The Imperatives

Over the decades and years leading up to the pandemic, a large range of organizations were created all across the world with the goal of reimagining and redesigning our economic system, in whole or in part, so that it serves the many and not just the few. These organizations were created independently of one another, but all based themselves on the truth of our interdependence, in contrast to the founding idea of the existing system, individualism. 

These organizations have come together for the first time as allies for system change to articulate the Imperatives that must underpin the RESET of our economic system. Articulating these Imperatives has illuminated how far we have already come in designing the RESET. It has also illuminated what remains to be done, the path we must all follow to create an economic system where all people are able to work with dignity and care for themselves and their loved ones, where our planet is healthy and our economy thrives.

Imperatives for economic system change

Design for

  • Recognize the interdependence of healthy people, planet, and economies;
  • Balance the relationships between the private sector, government and civil society;
  • Ensure that everyone has access to free and fair markets.

Learn more

Invest for

  • Remove structural inequality;
  • Ensure leadership and ownership are more inclusive, and investment more accessible;
  • Use technology to advance democratic ideals and human rights;
  • Promote greater voice, power and opportunity for those currently marginalized.

Learn more

Account for

  • Measure success based on credible common metrics of sustainable value creation for all stakeholders;
  • Create incentives that reward business and investments creating social and environmental value;
  • Enhance standards of fiduciary duty.

Learn more

Imperatives FAQs

What are the Imperatives for Economic System Change?

The Imperatives describe the design objectives and characteristics of the economic system we must move toward to achieve our collective vision of shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.

Why were the Imperatives created?

The Imperatives were created to offer a compass, a basis, and a unifying force for economic system change.

  • A compass — The imperatives offer a compass for leaders from all sectors to come together to RESET consistent with a coherent, holistic and compelling direction of travel toward a just economy that creates shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.
  • A basis — The imperatives will also create a mechanism for greater collaboration among and accountability of policymakers, businesses, investors, and citizens, as we pursue the RESET together.
  • A unifying force — The imperatives create greater coherence and power among allies for system change, amplifying our collective voice around a common message, and facilitating collaboration by helping each of us see the whole picture as well as our unique role in it.

How are these Imperatives distinct from other similar efforts?

The Imperatives build on, align with and support the work of others. Those involved in their co-creation include or are inspired by a wide range of diverse and credible thinkers and doers who have been leading the way toward economic system change for decades. There are a number of ways the Imperatives are distinct:

  • At this unique moment in history, the Imperatives reflect a higher ambition and a clear-eyed determination to go beyond a statement of purpose or principles, and to go beyond practical incremental change to necessary transformational change, not only in our organizations and institutions, but also of the culture and systems in which they operate.
  • The Imperatives take a longer view of the economic reset, not just the recovery in the context of the global pandemic. To achieve the Imperatives, work must begin today and carry forward through the upcoming decade of delivery to achieve the SDGs.
  • The Imperatives are holistic. They include the purpose of the corporation and the future of work, and do so in the context of the economic systems that drive and constrain business and finance; large and small enterprise; private sector, government and civil society; social inequities and ecological necessities; technology and human rights.
  • The Imperatives engage both emerging and existing power. Calls for necessary transformational change often come from outside ‘the system’ — and are seen by insiders as unrealistic. Efforts towards practical change led from inside are often viewed as incremental and not credible by those outside. The process of co-creation of the Imperatives, stewarded by a business-led cross-sector network, has created the opportunity to discern alignment and foster collaboration between emerging and existing power.
  • Finally, the Imperatives create a framework for action, one that provides a roadmap for positive and measurable change in our economic system, and that is supported by a stewarded network of allies aligned to carry on the work.

How do the Imperatives relate to the SDGs?

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, signed on to by 193 countries, are our shared global goals; the Imperatives describe the economic system required to achieve them.

How do the Imperatives relate to the efforts of the Business Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Catalyst2030, WeALL, Build Back Better and others?

Imperative 21 has been inspired by and is in support of all of these and other initiatives. Building on the beautiful articulation of shared wellbeing on a healthy planet in the Meadows Memorandum of the Welling Economy Alliance, the Imperatives can serve as a unifying force and framework for collaboration among all of our interrelated efforts to achieve that vision. The economic system change articulated in the Imperatives is necessary to make material progress to Build Back Better, to achieve the 2019 restated purpose of the corporation from the Business Roundtable, the vision of stakeholder capitalism offered by the World Economic Forum, and the ambition of many other initiatives. Because Imperative 21 is itself a network, it works in alignment with other networks to inspire and deliver the economic transformation of the RESET.

