Identifying Keystone Actors

Keystone Actors are defined as key actors in a given field, that can have a disproportionate effect on the structure and function of the system in which they operate. Better Nature proposes to take this concept and extend it beyond analysis of companies to all actors (companies, governments, multilateral agencies, NGOs, the public, etc.), whether individuals or organisations, that have a disproportionate effect on the systems in which they operate. Transformations in practice by these keystone actors working across a sector can result in cascading effects throughout the field and enable a critical transition to sustainability. By identifying and working with these keystone actors, we can build their capacity to influence political-economic rules that govern the rest of the industry.

Enabling Operating Environments

In addition to identifying the right actors, it is critical to evaluate and improve their operating environment – removing inherent frictions that retard desired behaviours, and adding deterrents to undesired behaviours or practices. These operating environments are defined not just in economic and policy terms, but also through reputational, social, cultural norms – all of which can be carefully orchestrated with the right narratives and stories. Other examples include of influencing factors that can be targeted include transparency, pricing, accounting standards, and fiduciary duty, among many others.

Influencing Systems

Finally, in addition to this capacity building and enabling environment work, there is also a need to influence and adjust the broader systems – the structures that surround and support us and our institutions – so that they are better able to drive such changes. Leverage points are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. By studying the systems in which we are acting, we can identify these leverage points and – critically – how we want to change them.