The sSWOT is designed to help connect environmental challenges with other big trends that are shaping future markets. Use the sSWOT analysis to show environmental challenges in relation to the trends colleagues, customers, or other stakeholders are tracking.
What do you and others see changing?
Start with the environmental challenges that are shaping future markets. (8) Consider the list below and identify areas or markets where such challenges are creating large, unmet needs in society (this is purposefully broad—you will focus on the specific issues facing your company in a later step: 7. What to Prioritize).
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate variability and extremes
  • Natural resource scarcity (energy, materials)
  • Water availability, quality
  • Food availability, impacts of production
  • Loss of ecosystem services (for example, flood control, pollination, natural pest regulation)
  • Waste, hazards (air quality, chemical pollution)
Next consider how the environmental challenge(s) are connected to one or more of the four other common categories of big trends (see Figure 2). (9)
  • Innovation and technological advances
  • Demographic and social shifts
  • Global economic dynamics
  • Political and regulatory priorities
Your company may already have a working definition and timeframe for “megatrends” or “metatrends.” If no definitions or timeframes exist, or if it is useful to supplement existing definitions, consider focusing on big trends with impacts that are:

  • (a) real and observed
  • (b) long-term (shaping markets for 5+ years)
  • (c) large-scale (impacts across multiple sectors or markets)

Look for trends that are influencing (and are influenced by) environmental challenges like climate change (see Box 4). Point to connections, such as the links between the growing global middle class and food, energy and freshwater scarcity.
Identify current or future environmental challenges and socioeconomic shifts that are changing the role of business in society. These will be intersections where there are increasing expectations for corporate stakeholder engagement, transparency, leadership, and innovation with partners in your value chain.

This is a chance to listen to others. Seek out those who are involved in day-to-day operations at the company (those on the factory floor), as well as those charged with thinking about long-term market needs (like strategy groups and R&D teams). Gather insights from expert colleagues, as well as government agencies, universities, consultants, think tanks, NGOs, suppliers, customers, or other companies (see Box 5). Keep in mind that changes can occur slowly over time, or can happen quickly and unexpectedly. Find ways to continually mAonitor and update perspectives on big trends and environmental challenges.
Start with the environmental challenges that are shaping future markets and identify areas where such challenges are creating large, unmet needs in society.




Sanepar, a drinking water and sanitation service provider in Brazil, used the sSWOT to look at greenhouse gas (GHG) and climate change challenges in the years ahead. A team within the company identified an increasing need to reduce (mitigate) GHG emissions, based on the growing GHG contributions from the wastewater sector and the need for reductions in the future. They also identified a growing need to deepen the company’s knowledge about adaptation to climate change, particularly the possible effects and impacts on: drinking water supply, wastewater and solid waste treatment, infrastructure and the supply chain. They found these challenges closely linked to the core interests to the company, including objectives for ensuring a safe supply of water and reducing pollution (air, water, soil) within their watersheds. The company created a matrix, based on Figure 2 (see page 12), to evaluate how these environmental challenges are linked to other big trends that are real and observed, long-term, and large-scale. They found compelling connections to:

  • Demographic and social shifts, including increased vulnerabilities to water-borne illnesses in growing communities.
  • Global economic dynamics, including increased demands for electricity.
  • Political and regulatory priorities, including stricter regulations and new regulatory frameworks in Brazil on sanitation.
  • Innovation and technological advances, including new technologies to manage and monitor energy and water use.



Staples used the sSWOT to frame a conversation with a dozen large corporate customers. They gathered input on the big trends and environmental challenges their customers identified and the opportunities for Staples to help those customers achieve their business and sustainability goals. Together, the group identified important trends relating to supply chain management (for example, the need for GHG emissions data on purchased products and services) and hazardous chemicals or materials (for example, new policies to encourage ‘green’ alternatives).

Figure 2 | Illustrative examples of connections between environmental challenges and other big trends shaping tomorrow’s markets.