the need for systemic transformations encompassing policy, technology, financing, infrastructure, and consumption. This resonance for sustainability echoes powerfully across the MENA region, where governments are pioneering comprehensive policies, fostering green technology adoption, and promoting sustainable practices. Notable examples include Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which prioritizes sustainability; the UAE's Ministry of Climate Change and Environment establishment, complemented by hosting COP28; and Egypt's comprehensive sustainable development strategy.
In image above: David Fregonas, Accenture Song Lead across Middle East
Yet, beneath these transformations lies a fundamental truth: these shifts toward sustainability cannot materialize without individuals embracing alternative ways of living. At its core, sustainability is inherently anthropic, entwining human behaviors with its fabric. In navigating this transformative paradigm, a life-centric approach emerges as an indispensable compass.
The Significance of a Life-Centric Approach
An Accenture survey of 1,700 global C-suite leaders revealed that 95% of both B2C and B2B executives believe that their customers are evolving faster than they can recalibrate their businesses. Amidst these perpetual challenges, Accenture Song introduces Life Centricity, an approach to how companies can engage with people.
A life-centric approach, grounded in the understanding that people are multifaceted and complex, involves attuning to the external forces that shape modern life. It calls for businesses to respond in ways that bestow value on all stakeholders. At the heart of it is knowledge of the human paradox, which shows how people are finding it increasingly difficult to make consistent decisions, shedding light on the ever-increasing unpredictability of consumer behavior amidst ongoing crises and resource constraints.
A Life-Centric Lens on Sustainability
Sustainability has a relevance problem. Accenture Song’s latest sustainability research, Our Human Moment, found that approximately three in every five people do not strongly resonate with the idea of living sustainably. This may be surprising, but our years of research to understand the diverse nature of sustainable consumption and prioritize people's daily lives have helped establish legitimacy for a life-centric approach to sustainability.
This journey has unveiled the diverse global tapestry of sustainability dialogues and behaviors, subtly woven by social, political, economic, and cultural threads. What became clear is that addressing current consumption patterns requires integrating these anthropological elements for comprehensive understanding and effective solutions.
Introducing Life Fields: Interweaving Realities and Aspirations
To construct a life-centric approach to sustainability, we utilized the conceptual framework of Life Fields, which helped us map the biggest opportunities in aligning organizations with people’s relationship with sustainability to drive sustainable impact. By embracing these foundations, we reduce the heavily technocratic approach to sustainability – viewed often as a business imperative – that companies have relied on, to recognize that every action of the sustainable value chain, whether it be the food we eat, how we travel or the clothes we wear, is decided by a human being.
Sustainability must be made more relevant – in this case, more personal, connected, and tangible – within how people live their lives for real climate action.
Life Fields encompass diverse aspects of human experience, transcending mere technical considerations and intertwining with homes, environments, travel, and well-being. These chosen Life Fields – Nourishment and Health, Shelter and Comfort, Joy and Pleasure, Stability and Prosperity, Movement and Mobility – capture overlapping yet multidimensional human needs and aspirations and can help bridge the gap between how individuals experience sustainability and how organizations approach it.
Nourishment and Health, for instance, find embodiment in the Dubai Food Security Strategy. This initiative addresses the population's well-being by ensuring a sustainable food supply through innovative agricultural practices, vertical farming, and a reduction in food waste.
As an illustration of sustainable living, consider Masdar City. This urban hub showcases excellence in environmental stewardship with one of the world's largest clusters of low-carbon buildings.
Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 drives Stability and Prosperity by diversifying the economy, reducing oil dependence, and fostering sustainable growth for lasting stability and prosperity.
Harnessing Life Fields to Redefine Sustainability Narratives
Approaching sustainability through the lens of Life Fields challenges the prevalent industry-centric mindset. This paradigm shift invites businesses to reevaluate their approach, moving beyond a narrow focus on products or services and refocusing on weaving sustainability in a more human way to inspire people to move with them.
For instance, an automotive entity could shift its focus from "How can we make electric vehicles appealing?" to one that explores the seamless integration of electrification with the diverse aspirations of mobility. This life-centric perspective forges an inherent connection with people’s needs, values, and behavior.
In another illustration, consider the transformation of home development. Instead of merely constructing energy-efficient houses, developers can embrace a people-centered approach and design sustainable communities that prioritize well-being, interaction, and coexistence with the environment. This shift elevates sustainability beyond the realm of isolated structures and embeds it in our daily lives.
Furthermore, holistic smart home solutions empower individuals to actively optimize their energy usage, providing control over living environments and energy costs. This level of engagement reduces ecological footprints and enables individuals to harmonize their lifestyles with sustainable practices.
Overall, people often arrive at sustainability imperatives or decision-making through the imperative to live and the possibility of thriving more generally.
The potential of the life-centric approach, underscored by modeling analysis, reveals that companies that embrace life-centricity are poised to outpace their peers by an annual nine percentage points. Experimentation with the Life Field paradigm propels transformative product and service innovation. It empowers businesses to rethink transactional viewpoints and stretch beyond narrow windows of ‘purchase decisions’ or ‘consumption journeys’ into the complexities and breadth of people’s relationships with sustainability, thereby solving related problems in a way that connects with people’s multi-layered needs, values, and behaviors.
Pioneering a New Frontier
The life-centric approach to sustainability acts as a transformative catalyst, penetrating deep into the core of business models and interconnections among organizations. It also lays a sturdy foundation for industries to reimagine their growth trajectories. Through cross-industry collaboration and the nurturing of innovative sustainability opportunities, companies can break down outdated silos and pioneer a new frontier for tangible transformation towards a more sustainable future.
Just as sustainability must be core to every business, the center of that is a human need, want or desire. Companies linking their drive to sustainability to the human values we know can accelerate behavior change in practice can redefine consumption into something sustainable on which they can then create meaningful human experiences for their customers – also people at the end of the sustainable value chain.