Green Swans Observatory

News | Observatory Sponsorship | So what are Green Swans and Ugly Ducklings? | Share your Green Swan and Ugly Duckling examples | How to apply Green Swan Principles


The world needs to see a shift in the focus of the sustainability agenda from responsibility to resilience and regeneration.

At Volans, we’re seeing exciting signs of this potentially regenerative future building: but you need to know where to look. While visibility remains limited, the exponential market shifts in thinking and investment these solutions tantalisingly point to will fail to seed and scale at the speed required.

To tackle this challenge, Volans is launching the Green Swans Observatory, to act as a spotlight scanning the world for evidence of Green Swan market trends and ‘Ugly Duckling’ innovations driving forward positively exponential change, to share with the wider world.

The Observatory builds on our ongoing Green Swans campaign, part of our Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry. Now entering its second phase, the Inquiry is focussing on how we can help create the right market conditions for finance to be an accelerant of Green Swan trajectories in the real world.

By sharing examples as a source of inspiration, we hope to help businesses see the multiple opportunities of becoming part of a regenerative future.


The River Leven Programme

The first living case study in the Green Swans Observatory.

Read more.

Green Swans zoom into Japan

Compelling insights from a World Environment Day webinar with Shizenkan University – also known as ‘the business school for the 22nd century’.

Read more.

Observatory Sponsorship

If you would like to take an early role in the Observatory’s development by exploring potential sponsorship opportunities, please get in touch.

So what are Green Swans and Ugly Ducklings?

The Green Swans Observatory will be spotlighting Green Swans and Ugly Ducklings which, whilst in the same family, have key distinguishing characteristics as defined below:

A Green Swan is a profound market shift, generally catalysed by some combination of wicked problems and, among other things, shifting paradigms, values, mindsets, politics, policies, technologies and business models. It represents a market trajectory that takes us in a direction that looks impossible, but over time will become inevitable.

Some examples include: the shift from fossil fuels to renewables for energy generation; Green New Deals; the positive disruption of the soil-agriculture-food-nutrition-health nexus due to technological and behavioural changes, including precision and regenerative agriculture, cellular agriculture, vertical farming and the growth of meatless diets.

An Ugly Duckling is an early-stage concept, innovation, policy measure, mindset, technology or venture with the potential to feed into the solutions we need, to become a market-changing Green Swan – or conversely to grow into a Black Swan driven by bad exponentials. In today’s environment it can look peculiar and a bit of a misfit, but it has within itself a very different future. Its quirky appearance, however, means that its potential evolution into a Green Swan can be hard to detect early on. So, we need observant duckling detectors to identify these green swans in-the-making.

Some examples include: the Impossible Burger, early versions of which cost more than most people earn in a year; the Waymo vehicle, a prototype autonomous car; the hash-tag #MeToo; the rapid growth of the impact investment sector to reach over $500 billion today.

Share your Green Swan and Ugly Duckling examples

We all need to step up and play our part in the transition to a more regenerative future. So we’d love to invite you to share examples of the Green Swans and Ugly Ducklings you’d like to see go exponential.

We’re collating suggestions from all around the world, and from these will create a shortlist. Those chosen will be the inaugural candidates for the Green Swans Observatory.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions via the forms below.

Green Swans      Ugly Ducklings

How close are you to being a Green Swan or Ugly Duckling?

The good news is that any organisation can look to put Green Swan characteristics into action within their own business. The big market shifts involved in the transition to a more regenerative future can translate down to benefit individual organisations, and through the Observatory we’d like to help show companies how.

If you’d like to explore further what this could mean for your organisation, or consider which of the Green Swan principles your business could embrace to create opportunities for regeneration, please get in touch.

The Green Swans Observatory Map

So much is happening on the Green Swans front that it can be hard to keep track. So we have created, in beta version, this map. So far it mainly tracks responses to our campaign, spearheaded by the book,  events and media coverage.  We will continue to develop the map to eventually focus on the Observatory – spotlighting individuals, initiatives and institutions pioneering exponentially positive futures.

Use our interactive legend below the map to filter different categories of activities.