Breakthrough Business Models: How to drive sustainable growth in an exponential world

by John Elkington 27 September 2016


The spotlight is shifting from the business case for action, to the business models needed to deliver both financial and extra-financial value in tomorrow’s world.

We wrote to you last week about the launch of Project Breakthrough and promised there was more to come. Well, here it is. A new Volans report – Breakthrough Business Models: Exponentially More Social, Lean, Integrated and Circular – is released today.

The report outlines 4 exponential characteristics of breakthrough business models, explored in John Elkington’s latest article on Medium:

  • Social X: delivering positive impacts for people, in the present and in the future
  • Lean X: optimizing the use of all forms of capital, including human and natural
  • Integrated X: managing value creation across economic, social and environmental systems
  • Circular X: sustaining inputs and outputs at their highest value in both technical and biological cycles

Commissioned by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, the report features case studies of pioneering companies and organisations across the globe – both large and small – that are exploiting a combination of exponential technologies and innovative new business models, and helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Devleopment Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Examples of case studies featured include Philips, whose ‘Pay-per-lux’ model is transforming light from a product to a service; Covestro, whose ‘carbon productivity’ work represents an important step forward in terms of how companies think about their environmental inputs and outputs; Ekstep, an exciting young start-up in India providing access to learning opportunities for children through a new open-source education marketplace; and Provenance, a UK-based firm employing Blockchain technology to help companies increase transparency in their supply chains.

Our report will feed into the Commission’s own flagship report on what the SDGs mean for business, to be launched in January 2017 at Davos. Volans will continue to uncover and spotlight the best examples of breakthrough business models on Project Breakthrough, our online showcase of “exponential sustainability” that was unveiled last week.


@volansjohn:We are oscillating between worlds of possibility and collapse. Psychic strain immense - and getting worse. But I vi……
@volansjohn:Didn’t know that, Gil - record duly corrected!…
@VolansRich:@RichardCRoberti I appreciate the commitment to this joke 👏🏻


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