Who is the main audience for the Imperatives?

There are two key audiences for the Imperatives. The first is the leaders whose positions in business, government, civil society, philanthropy, media and academia, make them powerful drivers for transformation of our economic system. We call on all these leaders to support a RESET and view the Imperatives as a guiding light and a measuring stick for that call to action. A second audience is the community of allies across the Imperative 21 network. We call on the allies to embrace this opportunity to bring coherence and collective power to all of our important work through greater collaboration in making a RESET a reality.

How will the Imperatives be used?

The Imperatives will serve as guiding lights for leaders in business and finance, government and civil society as we work together towards delivering the economic system that is needed to create shared wellbeing on a healthy planet. They might inspire investors and artists alike. They might be used by individuals or coalitions to frame discussions about potential collaboration. They might be used by academics to frame curriculum or research. They might be used by philanthropists to identify innovation opportunities. They might be used as a measuring stick against which to assess potential legislation, policies, or candidates. As use-cases emerge, Imperative 21 will share them in hopes of inspiring and equipping others to use them to further their work in advancing the RESET.

How “final” are the Imperatives?

We don’t know — it is up to all of us. After draft one is made public in September 2020, Imperative 21 will listen and learn. If interest and need is there, we’ll steward a process to improve the Imperatives and to clarify and identify new pathways to achieve them. At the very least, we expect to reflect on them and on the progress made and needed toward the economic system they describe.

How are the Imperatives related to RESET?

The Imperatives inspired the RESET campaign and serve as its core intellectual underpinning. RESET raises awareness around the necessity and urgency of economic system change, first to the leaders across business, finance and government who can influence the critical choices needed to implement that change, and eventually to the citizens who will hold those leaders accountable through their purchases, investments, employment and voting decisions.

Who created the Imperatives?

The Imperatives have been co-created with hundreds of allies from around the world. The idea for the Imperatives emerged from the public launch of Imperative 21 in April 2020 at the virtual Skoll World Forum. The objective was to build a shared understanding of the economic system change that was needed for the 21st century and the pathways to get there.

The co-creation has been iterative. The Imperatives and the ideas around them have been discussed in three online convenings, dozens of interviews and a range of consultations. In addition, Influence SG was commissioned to carry out a survey to which more than 230 contributed. (Survey report and raw data).

In September 2020, we are uplifting the first draft of the Imperatives and the RESET campaign that distills the Imperatives into their essence as public art. Any further development of the Imperatives will follow the same approach of co-creation and consultation to ensure that we reflect the insights and ambitions of our allies, partners and other stakeholders.


Who are the ‘allies for system change’?

The allies for system change are the hundreds of individuals and organizations that have aligned around economic system change, lighting a path for and engaging with Imperative 21 and other related initiatives in supporting a RESET.

How can I get involved or get more information?

Please reach out! We are here, we are listening, we need your unique contribution:

A Note of Gratitude

The Imperatives co-creation process has been stewarded by a coalition of allies that calls itself Project Portal: Charmian Love, UK21 co-convener, Chair and Co Founder B Lab UK; James Perry, B Lab board member, Co Founder B Lab UK; Charlotte Sewell, Project Portal project manager, Jason Stockwood, 53° Capital co-founder and B Lab UK board member; Chris Turner, B Lab UK executive director; and Anna Heckenlively, Imperative 21 chief of staff; Robin Hodess, Imperative 21 representative of The B Team; and Jay Coen Gilbert, Imperative 21 co-chair.

The team would like to express special thanks to all who gave generously of their time and expertise in convenings, conversations and surveys. Special thanks to: Derrick Feldman, Amy Thayer and the team at Influence SG; Josh Davis; New Economy Research Associates at Said Business School, Oxford University: Sabrina Bainbridge, Jillian Gedeon, Laura Ketteringham, Khanya Okumu, Aditya Rajashekaran and Saskia Rothuizen, and Laura Chavez-Varela at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Let’s RESET. Together.

* indicates required