A new type of capitalist activist, the Charles Dickens of futurism, Gerd Leonhard is a green futurist with a focus on media, content, entertainment and publishing, technology, telecom as well as marketing, branding and communications. His new direction: sustainability, carbon reduction, alternative and renewable energies, the future of transportation. He is a highly influential keynote speaker, think-tank leader and advisor, and now, the Founder of GreenFuturists.com using formidable talents to focus on important issues. These days you will hear him talk about our current economic and a societal paradigm that is quickly becoming ill-suited to tackle the key challenges of the next 20-50 years.

The traditional focus on profit and growth has driven us to the top of the spiral (and the US is the global leader in that race), and we are hitting the ceiling: witness Occupy Wall Street and what is referred to as ‘the corporate spring’. In the next 20 years, he believes everything will be about sustainability, literally. “Like Richard Branson, I believe that ‘the right thing’ almost always results in win-win situations but it takes real leadership that can take a leap to sufficient longterm thinking to view things beyond the quarterly stock market marathons,” he says.

Audi spends much of their R&D budget in building self-driving cars, going beyond the current car ideology and yes, it will be electric, too. Virgin Airlines is switching to bio fuel. But, Gerd says the main challenge arises is when a sustainable way does not actually make more short-term profits such as with airlines having cheaper fuel options. After all, the real step forward is to fly less, eat less, drive less and consume less.

The business case for that can only be seen in context with what everyone else is doing. And of the future: Gerd believes that if we do not stop borrowing from our own future, and if we do not start paying the real price for what our ever-increasing consumption actually costs, we have a very good chance at losing everything we value, today, in the next 20-50 years,” he says. “We may lose our oceans, our forests, our glaciers, our rivers, our wildlife, our breathable air and our clean water – and this is not a world that I want my children, or grand-children, to live in.” Predicting the future: every single consumer now wants to be able to like brands – and that means brands have to become likeable, real, trust-worthy, transparent… and do more common good. The cost for not having a sustainable approach will explode, whether it is operating costs, taxes, or the penalties other companies will assess you if you look less ‘good’ and less proactive. Gerd believes that in less than 18 months, every single public official, most business men, all politicians and all leaders will be judged on their position on sustainability, renewable energy, environment and ‘green business’.

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