French luxury goods group Kering has partnered with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability (CISL) to publish the first in a series of white papers on the concept of Planetary Boundaries, explaining how it can be applied in the context of corporate sustainability.

The Planetary Boundaries (PB) framework was first introduced in 2009 as a science-based guidance system for human development on Earth. It tracks the increasing impacts human activities are having on the Earth and is based on nine interacting processes that, taken together, determine the condition or state of the so-called ‘Earth System’. The boundaries define a safe operating space for humanity that should not be transgressed if we want to maintain stable conditions at the Earth System level.

The fundamental principle on which the PB framework rests is that our actions are undermining the relatively stable conditions of the past 12,000 years.

‘Linking planetary boundaries to business’, is the first in Kering’s Planetary Boundaries for Business series and underlines the value of the PB framework and explores how it can help inform business decision-making and enable companies to stay within their business ‘boundaries’. 

A significant challenge for businesses striving for sustainability is in determining the best actions to take in order to reduce their impacts on the environment and mitigate climate change risk, says Kering. However, without any real knowledge of what is actually sustainable in our finite global system how can sustainability practitioners understand how their individual companies’ impacts contribute to natural resource limitations at a global scale, or, indeed, whether their sustainability efforts will create positive outcomes more broadly? 

The concept of Planetary Boundaries can address these unknowns and provide a critical new perspective whereby companies can make more meaningful decisions and responses to help us restore a well-functioning planet, the paper claims.

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Essentially, the Planetary Boundaries presents a framework that a business can apply to decision-making through the lens of thresholds and limits that are inherent to an ecosystem of any size, either local or global.

“The Planetary Boundaries framework is a fundamental element to include when designing the agenda for managing and mitigating our global environmental challenges,” says Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu. “As businesses, we need to go far beyond our single, individual issues and contribute to meaningful change at a global level.” 

Subsequent white papers in the series will explore further perspectives on using the Planetary Boundary framework, as well as science-based targets and natural capital accounting and the importance of the connections between these concepts for business to tap into improved information and metrics.

Click here to access the white paper.